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HMRC delays: what does this mean for the Self Assessment deadline?

2-minute read

Exterior of HMRC building in London
Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

14 December 2021

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As the Self Assessment deadline approaches in January, HMRC is facing yet more problems with delays to its service.

A detailed report in The Times at the end of November said taxpayers can expect ‘more chaos as the Self Assessment tax deadline looms’.

So what’s the problem, and what does this mean for filing your tax return on 31 January?

Thousands could miss January deadline

Back in September, we reported on long waiting times for those trying to contact HMRC. The service has been repeatedly under strain lately, with people experiencing delays when trying to speak to the tax office by phone and post.

Now, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, thousands of newly self-employed people will miss the 31 January deadline because of delays in processing requests for their tax codes.

First-time taxpayers may face challenges

Everyone going through Self Assessment needs a unique taxpayer reference number. If this is your first year being self-employed then you’ll need to request your tax number and wait for HMRC to send this out by post.

The strains on the service mean that there are long delays in getting the codes delivered to first-time taxpayers.

What’s causing the HMRC delays?

While we’re often hearing stories of people having to wait a long time to get through to HMRC, the problem has clearly worsened during the pandemic.

A report in the I Newspaper revealed there were long delays in processing tax rebates earlier this year – an issue that HMRC puts down to ‘managing furlough payments’ and the ‘increased workload related to Brexit paperwork’.

Yet despite furlough ending back in September, the service is still feeling the pressure.

What can taxpayers do?

If you’re newly self-employed, make sure you follow these steps as soon as possible:

Your UTR number is usually sent out within 10 days (and 21 days if you’re abroad) of registering with HMRC. However with the continuing delays to HMRC's service, this process could take much longer.

While there’s not too much you can do to avoid the delays, one thing you can do is be organised and get your registration in early. You’ll need your UTR number to complete your Self Assessment by the end of January, so make sure you register for Self Assessment now if you haven’t already.

Find out more about how to register if you’re self-employed on the UK government website.

Beware of tax scams

According to a recent update from HMRC, phone scams have increased by 21 per cent compared to last year. As HMRC communication around Self Assessment from HMRC increases this time of year, fraudsters try to take advantage of that by sending convincing tax rebate notices.

Read our guide to scams to watch out for and how to protect yourself this tax season.

Remember, you need to file your tax return by 31 January. If you’re struggling to pay your bill on time, find out about HMRC’s Time to Pay service.

For more tax resources, browse our Self Assessment resources and downloads to make the process as smooth as possible.

Have you had trouble trying to get in touch with HMRC? Let us know in the comments.

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Catriona Smith

Written by

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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