Accountants and other tax agents are being asked by HMRC to finalise provisional returns well ahead of the normal deadline. Why, and how should you respond?

This year HMRC has suffered well-publicised problems with backlogs of work resulting in the closure of some of its helplines and other services. It also accumulated a mountain of unanswered post, some more than a year old. In an attempt to get back on track, HMRC wants to engage the help of agents now to prevent or at least alleviate the problem before it’s inundated with extra work when the self-assessment tax return season begins.

HMRC is writing to agents asking them to submit amendments to provisional 2021/22 returns by 30 November, where they have the information to do so. That’s reasonable enough, but the letter goes on to say that if the correct figures aren’t known agents “need to find these as soon as possible and submit an amended return by 31 December 2023”. That’s one month earlier than the actual deadline. The letter includes helpful information about the financial risks for taxpayers where provisional returns aren’t amended as soon as possible. Less helpfully the letter also includes a thinly disguised threat that failure to meet HMRC’s premature deadline might result in an enquiry into their clients’ tax returns.

Whilst we have some sympathy with HMRC’s predicament and its attempt to resolve it, the letter will understandably raise the hackles of some agents. Nevertheless, for many reasons it’s in agents’ and taxpayers’ best interests to do their best to comply with HMRC’s request despite its ham-fisted approach.

This article has been reproduced by kind permission of Indicator – FL Memo Ltd. For details of their tax-saving products please visit or call 01233 653500.