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Tips for filing a last minute tax return

Deadline is midnight on 31 January

couple with computer

The very last deadline for online self-assessment tax returns is midnight on Friday 31 January. Miss this and you face an automatic £100 fine. There are very few acceptable excuses, so make sure you don’t leave it too late. 


HMRC has announced that some taxpayers can avoid a late filing penalty if they submit their 2012-13 online tax return by 15th February 2014. 

The extension applies to anyone who enrolled for the Self-Assessment online service or requested a replacement user ID and password between midnight 21st January and midnight 31st January. 

It only covers those who were already registered for Self-Assessment and have a unique taxpayer reference (UTR).

Go further: The Which? Tax Calculator – calculate your income tax bill

Online self-assessment tax return

To make an online tax return, you have to have registered with HMRC Online Services and received an Activation Code through the post (this normally takes around seven working days). Once the code arrives you need to activate your account. 

To file this year’s return, you need to enter your User ID and password, then click the ‘Login’ button.

If you’ve registered before but can’t find your ID or your password, you can get a replacement. Go to the HMRC’s online services login page, then follow the ‘Lost User ID’ or ‘Lost password’ links.
Your ID or password will be sent to you online, if you’ve provided a current email address.

If you have technical problems, you can call the HMRC Online Services Helpdesk (Tel: 0300 200 3600). It is for:

  • problems logging on or registering for an online service
  • problems submitting forms
  • you’re receiving error messages in your online account or on HMRC forms
  • you need technical help to download and use HMRC free software and tools.

Our handy guide explores who may need to fill in a tax return, the fines you face for late payment and what could constitute an acceptable excuse for missing today’s deadline.   

Late returns and automatic penalties

HMRC will accept online returns until midnight on 31 January. Miss the deadline and your return will be counted as ‘late’. This triggers an automatic £100 fine. There are very few acceptable excuses for missing the tax return deadline. 

Because of the high volume of last-minute returns, it is possible that HMRC’s website will experience technical difficulties. In 2008 this prompted an extension of 24 hours, with returns being accepted on 1 February.

HMRC doesn’t anticipate a re-run this year but has issued advice about what to do if find the service won’t accept your return:

  • print or make a note of any error message details
  • check the website for known problems with the service
  • contact HMRC’s Online Services Helpdesk 

If you’re unable to meet tonight’s deadline, you should still aim to complete your tax return as soon possible in order to avoid additional fines.  

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