HMRC fined a record number of people for missing the 31 January deadline for their self-assessment 2010-11 tax return. The penalty is now a fixed £100 fine.
Tax return deadlines
The 1.5m people fined is an increase of 8% from the previous year and 56% more than were caught in 2006, when there were 962,000 fines.
There are actually two deadlines for self-assessment tax returns. For traditional paper returns sent by post, the deadline is 31 October, while those who make an online tax return get an extra three months and have until 31 January. If you miss the October deadline, you can opt to file online instead.
The fine for missing the January deadline is now a fixed £100. In the past it could not be higher than the actual tax owed, so some people who filed late ended up being fined less than £100, or nothing at all. Very late tax returns attract higher fines: £10 a day after three months and an additional £300 after six months.
Self-assessment tax returns
HMRC issued just over 10m self-assessment tax returns for 2010-11. These are typically completed by the self-employed, those with annual income of over £100,000 or investment income of over £10,000. If you are aged over 65 and get reduced age-related allowance, you may also have to complete a self-assessment tax return. The full-length paper form is six pages long, but there is a shorter four-page version designed for pensioners and the self-employed with turnover of less than £30,000.
An increasing number of people complete an online tax return rather than fill in a paper form. The percentage has risen from 23% in 2005-6 to 77% in 2010-11.
Which? tax expert, Ian Robinson says: ‘The threat of a £100 fine is a good reason to make your tax return online. If you want to make a paper return, there is still time, but you haven’t got long. If you do decide to go online you’ll need to leave time to register with HMRC, so don’t put it off until the last minute. The HMRC website has improved considerably in recent years and has useful notes and advice to make online filing easier.’