Coronavirus: HMRC halts tax investigations

14 April 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused staffing issues for the taxman

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HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is suspending investigations into taxpayers and businesses due to capacity issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

HMRC will not ask for information or documents and will not press for responses to requests already made during the lockdown. In some cases it is suspending all enquiries.

HMRC will continue to tackle the most serious criminal attacks and those who exploit the coronavirus situation by promoting tax avoidance.

A Government spokesperson says: “The Government has announced an unprecedented support package for business and workers to help them through this economic emergency.

“It is right that HMRC does everything possible to protect individuals, businesses and that the economy during this extremely difficult time. This includes prioritising work to support businesses and individuals.

“HMRC will always take tough action against fraudsters who attempt to deprive the UK of the public funds the Government needs to support the nation at this difficult time.”

What should you do?

Tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg has warned that people should not be lulled into a false sense of security.

Fiona Fernie, tax dispute resolution partner at Blick Rothenberg, says businesses should use the time to make sure their tax affairs are in order as the tax will still be due once the lockdown ends.

She says: “For individual taxpayers and businesses whose activities are currently curtailed, it would be sensible for them to use the time they have now to deal with HMRC rather than store up problems for the future.

"After all, if tax is due – it is still going to be due when we come out of this.”

What help is available if cannot pay your tax bill?

The Government has introduced a number of measures for businesses and self-employed people who cannot pay their tax bill because of the coronavirus.

What if you need extra time to pay?

If you are having financial difficulty you may be eligible to get support from HMRC’s ‘Time to Pay’ service.

This is a telephone line manned by over 2,000 staff to help people who want additional time to pay their tax bill.

You will have to provide information which demonstrates why you need more time to pay and the impact covid-19 has had on your finances. You will also need a plan for repayment. 

If HMRC agrees, debt collection will be suspended. People who owe less than £10,000 may be able to arrange to pay in instalments online.

What if you cannot pay your self-assessment tax bill?

Anyone who was due to pay their self-assessment tax bill in July 2020 can now delay this until 31 January 2021.

The Government says this is optional and anyone who can still do so should pay by July.

There will be no penalties or interest if you choose to defer.

VAT deferral

You can also defer VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 by three months.

This will be applied automatically to all UK businesses but you will still need to submit your returns.

How do you contact HMRC?

If you have any problems with your tax bill and wish to defer you can contact HMRC on 0800 024 1222. Opening times are Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm. Further details are available on the HMRC website.

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