Law Soc slams Revenue as strike threatens thousands of lawyers

The Law Society has slammed Revenue and Customs for its strike today, warning that delays in handling tax applications could lead to fines for thousands of property lawyers.

Law Society president Fiona Woolf received a letter on Monday from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) giving her just two days notice of the one-day strike.

Woolf says this has given the Law Society insufficient time to alert the profession, and is seeking assurances that delays in processing applications will not push them beyond the 28-day time limit that leads to automatic £100 fines.

In a letter to the HMRC seen by The Lawyer, Woolf said: “The obvious question will be the effect of the industrial action on time limits. We want confirmation that the period affected by strike action will not count towards time limits for filing and the imposition of penalties.”

Woolf also demanded reassurance that the period affected by strike will be longer than the one-day action due to the impact on services before and after the action itself.

In a separate statement, Woolf said: “We have asked the HMRC to notify us of what steps they have taken or plan to take to notify those needing to make returns, and when such notification took place or will take place over and above putting information on their website.”

The spat has re-awoken a row from May 2005, when the Law Society launched a campaign to improve stamp duty land tax collection.

More than 4,500 solicitors signed a petition of protest surrounding the Revenue’s application form scanning system, the return of forms that contained all the required information, and a helpline that gave conflicting or erroneous advice. HMRC agreed to make changes in September 2005.