Businesses and individuals across Scotland risk incurring heavy fines under new HMRC rules if they do not complete and file their self-assessment tax forms by the end of January 2012.

Chartered Accountants Chiene + Tait is urging anyone completing a self assessment tax return to remember that they could be fined for filing the document later than the January 31st deadline  – regardless of whether they have outstanding tax to pay.

The firm says that, while the annual deadline for self assessment is widely publicised, many firms and individuals may not realise that 2012 marks the first time that the HMRC has been given the power to issue fines to anyone who files their form after the deadline has passed, even where there is no outstanding tax liability at that date.

It believes that the issue will be particularly problematic for businesses in rural areas which have limited or no access to broadband, who are more at risk of falling foul of the HMRC’s deadlines as they may not be able to submit their tax returns online in time.

Chiene + Tait is therefore urging anyone who faces difficulties in submitting their tax return – or who have made mistakes in previous years – to contact their chartered accountant or tax adviser to ensure that they do not miss the deadline and incur the wrath of HMRC.

Helen Mackenzie, tax partner with Chiene + Tait, said: “The 31 January filing deadline for self assessment tax returns has been much publicised over the years and by now, it will be imprinted on the minds of all individuals and businesses who are required to file self assessment returns.

“However, what may be less known is that this year, for the first time, HMRC has new powers to impose penalties for late filing regardless of whether any tax is outstanding. In addition, there is no doubt that HMRC is focusing resources on imposing significant fines for those who have made mistakes in their past tax returns.

“Anyone who has to work with HMRC will understand the complexity of the tax system; but the fact remains that, even if the mistakes made by an individual are ‘innocent’, they will still be punished in the future.  The Revenue also has considerable powers to insist on seeing business records, visiting business premises and running ‘amnesties’ targeting sectors that have bad tax filing records – so it’s vital to get your tax return completed fully and submitted on time.

“It’s important also to remember that HMRC is increasingly insisting on returns being submitted online, but many people feel uncomfortable with HMRC’s online filing system. Furthermore, there are still many people and businesses in rural areas that have limited internet or broadband access and may not be able to complete their form online.

“Without better infrastructure being put in place from broadband companies, rural businesses and especially farmers will continue to face an unnecessary extra burden and additional costs.

“As a result, some individuals and business may feel the need to incur the expense of appointing an accountant to act on their behalf when it comes to their self assessment needs.  Our advice is to talk to an established chartered accountant or tax adviser, who will be able to give you all of the assistance and guidance you need to meet the deadline and avoid a hefty fine.”

Edinburgh-based Chiene + Tait has more than 125 years experience of providing tax planning and accountancy services for clients in Scotland.

More information can be found on the website or by contacting 0131 558 5800 or emailing Tax Partner Helen Mackenzie at