Thousands miss child benefit deadline, says HMRC

Paul Lewis from Radio 4's Moneybox says "many thousands" could face a fine

An estimated 165,000 people have missed a deadline to register with the UK tax authority over their collection of child benefit.

Better-off families need to sign up for self-assessment with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if they continue to receive the benefit, or face a penalty.

Some 29,000 people registered in the final hours before a deadline at the end of Saturday,

HMRC said those who remained could still complete the paperwork.

Penalties

Families where one parent has a taxable income of more than £50,000 are affected.

They are losing some of the benefit, following the introduction of the new rules in January 2013, while child benefit has been withdrawn entirely if one parent earns more than £60,000.

Eligible families receive £20.30 per week in child benefit for their first child and £13.40 a week for any further children.

The new rules meant that this payment is reduced gradually for families where one parent is earning a taxable income of between £50,000 and £60,000. Taxable income is earnings from employment, as well as other income such as from savings and shares, but may not include some pension contributions.

The amount of benefit they are not entitled to is clawed back by HMRC through the tax system, which is why they need to complete a tax return by 31 October, if it is on paper, or by 31 January online.

On Friday, Lin Homer, HMRC chief executive, said that thousands of people needed to "get off their backsides" and register by the end of Saturday.

On Monday, a spokesman for the tax authority said: "On past experience we expect more people to register in the coming days. Although we are past the deadline, people should still register for self-assessment to minimise any penalties they may face."

The penalty would be between 10% and 100% of the child benefit paid, in addition to refunding the appropriate amount. In practice, it is expected that anyone who signs up and pays the tax due by 31 January will not receive a penalty.

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