Thousands Face Fine for Late Tax Returns

Thousands Face Fine for Late Tax Returns
A total of 746,000 people missed the deadline to file their self-assessment tax return, risking a fine of £100. Some 11.4 million people, primarily those with more than one source of income and the self-employed, were required to complete returns.

The deadline for those filling in paper forms was the end of October. Online returns should have been completed by the end of Wednesday.

The UK tax authority said a record number filed on time. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said 10.7 million submitted details on time, but 6.5% missed the deadline, compared with 7% last year.

Angela MacDonald, director general for customer services at HMRC, said: “We want the number missing the deadline to be zero, and we will continue to adapt the process to make it easier and simpler for all our customers until every return is in on time and without avoidable errors. If you’re one of the small number that missed the deadline, please submit your return now to avoid further penalties. We really don’t want penalties, we just want tax returns.”

The current system means HMRC could demand a penalty of £100 for late filing during the first three months after the deadline. After three months, additional penalties of £10 per day can be demanded, up to a maximum of £900, followed by further charges six and 12 months after the deadline.

However, the government is working on plans to introduce a points-based system, similar to driving offences, for those who fail to submit their tax returns on time, rather than an automatic fine. Under the planned changes, they would instead receive points and have to pay fines after a certain threshold was reached. Points would also be wiped off the record after a certain period of time.

This could begin with VAT in the 2019 tax year, before income tax is added to the system later, but some accountants are concerned that people may mistakenly believe such a change had already come into force.

Amazon 2017 Sales Increase by a Third

Amazon 2017 Sales Increase by a Third
Online retailer Amazon saw sales jump by nearly a third last year, helped by growth in its Prime delivery service. Full-year revenue came in at $177.9bn (£124.6bn), a rise of 31%, while profit hit $3bn, against $2.4bn in 2016. The company reported record sales in the final three months of the year, driven by a surge in online shopping over the holiday season and demand for its cloud services.

Shares in Amazon rose by 6% in after-hours trading. The company said more than five billion items were sent using its Prime shipping service worldwide in 2017. It added that more “new paid” members joined the scheme than in any previous year, both worldwide and in the US. More than four million people signed up in one week alone last quarter Amazon said. Prime members have access to fast shipping, exclusive TV shows on Amazon Prime Video and extra benefits when using the company’s voice-controlled Alexa digital assistant.

Amazon has focused on boosting Prime subscribers, which its chief financial officer has previously called its “most important customer base”. Prime subscribers tend to do more shopping with the company, although Amazon has not said how many people it has signed up so far.

The company’s boss Jeff Bezos said projections for its Alexa assistant had been very optimistic and the company had “far exceeded them. We don’t see positive surprises of this magnitude very often – expect us to double down.”

The company said fourth-quarter sales rose by 38% to hit a quarterly record of $60.5bn (£42.4bn). Fourth-quarter profits more than doubled to $1.9bn against $749m in the last three months of 2016.

The figures were boosted by a tax benefit of about $789m related to the new US tax law.

The results also include the contribution from the Whole Foods grocery store chain, which Amazon bought last year. “This was another blow-out quarter for Amazon,” said analyst Daniel Ives of GBH Insights. “The retail strength was eye-popping as the company had a banner holiday season and looked to capture roughly 50% of all e-commerce holiday season sales.”