January is never the best of times for self-assessment taxpayers such as the self-employed. This is the month when they not only have to pay the first instalment of their twice-yearly Income Tax and National Insurance contributions, but also face the final deadline for getting their tax returns to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). According to a local solicitor, though, a recent High Court ruling means there is no relief in sight for anyone whom HMRC suspects of understating their income. "When HMRC believes that somebody is misleading them, they will raise an assessment of the additional tax that they believe is due and will normally also issue a penalty," says Danny Carter of Gepp & Sons in Chelmsford. "When imposing a penalty, HMRC has to meet the civil standard of proof, where the balance of probabilities indicates that a taxpayer has understated their income. "Recently, the High Court was asked whether HMRC should instead have to attain the much more stringent criminal standard of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt), which would make it more difficult for them to enforce the penalty. The High Court ruled that the less demanding civil standard should continue to be applied." There are cases, however, when innocent taxpayers can feel that they are being treated unfairly by HMRC. "If you are in this situation, and believe that you can show HMRC has got things wrong, you may feel you need some help in presenting your position in the clearest and most compelling way," Danny Carter continues. "Call us on 01245 228107 to speak in confidence to one of our specialists." - ends - Notes to Editors: • For additional information or comment please contact: Danny Carter of Gepp & Sons.