April Fool?

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Picture the scene. Your client has asked you to deliver a project by April 1st 2015. They provide you with written confirmation and advise that a full brief will be available several months in advance of the deadline.

Some months pass and the brief doesn’t arrive but the client is still insistent that you meet the 1st April deadline. Naturally you become a little nervous and chase them up. Some while later they send you a brief.

The brief has several key elements missing and also some elements which don’t make any sense or contradict themselves. You grow a little more nervous and ask for clarification from your client. They still insist on meeting the deadline even though its several months since they promised the full brief.

A few days before the deadline the client sends you an updated brief. It has a few more details in it but still contains information which is missing. You neither have enough information to brief your suppliers or to deliver the project but the client is still insistent that the deadline must be met or you and your suppliers could face financial penalties.

In any ordinary commercial scenario this would sound like an unacceptable way to do business. But this is based on actual events.

The client is HMRC. You are and your suppliers are part of the Direct Marketing industry.

Originally the deadline was an even more unachievable 1st October 2014. HMRC relented on this after it was pointed out that this was one working day after they’d decided to implement the project. Generally not enough time for a major project to be delivered unless you have mastered time travel.

And yet April 1st 2015 has been and gone. The brief has not arrived and HMRC are still expecting the project to be delivered. You are now liable to potential financial penalties.

Despite your frantic attempts to reconcile the situation HMRC cannot commit to discussing it because an election is coming. It would be laughable if it wasn’t real.

All this doesn’t seem fair when compared with what HMRC expect from taxpayers. HMRC Charter states ‘We expect you to…respond in good time if we ask you to do something’.

Sadly it’s not an April Fool.

This article is based on HMRC’s pending updates to Notice 700/24 Postage and Delivery charges which affect the VAT liability of supplies including direct mail, door drops, inserts and associated services. For more information you can contact us directly.