HMRC claims almost 1 million people will face penalties for the late filing of self-assessment tax returns this year.

In spite of numerous reminders from both accountants and HM Revenues and Customs, it appears that more people than ever have failed to submit their self-assessment tax returns on time. According to figures released by HMRC, almost one million people missed the 31st January deadline for submitting their 2014-15 self-assessment tax returns, and as a consequence they will receive £100 penalty notices.

What will worry HM Revenues and Customs most is that the figures for late filing are continuing to rise year on year. According to the Revenue’s latest figures, 950,000 people failed to submit their self-assessment returns by yesterday’s deadline. Last year the figure hit record highs with 890,000 missing the 2013-14 self-assessment deadline. However, despite widespread reminders throughout the media publicising the looming deadline, a further 60,000 people failed to act.

So what happens if you missed the cut-off date? Well, you will receive an automatic £100 late filing penalty unless you can demonstrate that you had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for not submitting your return on time. If you do believe that you did have a genuine excuse for not meeting the deadline, then HMRC will give you a window of 30 days to appeal.

What does HMRC categorise as a reasonable excuse? Well, the list is surprisingly broad, and now includes ‘excuses’ the tax authority originally said it was unlikely to ever accept. On its website HMRC lists a number of possible excuses including the death of a family member, a stay in hospital, a computer failure, fire, or postal delays.

If you do not have such an excuse and subsequently fail to submit your 2014-15 return by 30th April, 2016, HM Revenues and Customs will then start to levy a daily penalty charge of £10 a day for the next 90 days. A Failure to submit your online 2014-15 tax return before 31st July, 2016, will result in additional fines of either five per cent of the tax owed, or £300: whichever is greater.

HMRC’s generally enforces a strict liability regime for penalty charges. However, because of the ‘unnatural’ weather conditions faced by members of the public in some parts of the country over recent weeks, the tax authority has said it is disposed to show some degree of leniency. It has said that it is show sympathy for anyone affected by flooding in parts of Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

An HMRC spokeswoman said:

“No taxpayer affected by flooding will have to pay a fine if their return is late.”

“We will accept a customer has a reasonable excuse if the delay is caused by flooding at their premises or their agent’s premises and the return is subsequently submitted without reasonable delay.”

HMRC’s spokeswoman also added that HMRC will be accepting instalment payment plans where taxpayers are currently unable to pay the full amount of tax owed due to the cost of their flood damage.

If you’d like any further information on the self-assessment system or advice on whether you could be eligible for a refund of a late payment penalty, call Steven Glicher accountants on 0161 405 8007 or email info@stevenglicher.co.uk.

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