HM Revenue & Customs has told the Institute of Chartered Accountants that during the morning of 31 January there were problems with the Bank of Santander’s Bill Pay service that taxpayers use to pay their tax by credit card or debit card. HMRC issued a statement saying that if a tax payment is late because of the problems Santander experienced, taxpayers will not have to pay a penalty or interest for late payment. The online filing portal for submitting tax returns was not affected, so if your return is late you will still face a penalty for that.
Anyone who tried to pay their tax bill using Santander Bill Pay from within the HMRC site should check their records now to see whether or not any payments which apparently failed did not, in fact, go through. Accountants are reporting that some clients received messages telling them that their initial attempts to pay had not been processed, but that the funds subsequently cleared their account. In some cases, payments of tax have been made twice and this can obviously have a catastrophic effect on cash-flow, as it will take some time to get the extra money back from HMRC.
At this stage, we don’t know how big the problem is, but this could turn out to be very embarrassing for both HMRC and Santander. However, any such problems are of their own making and will be of no comfort to any businesses who suddenly find their bank accounts have been depleted and anyone who used the Bill Pay service on 31 January should check to see what payments were actually taken, as any remedial action should be taken as quickly as possible.
Carl Barwick – Tax Manager
Westbury Accountants and Business Advisors is an accountancy practice based in London. Westbury have been providing Accounting and Tax solutions to small and medium sized businesses since 1936. Talk to the team at Westbury on 0207 253 7272; or visit http://www.westbury.co.uk.