Press release: Voluntary tax returns – taxpayer rights safeguarded

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has welcomed the announcement in today’s Budget that HMRC’s practice of treating tax returns that are filed by taxpayers voluntarily on the same basis as returns that are filed under a legal obligation is to be put on a statutory footing.  The measure is retrospective and will apply from 1996/97, the year self-assessment was introduced.1

Over 450,000 taxpayers a year submit tax returns on a voluntary basis.

John Cullinane, CIOT Tax Policy Director, said:

“Some recent Tribunal decisions2 have led to uncertainty over the status of so-called “voluntary” or “unsolicited” tax returns, i.e. returns that taxpayers submit to HMRC but which are not filed in response to a formal Notice to File from HMRC3.  According to HMRC’s own figures, a very large number (over 450,000) of voluntary returns are submitted each year. These will often be from taxpayers who have not registered for self-assessment before sending their tax return to HMRC.

“By putting HMRC’s practice onto a statutory footing, this ensures that taxpayers who submit returns voluntarily will continue to benefit from various rights and safeguards4 that depend upon having submitted a return that has been demanded by the law.  Whilst we do not normally support retrospective changes, we agree that it is right in these circumstances to make this change retrospective.”

Notes for editors

  1. See
  2. See, for example, Patel & Patel v HMRC TC06426
  3. Under s.8 Taxes Management Act 1970.
  4. Such as protections from a discovery assessment under s29 TMA 1970, and protections in relation to information notices under Sch 36 FA 2008.
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