31 October: all paper returns
If you send a paper tax return it must reach HMRC by midnight on 31 October.
You only have longer than this if you received the letter, telling you to send a tax return, after 31 July. In this case you’ll have three months from the date you received that letter.
31 January: online returns
Your online tax return must reach HMRC by midnight on 31 January.
You only have longer than this if you received the letter, telling you to send a tax return, after 31 October. In this case you’ll have three months from the date you received that letter.
There’s an earlier deadline of 30 December if you want HMRC to collect any tax due through your PAYE (Pay As You Earn) tax code. You can only ask for this if you owe less than £2,000. Although HMRC will try to collect the tax due through your code, they can’t always do so.
Penalties if you miss the tax return deadline
If you miss the deadline, the longer you delay, the more you’ll have to pay. So it’s important to send your tax return to HMRC as soon as you can.
Penalties for missing the tax return deadline
|Length of delay||Penalty you will have to pay|
|1 day late||A fixed penalty of £100. This applies even if you have no tax to pay or have paid the tax you owe.|
|3 months late||£10 for each following day – up to a 90 day maximum of £900. This is as well as the fixed penalty above.|
|6 months late||£300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher. This is as well as the penalties above.|
|12 months late||£300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher.
In serious cases you may be asked to pay up to 100% of the tax due instead.
These are as well as the penalties above.
Mrs A’s tax return is due on 31 January 2012 but HMRC don’t receive it until 5 August 2012.
It is over six months late so she will have to pay all of the following:
- £100 fixed penalty
- £900 penalty – this is £10 each day from 1 May to 29 July, when the maximum 90 day penalty is reached.
- £300 or 5 per cent of the tax due – whichever is the higher
Having a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline
You won’t have to pay a penalty if you have a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline. For example, there may have been an exceptional or unexpected event, beyond your control, that meant you couldn’t send your return on time. In this case, you must send your return as soon as possible once the problem ends. There are no hard and fast rules but some examples of what HMRC may consider a reasonable excuse are:
- documents lost through theft, fire or flood that you can’t replace in time
- life-threatening illness, for example a heart attack that prevents you dealing with your tax affairs
- death of a partner shortly before the deadline
- industrial action by Royal Mail over a lengthy period of time
- issues with the online service, with no work-round – you’ll need to provide the error message you received
If you believe you have a reasonable excuse you can ask HMRC to reconsider a penalty. They will look carefully at the information you provided and any other available evidence.
You should tell HMRC as soon as possible – don’t wait until you receive the penalty.
You should write to your Tax Office with:
- your name and Unique Taxpayer Reference – you’ll find this on your tax return or statement
- the date you sent your return
- the reason it was late
HMRC can’t accept this information over the telephone.