700,000 taxpayers miss self assessment deadline

A record 93.68% of self assessment tax returns were completed by yesterday’s midnight deadline, with 700,000 taxpayers filing last night, according to HMRC

More than 11.5 million taxpayers were required to file their 2017/18 tax returns by 11.59pm on 31 January. The majority filed on time, but 700,000 taxpayers missed the deadline.

More than 700,000 taxpayers submitted their tax returns on deadline day, the peak hour for filing was 4pm to 5pm when 60,000 filed. The number of taxpayers who filed online soared to more than 10.1 million for the first time.

However, it is important to note that it is possible to dispute automatic penalties, at least a million of which are issued by HMRC.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) is reminding people of their right, in certain circumstances, to contest penalties given by HMRC for missing the self assessment tax return deadline of 31 January 2019.

HMRC issued one million late filing penalties issued for tax returns due for the 2015/16 tax year, the latest year’s numbers that are available.

It is possible to avoid a fine as long as the taxpayer has a so-called ‘reasonable excuse’ in the eyes of HMRC.

For example, if someone’s child was taken seriously ill just before they were due to submit a tax return, then that is likely to be a reasonable excuse for filing it late. But they would then have to submit the form as soon as possible after the situation was resolved. 

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘This year, we had a record numbers of filers completing their tax returns by the deadline. And for any customers who are yet to file their returns, please contact HMRC – we are here to help.’

HMRC is urging any taxpayer that missed the deadline to contact the tax authority. HMRC says it will treat those with genuine excuses leniently, as it focuses penalties on those who persistently fail to complete their tax returns and deliberate tax evaders.

The excuse must be genuine and HMRC may ask for evidence.

Challenging penalties

Head of LITRG team Victoria Todd said: ‘Most taxpayers will want to do everything they can to file their tax return to HMRC on time, however, sometimes that may not be possible and HMRC will automatically issue a late-filing penalty.

‘Where someone thinks they have a reasonable excuse for having missed the deadline, they must provide details and, where possible, evidence in support of those details to HMRC. It may be that a combination of reasons, rather than any one thing, may constitute a reasonable excuse to HMRC.

‘It is up to the taxpayer to appeal a penalty if they wish to claim they have a reasonable excuse. If HMRC agree with the appeal the penalty will be removed, however if they don’t, it is possible to challenge HMRC’s decision as HMRC do not have the final word on whether or not an excuse is reasonable; that question is ultimately for the courts to decide. If someone is unable to agree with HMRC, they can ask HMRC to review the decision and/or appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

‘If someone claims a reasonable excuse, they must comply with the obligation in question without further delay, for example, submit a late tax return as soon as possible. This is because the law on reasonable excuse requires people to remedy a default within a reasonable time after the excuse has ended.’

Report by Amy Austin, Sara White

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