Your questions answered: I've missed the tax return deadline, what should I do?!?

Uh-oh! Charlotte's been in touch and she's forgotten to do her tax return (deadline is 31st January - 10 months after the tax year ends):

I have accidentally missed my deadline for my tax return and unsure what to do. Please could you help?

What do I do now?

Firstly, don't panic! We all make mistakes (even if you've had 10 months to get it done!). You can (and must) still complete your tax return in the same way - just go ahead and follow the step-by-step guide to completing your tax return.

The bad news is that HMRC isn't a big fan of people missing the deadline, so you get an automatic £100 fine. Boo! You then need to make sure you have submitted within 3 months of the deadline (i.e. 30 April) to avoid getting an extra fine. After this, it is £10 a day for the next 90 days and more if you are even later. See the details below:

How late?Penalty
Up to 3 monthsYou'll automatically receive a £100 fine. This applies even if you have no tax to pay or have paid the tax you owe.
3-6 monthsA fine of £10 for each following day up to a 90 day maximum of £900. This is in addition to the fixed penalty above, so the overall fine could be £1,000.
6 monthsA fine of either £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher. This will apply on top of the penalties above.
12 monthsAnother £300 fine or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, will be added to your bill on top of the penalties above.
>12 monthsIn serious cases, if you're more than 12 months late with your tax return, you may be asked to pay up to 100% of the tax due as well as any tax you owe, doubling your payment.

But I have a good excuse

HMRC may decide not to charge you the penalty if you have a 'reasonable' excuse. On its website, HMRC states that a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline is 'something that stopped you meeting a tax obligation that you took reasonable care to meet'. Not especially clear, right? So here are some examples from HMRC:

  • your partner or another close relative died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline
  • you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs
  • you had a serious or life-threatening illness
  • your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return
  • service issues with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) online services
  • a fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return
  • postal delays that you couldn’t have predicted
  • delays related to a disability you have

HMRC also give us a few examples of things that they don't accept as good excuses:

  • you relied on someone else to send your return and they didn’t
  • your cheque bounced or payment failed because you didn’t have enough money
  • you found the HMRC online system too difficult to use
  • you didn’t get a reminder from HMRC
  • you made a mistake on your tax return

However, HMRC consider each case on its own merits, saying that excuses 'only apply if the problem actually prevented you from filing your return on time'. Moral of the story - don't leave it until the last minute. Nobody likes doing their tax return, but it's a lot easier if you get it done early.

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Love Jo and James x