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What are the penalties for filing a late tax return?

Your self-assessment tax return for 2022/23 needed to be submitted online by January 31, 2024. If you're doing it on paper, the deadline was October 31, 2023.

man preparing taxes

No matter how you send in your tax return, make sure to pay any taxes owed by January 31, 2024. If you're late, you'll have to pay extra interest.

If HMRC wants you to fill out a tax return for 2022/23 and you don't do it on time, you'll get fined, even if you don't owe much tax. You'll also be fined if you're supposed to get money back.

This article will talk about the fines for filing your tax return late since the UK tax deadline in January 2024 has already passed.

Reasons why you might receive a penalty

Here are some reasons that may lead you to receive a penalty:

  • The submission of a late self-assessment tax return

  • A late payment of tax

  • Failure to notify HMRC you need to complete a tax return

  • Failure to retain full and proper records

  • Not contacting HMRC about changes that affect your tax liability

  • Errors in a tax return that understates your tax liability or misrepresents your tax liability, unless you took reasonable care. This is known as an ‘inaccuracy penalty’

You may be asking: “Do I need to do a tax return?” – but if you are a sole trader, you’ll generally have to complete a return if your annual gross trading income is £1,000 or more, from one or more trades.

You can check if you need to send a self-assessment tax return to HMRC using an HMRC tool which may be found here.

Penalties for late tax returns

Missing a self-assessment return deadline has some serious implications and the penalties for filing your self-assessment tax return late are currently as follows: 

  • 1 day late – Automatic fixed penalty of £100. This applies even if you have no tax to pay or you have paid the tax you owe on time. This charge will kick in if you haven’t filed by 31st January 2024.

  • 3 months late – £10 per day up to a 90 day maximum of £900.

  • 6 months late – £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is higher.

  • 12 months late - £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is higher.

  • Increased penalties can apply if the withholding of information after more than 12 months is deliberate or deliberate and concealed.

These penalties are in addition to one another, so the minimum late filing penalty for a tax return that is 12-months late will be upwards of £1,600, depending on the tax liability. 

Penalties for late payment of tax

The penalties for late payment of tax are as follows:

  • 30 days late – 5% of tax due.

  • More than 5 months after the first penalty – 5% of outstanding tax due at that date.

  • More than 11 months after the first penalty – 5% of outstanding tax due at that date.

I haven't filed my tax return yet, what should I do?

Even though you're late, it's crucial to act quickly and submit your return as soon as possible to stop more penalties and interest fees from being added to what you owe.

Cancelling a tax return

If you believe you don't have to submit a tax return, you can call HMRC and ask them to cancel it (but it's wise to check with your accountant first). If HMRC agrees, you won't have to file the return, and they might cancel any penalties for missing the deadline.

Remember to write down who you talked to at HMRC, what you expect to happen, and when you'll get an answer.

HMRC probably won't cancel a return if you've been self-employed at any point during the tax year, even if it was just for a short time. Usually, you have only two years from the end of the tax year to request cancellation of the return, but it's best to handle your taxes promptly.

Appealing a penalty online

To contest the £100 fine for filing your self-assessment tax return late, you must first have either submitted your return or informed HMRC that you don't need to file one.

You can only challenge the £100 fixed late filing penalty within 30 days of receiving the penalty notice (unless the notice specifies a different deadline on the back).

Appealing by post or via phone

To file an appeal via post, download form SA370 and send the completed form to HMRC.

By phone, call 0300 200 3310.

Paying interest on an appeal and subsequent penalty charges

If HMRC upholds an appeal, you’ll receive written confirmation in the post whether you submitted online or by post. Alternatively you’ll receive a call to confirm the cancellation of the penalty and interest added.

If HMRC does not agree to an appeal, this will be confirmed in writing and the penalty and added interest will need to be paid.

Reasonable excuses to appeal a penalty charge

If you have a good reason for the delay, you may be able to appeal against the penalty.

HMRC lists several common examples of reasonable excuses on its website.

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

  • 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 could not have predicted

  • delays related to a disability or mental illness you have

  • you were unaware of or misunderstood your legal obligation

  • you relied on someone else to send your return, and they did not

You must send your return or payment as soon as possible after your reasonable excuse is resolved.

What will not count as a reasonable excuse

The following will not be accepted as a reasonable excuse:

  • your cheque bounced or payment failed because you did not have enough money

  • you found the HMRC online system too difficult to use

  • you did not get a reminder from HMRC

  • you made a mistake on your tax return

What if I don't submit my taxes?

If you don't file your tax return, you'll face a penalty. But can you get in trouble for not paying taxes? Usually not, but HMRC has ways to make you submit your return.

If you don't send in your tax return, HMRC can estimate what you owe and chase you for that amount. So it's really important to keep your taxes up to date.

If you would like to speak to an accountant regarding any tax enquiries, contact or 0141 266 0563.


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