So, imagine you are the minister who is given the sexy task of promoting the timely submission of tax returns. What would you do? Well, over the years, the government have gone to no great expense, recruiting a vast array of ridiculous candidates: Hector the Tax Inspector (dropped for being “too white, too male and too middle aged”), Mrs Doyle (until she was voted first place in the category “most abrasive, aggravating, disturbing, infuriating, annoying and cheesy TV ads of the year”) and Adam Hart-Davis with his “tax doesn’t have to be taxing” mantra. Until he was sacked after admitting on Five Live that, actually, tax is a bit too taxing.
But the fact is, the message this motley assortment of Z-listers was seeking to get across is – actually – pretty important. For a whole variety of reasons. And for the taxpayer those include: –
- Any tax refunds are accelerated
- Any liabilities aren’t accelerated (they are only ever payable on the fixed ‘due dates’)
- You can plan the cashflow effect of the tax becoming due, and avoid paying interest and penalties
- Any underpayments by PAYE taxpayers can be collected over a period of time via PAYE
- Certain new sources of income or capital gains need to be ‘notified’ to HMRC within a specified timeframe
- You can avoid the premium charge that sometimes applies when accountants have to pay staff overtime to deal with information submitted in the busy month of January!
- Contacting HMRC at peak times for any information that might be required is almost impossible, and there are longer turnaround times for refunds
- Penalties are charged for late submitted returns, not just tax paid late
- Tax Credit claims are initially based on income of the previous tax year
As for HMRC, the benefits are enormous: HMRC has £15bn of outstanding tax due, never mind the tax that it doesn’t know about that has been evaded and avoided. On top of that, the Scots are on the brink of potentially withdrawing their £53bn contribution to the UK tax club, and as they are a net contributor (9.1% of the UK tax due, compared to being only 8.3% per cent of the UK population), David Cameron is soon going to have to look around for a more potent talisman than anyone has thought of to date …
Against that backdrop, I picked up a paper this morning. There’s an article about Gareth Bale, the most expensive footballer in the world – and Welsh! There is another one about double Olympic Champion Mo Farrah. And suddenly it occurred to me: if I was David Cameron, I’d be looking at getting a marquee signing, to promote the big Tax Return push. How much would it cost Gareth Bale to stop doing that stupid-looking heart thing for a season, and form a ‘T for Tax Return’ every time he scored a goal? Or get Mo Farrah’s ‘Mobot’ turned into a T-Bot, when he wins? Surely a few £billion less than the tax HMRC are otherwise going to lose out on!