/ Money

Tax return deadline: are you late for a very important date?

Lots of different clock faces

Are you one of the 10m people who have to complete their self-assessment tax return? According to HMRC, around 1,500 committed people actually submitted their tax return on Christmas Day!

The pressure is definitely on this year, as you’ll be hit with an automatic £100 fine if you miss the 31 January deadline for online tax return submissions. Despite the warnings and promises of ‘inner peace’ from HMRC if you file on time, around 2m people were late submitting their tax returns last year.

HMRC says that over three-quarters of tax returns are filed online instead of on paper. Considering you get an extra three months to complete the task as well as a more user-friendly form, it’s easy to see why this is a growing trend. By 2014, HMRC predicts that over 80% of us will be submitting online rather than putting pen to paper.

When timing is tight

If you’re cutting it fine this year, make sure you check that you’re registered to use HMRC’s online service. You can register online, but there’s a week’s delay while they send you an activation code by post. You can’t proceed without going through this process first – so don’t put it off any longer, even if you are still gathering last-minute figures.

If getting your final figures together is holding you up, consider submitting an estimate instead. HMRC will normally accept these, although they will ask you to explain why you don’t have the actual figure, and estimate when you will have it available.

Even though completing your tax return online is relatively straight-forward, you might want to consider getting professional help if your affairs are more complex. Using an accountant or tax adviser can certainly be beneficial, although you’ll still be personally held responsible if they don’t meet the deadline.

Avoid snail mail fails

The good news is that HMRC will send an automatic receipt once you’ve filed online, so even if you decide to burn the midnight oil, at least you won’t have a last minute rush to catch the post.

If you’ve already submitted your tax return, did you do it online, or were you one of the dwindling few who prefer to fill in a traditional form? Do you tend to leave it all to the last minute?

A.N.Economist says:
27 January 2013


I did file my self assessment return in good time at the beginning of January- and got both an acknowledgement and also revised PAYE coding notice based on the information I had provided. However, HMRC made an error and sent a wrong PAYE coding note to my employer who have now taken too much tax out of my January salary which will be paid on Monday. Already January is a difficult month and this error by HMRC comes at a wrong time. I phoned HMRC (and after a long long wait and) spoke to an adviser who admitted that ‘an error has occurred’ and was helpful by assuring me that they have sent the correct code to my employer straight away. However, the damage has been done and now I have to wait for a month before my employer corrects and pays me this along with my February salary (if I am lucky).

Have you heard of such events affecting others on the Which community? Any advice?


I have two beefs about the tax return, some years back, I hoped to trade enough shares to need to make out a return, but never got there. However, I had asked for a form, just in case. I then received a reminder that I had to fill it in, which I duly did, and each year the return was demanded. I found it so difficult to collect the slips, collate the info and calculate the nets, grosses and totals that several times I dropped it off in the early hours of the Monday after the deadline. They then announced that they would block up the letterbox at 00:00 hours precisely, which they actually did. The next year, I only made it by 23:54, passing a number of anxious people on the stairs, both as I went up and came down.
The next year, I assembled all my slips, then tried my login 10 days early, which did not work. The site crashed, and I could not get any reset. I wasted hours trying to phone for help, and sent several emails explaining that I could not get in. It finally allowed a password reset late on the last night. I filled in the form online, got dumped out before midnight and added an explanation as to why it was beyond my control due to their extensive delays and asked not to be fined the £100 late fee. I had a nervous few days, then read in the papers that as so many people had been affected, no fine would be levied -what a relief! Weeks later a familiar buff envelope marked H.M. Tax appeared. The bold heading stated that I WAS to be fined £100 for failing to meet the statutary deadline. The A4 sheet was almost filled with writing explaining the law relating to the fine, how to pay it, the consequences for not doing so, and the statutory results including court action and how they would take the money if I did not pay. I got more and more wound up, until about an inch and a half from the bottom of the page, it stated “Amount to be paid £0.00”.
I continued filling out the forms each year, gradually moving submission dates back to well before Christmas. I then had a query, so went into my local tax office (which they have since helpfully moved way up north) and they answered my enquiry. As I was leaving, I asked why I had to fill in the form each year as I paid PAYE on all of my income , and all interest and dividends were taxed at source? The answer – ‘Because I had asked for one some 10-12 years before’ – I quickly asked ‘how do I get released from this?’ to be floored by the answer ‘just ask not to be sent one’ so I did so there and then.
Just how much grief was that and how much did that cost us tax payers, and for what? I even once had a notice that I was to be reviewed, no-one suggested it would be unnecessary to keep filling in the return and nearly every year I actually had a refund as they never allowed a legitimate rebate on my professional body fees.
They don’t seem to want to make it simple, and from other exchanges with them, I suspect there is some incentive (or bonus?) based on how much they demand from people, without taking into account whether that is actually justified and not later cancelled. In one case I was made to pay them a four figure sum because I had put a submission on the wrong piece of paper, despite asking them if it was correct. It was re-paid much later with interest, but it was a time when that was alot of money and we had an eye-watering mortgage interest rate, so it doubly hurt.