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24th January 2012

Practical help for the forces in Afghanistan

This weekend many of us have sympathised with the plight of soldiers on active service who face a tax penalty because they are struggling to get their tax details sent in for the end of January. It’s quite difficult enough to get hold of all the information, and deal with it in a timely manner, with only the distractions of normal life, let alone when they have to choose between spending their weekly half hour phone call with their loved ones, or with their bank manager and the taxman. For those out there who don’t make the deadline, the key thing is to write and appeal the penalty immediately. It’s unthinkable that being shot at won’t count as special circumstances.

For anyone not currently on active service, there are two things they can do to avoid this extra pressure when they might be abroad in future. The key thing is to plan ahead by making a Lasting Power of Attorney. This is a document which gives power to someone you trust (completely) to sign on your behalf. It’s more commonly used where an elderly parent wants to make it easier for her children, or spouse, to help her if she becomes ill, or by businessmen, who know that all their business travel puts them at increased risk of a serious accident, or of being stuck abroad when travel arrangements break down – or a volcano erupts. It’s like insuring your house against fire: you hope you never need it, but it’s invaluable if you do, and rather more difficult to arrange once the fire has started!

A serviceman might appoint his wife, or father, or both, as his “Attorney”. Bank managers will then happily supply information to the Attorney, who can collect all the necessary information. Signing a tax return is signing up for potential criminal prosecution if it’s wrong. For that reason HMRC always wants there to be a good reason why an Attorney is signing instead of the taxpayer. Usually, sadly, the acceptable reason is that the taxpayer has dementia, but being busy keeping the peace amidst conflict is also acceptable!

An additional step is to choose someone to help the Attorney put the information together and calculate the tax. Firms of solicitors who specialise in tax (such as Hewitsons) can offer this service, as can firms of accountants.

For those in Afghanistan who have access to the internet, it may even now not be too late to make a Lasting Power of Attorney – although they’d have to be able to get it posted back rather quickly if it is to be used for a tax return! For everyone else, maybe we should be thankful that we still have the opportunity to deal with making a Lasting Power of Attorney in the comfort in our own homes, not to mention in our own country.

For more information please contact Carolyn Bagley on carolynbagley@hewitsons.com or on 01908 247015.

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