Over 800,000 people miss Self Assessment tax deadline

One in 14 Self Assessment taxpayers missed the January 31 tax return deadline and could now face penalties, according to HMRC.

Self-employed workers and other people who brought home untaxed income during the 2015-16 tax year had until midnight on the last day of January to submit their tax return and pay any tax owed.

While a record 10.8 million people managed to make the deadline, 840,000 people missed it. And of those who filed on time, over 30,000 got in just under the wire, submitting their return in the final hour.

Although thousands have missed the deadline this year, HMRC says that the numbers are improving. Last year, eight per cent failed to file on time, whereas this year the proportion is down to seven per cent.

Fines for late filing

The penalty for missing the deadline is £100 initially, with further fines racking up if the delay continues.

Ruth Owen, director-general for customer services at HMRC, said: “If you have missed the deadline, submit your return now to avoid further penalties. We don’t want to penalise anyone, we want tax returns submitted and tax correctly paid.”

HMRC have urged people with a reasonable excuse to appeal the fine, as it can be waived in some cases.

But if you’re considering appealing, keep in mind that shabby reasons won’t be accepted; excuses recently rejected by HMRC include ‘my yacht caught on fire’ and ‘my wife had a headache’.

Reasons that may be accepted by the taxman include serious illness, bereavement, flooding, and computer failure, although you may have to supply evidence to support your claim.

Record numbers file online

Although filing offline is currently still an option (subject to an earlier deadline of 31 October), fewer and fewer people are submitting paper tax returns.

HMRC says that this year, 9.57 million people filed online, an increase of 330,000 from last year.

Under the government’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ plans, which will begin to roll out next year, most self-employed earners and landlords will have to file online, and annual tax returns could become a thing of the past as quarterly updates are introduced.

According to the government, the changes will make tax returns more straightforward. Owen says: “We want the number missing the deadline to be zero, and we’ll continue to improve the service to make it easier and simpler for all our customers until every tax return is in on time.”

Do you think that changes to the Self Assessment system will make it easier to file on time? Tell us in the comments.

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