HM Revenue & Customs is set to snatch £93m from people who file their tax returns after the end of this month. And the fines could tot up by £9.3m a day after that, warned accountants Blick Rothenberg.
Frank Nash, senior tax partner at the firm, said: "Maximising penalties is now an obligation for Revenue officers. HMRC will not show any leniency on penalties."
Indeed, there have been accusations that the government body is being overzealous in misusing the penalty system to boost its coffers. Its accounts for 2010/11 revealed penalties climbed by 83 per cent and an additional £500m was collected.
But writing to The Independent earlier this week, HMRC director Stephen Hardwick denied the charge: "We use penalties purely to encourage on-time filing and to be fair to the vast majority of taxpayers who file on time." Late payers will be hit by much heavier fines this year. If you don't get your online return in by 31 January, there is an fixed penalty of £100. If you're more than three months late, there's a further fine of £900.
"The minimum penalty for a very late offender – 12 months or more – will be £1,600. Previously it was just £200," said Mr Nash.