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HMRC won’t issue fines for late Self Assessment tax returns in February

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HMRC won’t issue fines for late Self Assessment tax returns in February
Sam Bromley

Sam Bromley

25 January 2021

HMRC has announced that it won’t issue late filing penalties in February, extending support for Self Assessment taxpayers struggling to complete their return on time.

The tax body previously said that it would accept coronavirus-related ‘reasonable excuses’ for appealing against late filing penalties.

This latest announcement goes further, with a blanket pause on issuing penalties until 28 February.

HMRC’s Chief Executive, Jim Harra, said that they can now “reasonably assume” most late filers will have a valid excuse related to the pandemic.

No Self Assessment extension – but breathing space for those struggling

While HMRC has so far resisted calls to extend the deadline, this announcement is the latest concession to help taxpayers struggling with Self Assessment.

HMRC said that more than 8.9 million people have already submitted a return, but this leaves three million yet to file – and the filing rate makes it clear that a number of taxpayers and their agents will struggle to do so on time.

The tax authority is clear that this isn’t an extension. It’s still encouraging taxpayers to file by 31 January.

Even if you can’t file your return on time, you still need to pay your tax bill by 31 January – and paradoxically, completing your return is the best way to know how much tax you owe. Interest will be applied to any outstanding balance from 1 February.

What Self Assessment support has HMRC previously announced?

As mentioned, HMRC previously said that it would accept coronavirus ‘reasonable excuses’ for missing the deadline. Under that scenario though, it would’ve still issued penalties, and taxpayers would’ve had to appeal.

HMRC said it recognises the “immense pressure” that taxpayers are facing, with Chief Executive Jim Harra commenting: “Not charging late filing penalties for late online tax returns submitted in February will give them the breathing space they need to complete and file their returns, without worrying about receiving a penalty.”

Other HMRC support for this year’s tax deadline includes:

  • the ability to pay your tax bill over 12 months if you think you’ll struggle to pay by 31 January (although you need to file your return to set up a plan) – read more about Time to Pay
  • the option to reduce your payment on account if you think your bill will be lower than the previous tax year (because of reduced earnings, for example) – read more about payment on account
  • the option to contact HMRC over webchat, Twitter or the Self Assessment phone helpline, with people available on 30 and 31 January

Visit our Self Assessment help and support page to read more articles about completing your tax return.

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