Recently the government revealed that they attempted to fine a homeless man for not submitting his tax return. At the appeal tribunal HMRC argued that the individual’s circumstances were not special. The judge called them ridiculous and it is hard to disagree.
HMRC automatically fine those who don’t submit a tax return when asked to do so. They have the power to waive the requirement to submit a return and to cancel penalties and do not pursue every case through the courts. Decisions are made on an individual basis as to what constitutes a reasonable excuse and what does not.
In this instance the trader lost his records after being evicted and did not receive letters sent to his old address. Clearly it was unreasonable to demand payment of the fines, especially as the return was eventually completed.
What is really ridiculous is the Self-Assessment tax system. Ineffective when introduced in the days of post and paper, it is totally absurd in the immediate digital age.