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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Penalties for Inaccuracies: In what circumstances is a penalty payable: Who is a person

You must check the date from which these rules apply for the tax or duty you are dealing with. See CH81011 for full details.

A person ‘P’ for penalty purposes may be one or more of the following:

  • an individual
  • a company, see CH84620 for guidance on an officer of the company
  • a partner, see CH84710
  • a partnership (other than for IT, CGT and CT), see CH84710
  • a representative member of a VAT group, see CH84530
  • a personal representative (this can be a lay person, a professional, or a corporate entity)
  • a trustee
  • a pension scheme administrator
  • a public body, such as a local authority, NHS trust, charity, university, police body or trade union
  • a Crown body
  • collectives, partnerships and co-operatives that come together as a group for the production of biofuel
  • any person who is at that time the responsible person for a taxable oil field, whether or not they gave us the inaccurate return. This only applies to a participator’s return made under OTA75/SCH2/PARA2, and
  • any single entry that has multiple VAT divisional registrations under S46(1) VATA94. The individual registrations are “component parts” of a single person.

Any one person ‘P’ is the individual or legal entity who is responsible for

  • giving us an accurate document or taking reasonable step to notify us of an under-assessment, and
  • paying any penalty for that inaccuracy or under-assessment.

Where a person ‘P’ has both these responsibilities in more than one capacity, for example as an individual taxpayer and an employer, they are the same ‘P’.

Example 1, Leroy is a self-employed gardener. He is responsible for taking reasonable care to give us his accurate personal self-assessment return and accurate RTI returns for his employees. Because he will have to pay any penalty for inaccuracies in either of these returns, he is the same ‘P’ for penalty purposes in both capacities.

Example 2, Stella, is the company secretary for two companies. She is responsible for taking reasonable care to give us her accurate personal self-assessment return and accurate company returns for the two companies. Where there are careless inaccuracies in the company returns she will not have to pay these penalties because she is only ‘P’ for penalty purposes in a personal capacity when giving her personal return. Each company must individually pay any penalties and will therefore each have their own individual capacity as ‘P’ for penalty purposes. Each company as ‘P’ will however be the same ‘P’ for other responsibilities such as giving us accurate RTI returns. Stella in the capacity of company secretary for one company is not the same ‘P’ for penalty purposes as when she is acting as company secretary for the other company because each company is individually responsible for paying any penalty.

Example 3, Ali, is an employed accountant and acts in a self-employed professional capacity as Personal Representative for deceased taxpayers’ estates. He is responsible for taking reasonable care to give us his accurate self-assessment return and accurate IHT returns for each individual estate. Because he will have to pay any penalties for inaccuracies in either his personal return or the IHT returns for each of the estates, he is the same ‘P’ for penalty purposes in each capacity. As an accountant he is not personally responsible for either giving us his client’s returns or paying any penalties, so he has no capacity as ‘P’ in respect of his client’s tax affairs. There may be circumstances however where an accountant is liable to a penalty under Para 1A, Schedule 24 as ‘T’, if the inaccuracy is attributable to their actions, see CH81165.