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If you’ve been asked to complete a tax return for 2020/21 and haven’t filed it yet and miss the deadline, you will be issued with an automatic, initial penalty of £100. After a three-month delay, the penalties really start to escalate. 

However, HMRC has stated that if you filed your tax return online beyond the deadline of 31st January you will not incur a late filing penalty if filed by 28th February. This is to help those affect by coronavirus.  

My tax return is late, what should I do? 

In order to get your tax affairs in order, you need to either:

1. Ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to withdraw the tax return if you think it’s not required

If you believe you’re not required to submit a tax return, you can phone HMRC on 0300 200 3310 and ask for the tax return to be withdrawn. If HMRC agrees, you no longer have to file a return and any penalties issued for missing the deadline should be cancelled.

Make sure you make a note of who you spoke to and when, and what the outcome is expected to be - when will you have a decision from them, for example?

HMRC is unlikely to withdraw a return if you have been self-employed at any time during the tax year – even if it was only for a very short time.

2. File your return as soon as possible

File your tax return as quickly as possible, as penalties escalate the longer the delay after the deadline. It also makes sense to file your return online as the deadline for filing online is 31st January.

We would be happy to prepare your tax return for you, simply contact us so we can discuss this further with you.

Reasonable excuses

If you file your 2020/21 tax return late, you will receive a late filing penalty, subject to the extension until 29th February

If you have a good reason for the delay in filing your return, you may appeal against the penalty.

A reasonable excuse is something that stopped you meeting a tax obligation that you took reasonable care to meet, for example:

  • 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

HMRC provides a list of common examples of Reasonable Excuses on its website and have recently updated it to include:

"If you’re affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)HMRC will consider coronavirus as a reasonable excuse for missing some tax obligations (such as payments or filing dates).

"Explain how you were affected by coronavirus in your appeal. You must still make the return or payment as soon as you can."

Late payments

Any tax liability for 2020/21 was due by 31st January 2022. If it was not paid within 30 days of the deadline, late payment penalties will start to accrue. But provided you fill in the relevant section of your Reasonable Excuse claim, these could be covered also.

For 2020/21 there is an extension until 1st April 2022, beyond which late payment penalties will apply.

Interest is charged for the entire period the tax is outstanding, and this cannot be mitigated.

What's unlikely to be reasonable excuse?

The following aren’t usually accepted as a reasonable excuse:

  • 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

Need more help with your tax return?

We love working with self-employed professionals and independent business owners and if you are not receiving the service and support you deserve from your accountant then please talk to us on 01522 699870 or use our online enquiry form. We offer free initial consultations, advice, and support over the phone or via video meeting if you have any concerns about face-to-face meetings.

Date published 19 Jan 2016 | Last updated 13 Jan 2022

This article is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayer’s circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this article, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.


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