Revenue apologises for unwarranted fines

HM Revenue and Customs has apologised to 10,000 employers after fining them at least £400 each by mistake because of a basic flaw in the design of automatic IT systems that issue penalty notices.

A leaked internal memo, reported by Personnel Today’s sister title Computer Weekly, said various offices had been issued with a spreadsheet with the details of employers fined incorrectly.

Staff have been told to review each relevant case, discharge the penalty and “issue a letter of apology to the employer in all cases”.

Once the fine has been cancelled, HMRC’s compliance system will issue amended notices to all employers and if necessary their agents, and ensure that the fine is not followed up as a debt.

The memo said a “fix” was being made to the compliance system to prevent further incorrect fines being issued at the next penalty run in March 2006.

In a statement to employers, HMRC said: “We would like to apologise to employers and affected agents for the inconvenience undoubtedly caused by an error in our systems. We recently discovered that approximately 10,000 employers received penalty notices for 2004-05 although no penalty is due. This came to light because of the welcome increase in online filing.”

No HMRC officials were unavailable for comment.

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