Failure to submit certain documents, such as personal tax returns, to HMRC by a specified deadline date can result in considerable penalties. It has been widely held that obtaining a ‘Proof of Postage’ certificate is a good idea to mitigate any penalties that arise when the trusty British postal service lets you down and those documents go astray leading to them not arriving with HMRC on time. However, recent court cases have cast doubts on whether or not these ‘Proof of Postage’ are really worth the paper they are printed on.

In May 2014 a First-Tier Tribunal judge heard three cases appealing penalties arising as a result of the late submission of Construction Industry Scheme Contractor returns. In all three cases the judge dismissed the appeals and upheld the penalties on the grounds that no proof of posting had been obtained. These cases would suggest that there is considerable merit in obtaining proof of postage where possible. However a similar case heard this year quoted a 2011 case which observed that ‘obtaining proof of posting is not a legal obligation and HMRC cannot insist upon it’.

On balance, we feel that it is a good idea to obtain proof of postage when sending time specific documents to HMRC or, better still pay the extra for special delivery so that you know it was received on time. If it is not possible to get to your local post office you should ensure that you log the date of posting in your diary. Given that proof of posting is not required by law this should be sufficient to convince a tribunal.