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The deadline to send your 2013/14 online Self Assessment tax return to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is just days away (31st January 2015), and it’s really important that you get it in on time to avoid penalties. If you do think you’ll struggle to meet the deadline, it’s a good idea to contact HMRC as soon as you can and explain your situation to them, and as long as you have a reasonable excuse they may be able to come up with an arrangement.

Talking of reasonable excuses, HMRC recently revealed a list of the 10 worst excuses people have given for not being able to pay their tax bill on time. You won’t be surprised to hear that all of these led to unsuccessful appeals!

My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.

I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.

I fell in with the wrong crowd.

I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.

Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.

I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.

A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.

I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.

My girlfriend’s pregnant.

I was in Australia.

What would be considered a reasonable excuse?

Unexpected events you have no control over are generally deemed as a reasonable excuse to appeal a late tax return. According to HMRC, incidents such as an unexpected hospital stay, computer failure while preparing your online tax return and your partner passing shortly before your return was due, fall under this reasonable category.

What happens if I’m late?

If you submit your tax return late you will receive an automatic penalty of £100, and there are additional financial forfeits for submissions over longer periods of time. If your tax return is 3 months late, HMRC will charge a £10 daily penalty for a period of up to 90 days, and after 6 months, they will charge a penalty of 5% of the tax owed, as well as charging daily interest at 3%. You can estimate your fine here.

Who needs to complete the form?

Individuals who are a self-employed sole trader, a partner in a business partnership or a company director (barring non-profit organisations) must complete a Self Assessment tax return. If you are unsure if this applies to you, you can check if you need to fill out a form here.

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