January deadline for online tax returnsRegister now to avoid last-minute problems

05 January 2011

online tax return

You get a longer deadline if you fill in your return online

The deadline for filing an online tax return is 31 January 2011. It's straightforward, but you must register in advance. HMRC recommend doing this by 21 January, or you could be too late. 

Online advantage

Self-assessment taxpayers who file an online tax return have a much later deadline than those who fill in a traditional paper form. The deadline for a paper return was 31 October 2010, for online filers it's 31 January 2011. 

Filing online has become increasingly popular in recent years. 6.4m people sent their tax return this way last year, compared to just 39,000 in 2001. As well as allowing extra time, it has the advantage that you get an immediate acknowledgement from HMRC that they have received your return.

Registration required  

The only problem with online filing is that you need to register with HMRC in advance. To do this, you need to wait for an activation code to be sent to you through the post. HMRC warn that this can take 'around a week' to arrive. For this reason, they recommend registering by 21 January at the latest. Even if you have used the online service before, you need to check that your user ID and password are still valid. If you've lost the password you can request a new one. 

Penalties for late returns

The penalty for a late tax return is £100. Online filing makes it easy to avoid this, but you need to set up an account in advance rather than leaving things to the last minute. For more details on who can make an online tax return and the process of filing online, see the Which? guide to making a tax return or visit the HMRC website.

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