400 islanders wrongly received fine letters from Revenue Service

MORE than 3,000 islanders contacted the Revenue Service in just three days after receiving shock letters imposing fines and daily penalties for submitting late tax returns, the States admitted yesterday.

Edward T Wheadon House. (29440766)
Edward T Wheadon House. (29440766)

It answered in excess of 1,700 phone calls while 1,300 individuals went in person last Friday, Monday and Tuesday to question letters they received.

Analysis carried out has now revealed that 400 of the penalty notices were sent out wrongly – human error is blamed – because those receiving tax bombshell penalty notices had in fact submitted them within the deadline.

In all, about 5,500 penalty notices for £200 fines were sent to people for filing late tax returns, with the Revenue Service confirming that 400 of these were issued to customers wrongly because an online return had actually been submitted on time.

Apologies have been made and a service spokesman said the mistake was caused by human error rather than a system issue.

Incorrect penalties will be immediately rescinded.

For the last few days, long queues of people querying their penalties snaked down the stairs of Edward T Wheadon House.

Retired finance worker Ken Wallbridge, 67, was one of those affected.

He submitted his 2019 return online last May and received a confirmation email. So he was shocked to get a letter warning him of a £200 fine.

He said he had spent ages proving it had been submitted.

‘I messaged them and they sent back an automated message saying in these difficult times it would take some time to respond.

‘I’m not sure if I am being charged £10 a day.

‘But I am not going to pay anything.’

He said he had never had any problems before.

‘I’m angry that they have handled this so badly,’ he said.

The 2019 personal tax return was available to customers in January 2020, with an original filing deadline of 30 November that year.

In September 2020 it was announced that the filing deadline would be extended to 28 February 2021, in recognition of the impact and disruption the pandemic will have caused many islanders.

That was then extended to 31 March following the island entering lockdown again at the end of January.

Reminders used to be sent to people who had still not filed their tax returns a month before the deadline, but this changed when the deadline extension was announced.

However, the Service recognised yesterday that the removal of this reminder stage took some customers by surprise.

‘As such, the decision has been taken to not impose any continuing daily penalties,’ a Revenue Service spokesman said.

‘Staff have been supporting affected customers who need to now promptly complete their returns.’

Additional staff have been deployed to help handle enquiries.

While some customers were challenging their penalty notice, others wanted to understand how to file their return and some who thought they had submitted their return online later found that they had saved the form but not pressed submit when they logged back on.

Anyone who believes they received a penalty notice in error should email taxpenaltyqueries@gov.gg with details of how they submitted their return and the tax reference used. Most queries can be solved in this way, and no cases ended up in a Tribunal last year.

Customers who have not yet submitted their return should do so as soon as possible online at eforms.gov.gg, gov.gg/tax or by collecting a form from Edward T Wheadon House.

Prioritising the resolution of any penalty queries, the 2020 return will be released later this month with a filing date of 28 February 2022, using a ‘new smarter online service’ which is said to make it easier for customers to complete their return.

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