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Having a “Senior Moment” is now a reasonable excuse for paying your tax late

An elderly man with poor memory had a reasonable excuse for sending his tax return late, a tribunal has ruled

Michael Selway, who is 78 and managing director of Award Farmers International Limited, argued that a penalty of £1,127 for paying VAT three days late was disproportionate. Selway said that the late filing of the VAT return and payment of tax was due to his poor memory and was a genuine mistake.

HMRC argued that there is an automatic penalty for late tax returns regardless of how late they are. It also disagreed that Selway had made a genuine error and said he had not taken appropriate steps to ensure that the company met its VAT payment obligations. HMRC also argued that genuine errors and reliance on third parties are not reasonable excuses for late payment of VAT.

Alzheimer’s or Dementia, is an insidious and dreadful illness and can creep up on you at any time from early middle age onwards, but far more so for those over 60. One day you are normal, the next you have forgotten to do something that you have done for years and years. I’m not saying that Dementia is involved in this case, but there is a real possibility that the 78 year old farmer was beginning to succumb to this silent thief of an illness.

But let’s not be hasty and blame the 78 year old, instead ask why the penalty is so high for a first offence, why HMRC are so intransigent, why HMRC feel themselves to be above Ageist legislation? We don’t accept blindness in a driver, but if a driver goes blind over time, then we expect them to own up once they realise its affecting their driving and fess up.

It’s essentially the same with memory loss due to old age, or worse Dementia. An understanding of growing old and the problems that come with it is needed because scarily enough it will come to all of us eventually.

Alzheimers Research UK Defeating Dementia Logo

Maybe HMRC should’ve given the fine to these guys

If we are a caring society then we should expect HMRC to take the same stance and put in place mechanisms for dealing with the elderly, after all if it’s okay for them to tax someone in their seventies, then anyone in that position should be treated accordingly. The Government has legislated to allow us to work as long as we wish and they should applaud those who do work on, not nit-pick when age related problems crop up.

David Jones is the Senior Partner and Founder of Morgan Jones & Company. Born in Liverpool and an Accountancy graduate of the University of Wolverhampton, David spent twenty years working for the Customs & Excise in London then Shrewsbury before starting his own business. David’s depth of knowledge of the UK tax system and his ability to communicate this learning has seen Morgan Jones & Company grow into Shropshire’s most respected Accountancy Practice. Email David