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Get your tax return done by 31 January if you can

Published on 12 January 2022

The deadline for sending most online 2020/21 Self Assessment tax returns to HMRC, and for paying the related tax, is 31 January 2022. This year, HMRC will not charge you penalties straight away if you are a bit late. But you should still try to sort out your tax by 31 January if you can.

Illustration of a hand holding coins and a note saying tax return
Credit: Momoforsale / Shutterstock.com

What are the tax return and tax payment deadlines?

Most Self Assessment tax returns for the 2020/21 tax year (the year to 5 April 2021) should be submitted online by 31 January 2022.

Paper returns for that year should have already been submitted by 31 October 2021.

Tax related to the 2020/21 tax return, if due, should also usually be paid by 31 January. This includes the first payment on account for 2021/22 if you need to pay one.

Depending on when HMRC asked you to submit a 2020/21 tax return, you might have a different deadline to submit the return – see this table in our guidance.

However, the tax would still be payable by 31 January 2022 unless:

In this case, the tax would be due three months after HMRC asked you to submit a return.

What is different for 31 January 2022?

HMRC have not changed the deadlines explained above. But HMRC recognise that the coronavirus pandemic means that some people might find it hard to send in their online tax return and pay their tax by 31 January 2022.

HMRC have therefore said they will not charge:

  • the initial £100 late-submission penalty, as long as you send HMRC your 2020/21 tax return online by 28 February 2022; or
  • the initial 5% late-payment penalty, as long as you pay tax related to the 2020/21 tax return in full, or set up a time to pay arrangement, by 1 April 2022.

Note that the first bullet above only applies to online tax returns. A 2020/21 paper return submitted now would usually already be late. If you have not yet submitted your return, you should do so online. If you have not previously used HMRC’s online services, you will need to register.

Why should I still try to send in my online tax return by 31 January?

The deadline in law is still 31 January.

HMRC will automatically assume that you have a reasonable excuse for being late with your 2020/21 return if you submit it online by 28 February 2022. This means HMRC will not charge you a late submission penalty, but your return will still legally be late.

We recommend you try to meet the 31 January deadline if you can. We set out some reasons why below.

Risk of penalties

Let’s assume that you are able to get your tax return in by 31 January. You have all the information. You have time available. You have access to HMRC’s online system. And you are not greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic at this point.

If you put off doing your return until February, you are taking an unnecessary risk.

If, for example, you become ill in late February and are unable to do your tax return until March, HMRC would send you a late-submission penalty. It is unlikely that you would be able to appeal successfully against this penalty, as you did not have a reasonable excuse for missing the legal tax return deadline of 31 January.

HMRC enquiries into the return

If you send your 2020/21 tax return to HMRC online after 31 January 2022, you will need to wait longer to consider that tax year ‘closed’ because HMRC will have longer to enquire into it. If, for example, you send your return to them on 28 February 2022, HMRC would have until 30 April 2023 to ask you questions about it.

I am missing some information. Can I still send HMRC my tax return?

When you send your tax return to HMRC you must declare that is correct and complete to the best of your knowledge and belief.

However, if you have trouble getting some information, you can use provisional or estimated figures as long as you take reasonable care to get the return right.

Provisional figures are those which you intend to update once you have final information. You must declare you have used provisional figures on the tax return. The enquiry window is extended based upon when you give HMRC the final figure, but only for the figures that were provisional and then later confirmed or amended. You should also explain when you will be able to give the final figure.

Estimated figures should be used when you intend them to be final, for example where records have been lost and you think you will never be able to give HMRC exact figures. You should explain to HMRC why you have had to use an estimate and how you have worked out the figure.

We explain more in our tax basics section about taking reasonable care and using estimated or provisional figures.

You can pay your tax, or set up a time to pay arrangement, based on estimated or provisional figures. HMRC could charge you interest if submitting final figures means you have not paid enough.

What if I cannot submit my tax return by 28 February?

You might have a problem which means you cannot submit your tax return online by 28 February. In this situation, HMRC will usually charge you a penalty for submitting the return late.

However, if you have a reasonable excuse for not submitting by 31 January (rather than 28 February), you might be able to appeal against the penalty. You must ensure that you submit the return as soon as possible after the excuse has ended.

This could be the case if, for example, you are taken to hospital unexpectedly on 15 January and are not discharged until 2 March. You feel well enough to do your return on, say, 12 March. You might then appeal a late submission penalty as you believe you have a reasonable excuse for not submitting by 31 January.

If you do not have a reasonable excuse for not submitting by 31 January, then you will not usually be able to appeal the penalty (even if you have a reasonable excuse for not submitting by 28 February).

Why should I try to pay my tax as soon as possible?

HMRC will automatically assume that you have a reasonable excuse for being late in paying tax due on 31 January 2022, if you pay in full or set up a time to pay arrangement by 1 April 2022. The last date to set up a self-serve time to pay arrangement online is 1 April 2022. In this case, HMRC will not charge you the initial late payment penalty. This would usually be 5% of the amount still outstanding by 3 March.

But HMRC will still charge you interest (currently at 2.75% a year) on tax paid late, even if you are paying under a time to pay arrangement.

This means you could avoid paying interest if you pay by 31 January. If you pay after 31 January, the sooner you pay, the lower the interest charge will be.

Claims for certain state benefits can also be affected if you are self-employed and haven’t paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NIC) by 31 January. If this affects you, see below.

I am self-employed. Why is it important to pay Class 2 NIC by 31 January?

Certain benefits might rely on Class 2 National Insurance contributions being paid by 31 January. These include contributory (‘new style’) Employment and Support Allowance and Maternity Allowance. A benefits claim could be affected if you are paying late, even if you have made a time to pay arrangement with HMRC.

If you are affected by this, contact HMRC on 0300 200 3822 for help as soon as possible. They may be able to allocate any payments you make to pay the Class 2 NIC before other liabilities.

Voluntary Class 2 NIC

For 2020/21, you do not have to pay Class 2 NIC if you have profits below the small profits threshold of £6,475. You can, however, pay them voluntarily. If this applies to you, but you are do not submit your 2020/21 tax return by 31 January 2022 or do not pay the contributions by that date, telephone HMRC for help on 0300 200 3500.

I claim tax credits and gave HMRC an estimate of my 2020/21 income. Do I have to confirm final figures by 31 January 2022?

Tax credit claimants who gave HMRC estimated income figures on or before 31 July 2021 should normally provide actual income figures to the Tax Credit Office by 31 January 2022. Note that you must do this in addition to submitting your tax return – do not assume that HMRC will take the tax return figure and use it for tax credits.

If you report the actual figure by 31 January, you can use HMRC’s online system.

If you are not able to meet the 31 January date this year, you should report the figure as soon as possible afterwards. HMRC say that, in most cases, they will update the income used to calculate the finalised tax credit award if there is a COVID-19-related reason for the delay.

We understand that you cannot use HMRC’s online system if reporting actual figures after 31 January. You will need to telephone the tax credits helpline instead.

If the reason for missing the deadline is not COVID-19-related and/or HMRC don’t accept your late declaration, you may need to rely on appeal rights if you disagree and want to challenge your award decision.

How can I get help with my tax return?

We publish information on Self Assessment in our tax basics section, with further detail in our self-employment section. If you need help understanding how to complete your return, please refer to our tax guides.

Our getting help section provides more information on how you can get help from HMRC with your tax, or from others such as friends and family, a paid tax agent, or – for those on low incomes – from the charities TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People.

Contact: Kelly Sizer (click here to Contact Us)
First published: 12/01/22


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