With the deadline for online self-assessment tax returns now passed, HM Revenue and Customs are being urged to exercise leniency towards sole traders who submit returns late or incorrectly.
Over the past year, HMRC’s engagement with the self-employed has been dogged by inaccurate reminders and penalty notices, phishing emails, poor customer service and an unreliable tool for assessing employment status.
The latest HMRC statistics show one in five callers to HMRC’s helpline are left waiting more than 10 minutes to speak to an advisor.
As of the beginning of this month, 5.5 million taxpayers had yet to complete their self-assessment. HMRC plans to close more than 100 offices in the coming months.
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “HMRC’s performance over the past year has been nothing short of calamitous.
“From premature late penalty notices, to misleading demands for payment, to increasing call waiting times, the self-employed are being let down time and again by this increasingly ill-equipped agency.
“When considering action against sole traders who have struggled complete returns, HMRC officials should have a good look in the mirror and consider their own shortcomings.
“They must remember that the self-employed are specialists injecting much-needed expertise and flexibility into our economy. The vast majority are not tax specialists – and they don’t have time for hold music.
“Looking ahead, HMRC’s plans to downsize are cause for concern. It’s hard to envisage any improvement to its customer services off the back of so many office closures.”