Laura Whitcombe

Just 19 days left to file your tax return: here’s what to do

There are just 19 dreary January days left to complete your online self-assessment tax return and – here’s the important bit – pay what you owe. Miss the midnight deadline on Tuesday 31st January and you could face a stiff financial penalty.

More than 10 million of us were organised and settled our annual accounts on time last year, but nearly 900,000 let it go down to the wire. HM Revenue & Customs reported that 823,000 taxpayers waited until the 30th and 31st to file their returns. The Revenue’s single busiest day for returns was the 29th January, when 513,271 people submitted their records.

Men were the most likely to pay on time, as were those aged 65 or above, residents of Northern Ireland and people working in the agriculture, fishing and forestry sector.

Those who pay late risk costly punishment. If you fail to submit your return and settle up by the 31st of January, HMRC imposes a £100 fixed penalty – even if you don’t owe so much as a penny in tax. Take longer than three months to get straight and you could rack up further daily penalties of £10 a day (up to a maximum of £900). After six months, you could be billed a further 5 per cent of the tax you owe or £300, whichever is greater. And you’ll be charged the same again if you pay 12 months late or more.

If you have a really good reason for your tardiness, you may escape being penalised if you let HMRC know in good time – preferably before the 31st. But not all excuses wash with the taxman. Some of the appeals it rejected last year include:

  • ‘My tax return was on my yacht…which caught fire.’
  • ‘A wasp in my car caused me to have an accident and my tax return, which was inside, was destroyed.

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