Self-assessment tax returns submitted online to HMRC after today’s 31 January deadline will incur an automatic £100 fine.
Penalties for late online tax returns
If you miss the deadline for making an online tax return you are liable for a £100 fine. In the past, the fine could not exceed the amount of tax you actually owed, but now it’s £100 for everyone. There are a few excuses HMRC will accept for being late, but most will be rejected.
HMRC admits ‘there are no hard and fast rules’ but suggest the following are acceptable as reasonable excuses for missing the self-assessment deadline:
- Life-threatening illness that prevents you dealing with your tax affairs
- The death of a partner shortly before a tax return deadline
- Unexpected or unforeseeable postal delays
- Important documents lost, through theft, fire or flood
- Late receipt of your online activation code, user ID or password, if you requested these before the tax return deadline.
These excuses for missing the self-assessment deadline are not accepted as reasonable by HMRC:
- Not having enough money to pay the tax due
- Relying on another person, who failed to send your return
- Failing to receive a reminder
- Late receipt of your online activation code, user ID or password, if you requested these after the tax return deadline.
Increased fines for further delays
If your online tax return is late, you should still submit it as soon as possible, to avoid a further fine. HMRC has a set of escalating penalties for late tax returns:
- After three months: A fine of £10 for each following day up to a 90 day maximum of £900. This is in addition to the fixed penalty above, so the overall fine could be £1,000
- After six months: A fine of either £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, will apply on top of the penalties above
- After 12 months: Another £300 fine or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, will be added to your bill on top of the penalties above. In serious cases you may be asked to pay up to 100% of the tax due instead, as well as any tax you owe, doubling your payment.
Appealing against a late tax return penalty
If you think you have a reasonable excuse for missing the tax return deadline, you should write to HMRC as soon as possible rather than waiting for them to contact you.
You can submit an official appeal form or simply send a letter. HMRC ask for your ten-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (the number on the return or statement), the date you sent your return and why you think you have a reasonable excuse. If you are unable to reach agreement, you can ask for your case to be reviewed.
Tax returns – a guide to how the tax system works
Late tax returns – the penalties that you may face
Which? Money Helpline– for advice on tax matters