Yes, today’s the day. By 11.59 tonight, HMRC need to receive your completed online self assessment tax return.

If you miss this deadline, you will be automatically fined £100, just for being late.

And that doesn’t mean that you can carry on ignoring it. Speed really is of the essence, if you want to avoid wasting more money on additional HMRC fines.

I know I’m not going to make that deadline, now what happens?

You’re absolutely certain that you can’t get your form filled in by midnight. Perhaps you didn’t apply for your 10-digit code in time. Maybe you left it way too late to book in with your accountant and you know it’s too complicated to do by yourself.

There are all kinds of reasons why thousands of people do not meet the self assessment deadline.

The first thing that is going to happen is that HMRC will fine you £100, just for missing their deadline. And, if you’re already in the self assessment system, they will send you a reminder.

The second thing that really should happen is that you move ‘do tax return’ to the very top of your to do list. Get it sorted as quickly as you can. Otherwise you will start to accumulate more fines.

What are HMRC’s ‘reasonable excuses’?

HMRC often seems like an unapproachable, monolithic structure. But remember that every government department is made up of people. Individual people just like you. They just want to get their jobs done. They set rules that take into account that taxpayers are real people and sometimes life gets messy.

So, HMRC have a list of ‘reasonable excuses’ for not filing your self assessment tax return on time. If you fall into any of these categories, it means that you can appeal against some penalties.

  • You had to go into hospital unexpectedly (not a planned operation)
  • Theft, flood or fire
  • For paper submissions – postal strike, or other delay to the post that you couldn’t have accounted for
  • Death of a close relative or partner, near the deadline date
  • Serious illness or injury to you
  • Your disability prevented you from meeting the deadline
  • HMRC online services failure
  • Your software or computer failed around the submission deadline

Things that definitely are not a ‘reasonable excuse’:

  • Another person that you trusted did not send your return on your behalf (eg, your accountant)
  • You didn’t get a reminder from HMRC
  • Mistakes on your tax return
  • The online system is too complicated for you
  • Non-payment of your tax bill is not excused because a cheque bounced or someone didn’t pay you on time.

Whatever you do…

…don’t ignore it.

HMRC helplines are called that for a reason – they are there to help you. It’s not a pleasant job and it can feel rather intimidating to be talking to a government department. But you’re not getting in touch with the whole of HMRC. You’re speaking to one person with the expertise to help sort out your self assessment tax return submission, paying your tax bill and any other tax-based inquiries you might have. The longer you leave the situation unresolved, the higher your final penalties will be.