October deadline for paper tax returnsFiling online gives an extra three months

19 October 2010

The 2010 deadline for self-assessment tax returns is 31 October, but by making an online return you can put it off until 31 January 2011.

Tax basics

If you're self employed, you'll need to fill in a tax return

Paper returns are now a dwindling minority of the total number. Most people file online.

Fines for late tax returns

Missing the deadline for a self-assessment tax return carries a £100 automatic fine. For those who send in a paper return the cut-off date is 31 October 2010. 

It must be received by HMRC, in the post or by hand, by 1 November 2010. The only excuses that HMRC ‘may consider as reasonable’ for being late are: documents being lost through theft, fire or flood; life threatening illness; the death of a partner; industrial action by Royal Mail.

Filing your tax return online

Those who make an online tax return have a much later deadline of 31 January 2011. The number who opt to do this, rather than making a paper return, has risen dramatically, from 23% in 2005-6 and 33% in 2006-7 to 66% in 2008-9 and 74% in 2009-10. Of the 8,988,029 returns received by HMRC last year, 6,625,382 were sent online.

Registering for self assessment online

To send a tax return online, it is necessary to register in advance. You are then issued with a user ID number and asked to set a password. 

In order to file your return, you'll need an Activation Pin, sent through the post by HMRC. You need to allow 7 days for this to arrive. Once it does come, you need to use it within 28 days or it will expire.

Acknowledgement of your tax return

As well as gaining an extra three months, those who file online receive an immediate acknowledgement from HMRC that their details have been received. Paper tax returns have no such receipt procedure, so there is less certainty for those who send them.

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