With the 31 January deadline for online self-assessment tax returns looming, many taxpayers will squeeze in their self-assessment whenever they can.
Last year, 23,059 people filed their tax return between Christmas and Boxing Day – with an incredible 1,566 people submitting their returns on Christmas day itself. However the busiest day was of course deadline day, with over 500,000 submissions on 31 January.
Online submissions are by far the most common, with 84.5% of tax returns filed this way last year.
If you haven’t filed yours yet there is still time, provided you’re looking to file online – but the deadline for filing paper returns passed on 31 October 2014.
Find out more: Think you’ve paid too much tax? See our guide on how to appeal
Spread tax payments
HMRC has also revealed that tens of thousands of people with a small tax bill could have avoided having to pay in a single lump sum last year, simply by submitting their return earlier.
People who file their tax return before 30 December are entitled to pay their bill via the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system rather than in a single payment, as long as they owe less than £3,000. HMRC said 50,000 people qualified to do this last year but did not file in time.
So if you owe less than £3,000, and want HMRC to collect your tax by PAYE, you need to submit an online return by midnight on 30 December. You also need a PAYE tax code.
Fines for late returns
Last year 10.74 million tax returns were filed, with 93.4% meeting the online and paper deadline.
Filing late can be an expensive business. Returns received by HMRC after 31 January will result in a £100 late-filing penalty – even if you have no tax to pay, or you pay your tax on time. There are additional fines for returns filed later.
If you file three months late you face a fine of £10 for each day up to a 90 day maximum of £900 in addition to the fixed £100 penalty, meaning the overall fine could be £1,000.
If you file six months late you will be fined either £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, in addition to the original penalty. There’s an additional fine at the 12 month mark of £300 or 5% of the tax due. In serious cases you may be asked to pay up to 100% of the tax due, as well as any tax you owe, doubling your payment.
Know your rights: Got a reason for filing late? See when you can appeal your fine
Register for online filing
If you missed the 31 October 2014 deadline for paper returns, you can still register to file your return online, giving you until 31 January 2015 to get it in.
However, if you submit a paper return after 31 October and incur the £100 fine, submitting an online return as well will not cancel the penalty. You can only file one tax return per year.