A cautionary tale for anyone who has signed up for paperless contact from HMRC – make sure you read your emails.


In a recent case, the First-Tier Tribunal (Tax), dismissed an appeal by an appellant – let’s call him Mr Smith – against late filing penalties, finding that as he had previously consented to paperless contact, HMRC could send all notices to the taxpayer’s online account.


In 2017, HMRC posted a notice to file a 2016-17 tax return to Mr Smith’s online account and sent an email saying that a new message had been posted to the account.


However, Mr Smith told the court he had not been expecting to have to file a tax return for that year, based on a conversation he had with HMRC, and so deleted the messages without reading them, assuming they were spam.


He did the same with several further emails, until HMRC finally sent him a letter telling him that he had incurred £1,300 of late filing penalties. These comprised an initial £100 penalty, daily penalties of £900 and a £300 six-month penalty.


Mr Smith appealed on the grounds that the notice had neither been ‘given’ to him, nor given to him ‘by an officer of the Board’, and also submitted that he had a reasonable excuse for not filing his return because his belief that the emails were spam was objectively reasonable.


The tribunal dismissed both appeals on the grounds that, as Mr Smith had signed up to paperless contract, he had agreed to receive all statutory notices, including penalties, by that route. Furthermore, it found that he had not acted reasonably in deleting the email which alerted him to the notice to file without even reading it.


The case serves as a timely reminder that, just as you should never ignore written correspondence from HMRC, if you have signed up to paperless contact, you must not ignore emails.


While people are understandably wary of spam or fraud – and fake HMRC accounts feature frequently in both – it could prove a very costly mistake.


If you have any queries relating to your tax obligations, contact us on 01642 244090, at info@chuhanandsingh.co.uk or via our website at http://chuhanandsingh.co.uk/contact/ for more information.