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In April 2009, an optional internal review process was introduced by HM Revenue & Customs to allow customers to request a review by someone who is independent from the decision maker. Between 1st April 2009 and 31st March 2010, 30,530 customers requested a review of a decision made by HMRC.

Over 80 percent of customers asking for a review were unrepresented taxpayers, without an accountant firm representing them, mostly challenging a penalty issued as a result of late filing of a tax return. Just over half of these cases resulted in the penalty being reduced or withdrawn when taxpayers produced adequate evidence of reasonable excuse for filling their tax return late.

Many of the cases that were not appealing against penalties involved assessments or liability rulings. One example of a liability ruling is customers requesting a review as their business turnover is less than £100,000, when HMRC have information to suggest a turnover in excess of the threshold amount. For a company with business turnover in excess of £100,000, filing has to be online and payments are required to be made online. After an interview with a review officer, many companies were able to provide evidence that their turnover was below the threshold of £100,000 resulting in the original decision being withdrawn.

In cases where review officers have upheld the original decisions, they have taken every opportunity to provide details of support available to ease customers gently into filing online. Customers who have taken advantage of accountancy services will receive information and support to file online promptly, avoiding any penalties.

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