HMRC will begin relaxing automatic late filing penalties for people who send PAYE information late, officials have indicated.

The revenue said it would take a ‘proportionate approach’ instead of issuing automatic penalties in the event that an employer reports PAYE information late.

Investigations will now be concentrated on ‘the more serious defaults on a risk-assessed basis’. The move will allow HMRC to focus on serious cases of non-compliance, and to invest resources in educating employers on compliance issues.

The decision reflects the conclusions of a policy document published by HMRC in February 2015. The report argues that small automated penalties are costly and resource intensive for the revenue to pursue, and detract from its ability to pursue serious compliance failures.

The news comes after a leaked HMRC memo revealed that the revenue would no longer be investigating each individual late filing of self-assessment returns. Officials will now waive the £100 late filing penalty if people provided a ‘reasonable excuse’ on appeal.

Colin Ben-Nathan, chairman of the Chartered Institute of Taxation’s Employment Taxes Sub-Committee, welcomed the announcement:

“The requirement on employers to send PAYE information in ‘real time’ has proved difficult for some employers to comply with, especially the smallest and those whose employees have unpredictable working hours. It has imposed new and sometimes onerous obligations on employers.

“HMRC are right to have taken a pragmatic approach so far to the levying of penalties, initially not imposing them at all for smaller firms and now promising to concentrate on the most serious defaults.”