Tax return deadline missed?

Published on 2 December 2008

The 31 October deadline for paper filing of tax returns has passed. Those who have not registered for online filing and not yet submitted their tax return will have begun to receive letters from HMRC explaining that they should now file their returns online. However there may be other options or help at hand.

31 October 2008 was the deadline under the new rules for submission of paper self assessment tax returns for 2007/08. Those who are filing their returns online have until 31 January 2009 to do so. But all is not lost if you still want to file a paper return.

‘…but I …….didn’t know/forgot/couldn’t make……. the deadline’

HMRC have now begun to write to those who have not submitted a return (and have not yet registered to file online) and this is likely to cause worry to those who think they have “failed” or have been given that impression by HMRC.

The letters are very much aimed at persuading taxpayers to file online and set out the benefits of doing so. But for those who will not be able to file online, or are not confident about doing so, there are other options.

‘I don’t think I can file online’

Contrary to the general impression given by HMRC they will still accept paper returns. This paper return can be submitted at any time prior to 31 January 2009 and in due course HMRC will issue a tax calculation.

There are three problems with this approach as compared with online filing:

  1. If you need the HMRC calculation in order to pay the right tax by 31 January 2009 you may not receive it in time
  2. If you have an underpayment and want it to be collected through your tax code in 2009/10 you will probably be too late
  3. A late filing penalty of £100 will be sent you.

The most disturbing consequence of late paper filing might seem to be the £100 penalty. However this penalty could be cancelled if HMRC agree you have a reasonable excuse for being late with the return, or reduced to nil (this year at least) if:

  • the tax return is submitted by 31 January 2009; and
  • having accurately calculated your tax liability you pay it over by 31 January 2009.

If there are grounds for a reasonable excuse why the return has not been filed – for example you or a close relative or partner has a serious illness, or there has been a recent family bereavement – then let HMRC know when the return is submitted.

Not having access to a computer or not being computer literate is unlikely to be accepted by HMRC as a reasonable excuse for late filing. However, HMRC must judge what is reasonable by reference to the individual facts and circumstances, and there is a right of appeal to an independent tribunal against HMRC’s decision.

Need some extra help?

If help is needed with completing a paper return or in calculating the liability then anyone over 50 and on a low income can get help from Tax Help for Older People or others on a low income should call Tax Aid. But do so soon.

Filing online

For those who want to try and file online, HMRC will have sent with their letter a step by step guide to getting registered. This will give access to HMRC’s free software to file the return, and again the letter gives details of where to go for help. HMRC may also be able to advise how to gain access to a computer. However there will be a delay before the registration can be activated so extra time should be allowed.

HMRC have said that they especially want to help those who cannot afford to engage agents to cope with the problems these new deadlines bring. So the message is: get their help – and if you are unhappy with the response or the guidance you receive let us know!


Contact: Jan Tish (Tel: 0844 579 6700 Fax 0844 579 6701)