Watch out for tax return penalties

Did you know you can now be charged £1,600 or more in fines for the late filing of your self-assessment tax return? Jo Nockels explains.

Although a record 9.61 million people filed their self assessment tax returns to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on time this year – a 3 per cent year-on-year increase – many thousands of self-employed professionals who missed the 31 January deadline were hit with an instant £100 late-filing penalty.

To date, an estimated 650,000 to 850,000 taxpayers are still yet to file their self assessment tax returns for the 2011-12 year. These late returns will be incurring additional daily fines from 1 May; on top of the initial, automatic £100 penalty for missing the initial 31 January cut-off.

And persistent delays in filing now lead to additional fines; regardless of how much tax you need to pay. Take a look at the new penalty regime below and bear in mind that they are in addition to one another; not in place.

One day late

  • Automatic £100 late-filing fine. This applies even if you have no tax to pay or have paid the tax you owe

Three months late

  • Tax returns filed more than three months late will receive additional daily penalties of £10 per day
  • These daily penalties are capped at £900

Six months late

  • Tax returns filed more than six months late will receive an additional penalty of 5 per cent of the tax due or £300 – whichever is greater

12 months late

  • Tax returns filed more than a year late will receive an additional penalty of 5 per cent of the tax due or £300 – whichever is greater

Reasonable excuses for appealing late-filing penalties

  • Life-threatening illness
  • Death of a partner or family member shortly before deadline
  • Unforeseen postal delays
  • Misplacement of vital documentation due to natural disaster
  • Late receipt of HMRC online service activation code

How to appeal a penalty

If you feel you have a valid excuse for missing the self assessment tax return deadline it is important to do the following:

  • Visit HMRC (www.hmrc.gov.uk/sa) or call the Self Assessment helpline on 0845 9000 444
  • Alternatively, an accountant can prepare the appeal on your behalf

Do you need to complete a tax return?

Last year, 300,000 individuals contacted HMRC after the tax return deadline to take themselves out of the self assessment process and therefore avoid the penalty. If you have been issued with a tax return but you believe it isn’t required, it is important to contact the self-assessment helpline immediately.