958,000 taxpayers miss self assessment deadline

A record 10.4m taxpayers filed their self assessment tax returns online by the 31 January deadline, but nearly a million returns are still outstanding

For the first time a total of 11.1m taxpayers filed by the 31 January deadline, including around 700,000 who filed on paper by the earlier October 2019 deadline.

HMRC said that 958,296 taxpayers missed the deadline (8.18%), up on last year’s 700,000 late returns, which will raise £95.8m in fines. An estimated 11.7m 2018/19 tax returns were due by the end of January.

As usual, there was a surge of last minute submissions, as thousands of taxpayers filed their tax returns in the last hour with 26,562 completing their returns from 11pm to 11:59pm on deadline day.

Throughout the day over 702,000 (7%) taxpayers submitted their returns with the peak hour for filing between 4pm to 4:59pm when 56,969 filed.

Online filing accounted for 10,450,542 returns were filed online (93.95% of total filed), a record figure, and up on last year’s 10.1m.

Anyone who misses the deadline will be charged a penalty unless they can provide a genuine excuse, supported by evidence. HMRC has the right to reject unreasonable excuses and penalties can quickly mount up.

There is an initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay, or if the tax due is paid on time.

Penalties escalate the later the return is. After three months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day may be charged, up to a maximum of £900; after six months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater; and for those failing to make a return after 12 months, another 5% or £300 charge, whichever is greater. There are also additional penalties for paying late of 5% of the tax unpaid at 30 days, six months and 12 months.

Victoria Todd, head of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) team, said: ‘HMRC will issue an automatic late filing penalty if you did not meet the tax return deadline. You can challenge the penalty if you have a reasonable excuse for having missed the deadline, are able to provide details and, where possible, evidence in support of those details to HMRC. A combination of reasons, rather than any one thing, may constitute a reasonable excuse to HMRC.’

An example of a reasonable excuse is if someone’s child was taken seriously ill just before they were due to submit a tax return. But you would then have to submit the form as soon as possible after the situation was resolved. 

HMRC is urging anyone who missed the deadline to contact the tax office. It said that ‘the department 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’.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘The majority of customers have submitted and paid their tax returns before 31 January. While few people enjoy the process it’s good to get it out the way and know you have contributed towards our vital public services.

‘I’d like to thank everyone who filed and paid on time, but anyone yet to file or pay should contact HMRC straight away because we are here to help.’

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