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Value Added Tax

Volume 986: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1980

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer further to his answer on 4 June to the hon. Member for Anglesey, if he will cause inquiry to be made into why 82.6 per cent, of value added tax returns were received back after the due date; why there were only 92 prosecutions out of 1,533,500 ; and if he will consider introducing administrative penalties to be imposed by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise.

It would be too great a burden to make individual inquiries about 1ยท5 million late returns, but without such inquiries the reason for delay would be mere speculation.In addition to 92 prosecutions for late payment of tax there were 2,030 prosecutions for failure to furnish returns by the due date. The contrast between these figures and the total number of late returns reflects the reluctance of Customs and Excise to prosecute except as a last resort and their policy of prosecuting only persistent defaulters who fail to respond to reminders and warnings.There are no present plans to introduce administrative penalties to be imposed by Customs and Excise, but my hon. Friend will have seen the proposal in clause 14 (1) of the Finance Bill to increase in certain circumstances the maximum penalty (to be imposed by the courts) for failure to render returns.