On 14th May, HMRC published a temporary extension to the notification period for notifying an Option to Tax (OTT). Full details can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/changes-to-notifying-an-option-to-tax-land-and-buildings-during-coronavirus-covid-19?utm_source=7c18ac26-0f0e-4f59-a824-1cbd025f9cb7&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=daily. You are correct in your understanding that the usual procedure is for an OTT to be notified to HMRC within 30 days of the decision being taken, with the notification being made by post with a signed VAT1614a form or an email with a signed scanned copy of the form attached. But HMRC have announced that as “social distancing in response to coronavirus has made these rules challenging to follow. We have temporarily changed the rules to help businesses and agents.”
In summary the time limit for notification has been temporarily extended to 90 days from the date the decision to opt was made. This applies to decisions made between 15 February and 30 June 2020. Notifications can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and an electronic signature is acceptable. The guidance provides further information on additional requirements to prove the signatory is an authorised person or agent.
As such, it appears that HMRC are attempting to retrospectively tackle the issue, probably compounded by their own practical challenges of processing postal applications, and therefore it is likely that your client’s OTT was processed under this temporary extension, despite HMRC not making a formal announcement until later in the month.
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