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Late tax returns drops by half million in Britain

(Xinhua)

09:23, February 21, 2012

LONDON, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- The number of Britons who have failed to file their tax returns in time dropped significantly this year to less than one million, British HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) announced on Monday.

Around 850,000 penalties for late tax returns will be issued over the next fortnight, 550,000 fewer than the same time last year.

Patrick O'Brien, a HMRC spokesperson told Xinhua the achievement should be attributed to rising general awareness and targeted and personalized communication.

Reminding leaflets were distributed alongside the original notice to file a return. Those who had not yet filed for the year before and those who were thought to be at risk of filing late were contacted to avoid a penalty, O'Brien said.

In addition, new penalties were also a more effective deterrent for people who are late, the spokesperson added.

Letters containing the 100-pounds (about 158 U.S. dollars) late-filing penalties are being sent to people who failed to send their 2010/11 returns on time.

According to the new penalty scheme, an initial 100 pounds fixed penalty will apply for late Self Assessment returns. Additional penalties are also set for those failed to file for tax return after 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months.

Although the deadline for receiving online returns was Jan. 31, this year HMRC is not issuing penalties to people who sent their 2010/11 return online on Feb. 1 or 2, following strike action at HMRC's call centers on Jan. 31.

People who get a late-filing penalty can appeal against it if they think they have a reasonable excuse, including a family illness or bereavement, or a delay in HMRC sending out an online activation code. Appeals should be made in writing by March 31.

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