As the official deadline for completing the 2019/2020 self-assessment tax return draws closer, many people will be leaving it to the last minute. HMRC have a strict deadline of 11.59pm on Sunday 31st January for returns to be submitted. Anybody who submits their tax return even a minute late will be fined. This year however, HMRC states any COVID-related disruption will be classed as a reasonable excuse for not filing on time. The disruption could be either personal or business-related. HMRC claim it will postpone penalties, just so long as you can file as soon as feasibly possible after the disruption.
HMRC usually issue a standard £100 penalty charge if you miss the 31st January deadline. This fine still applies even if you have no tax to pay. Additional penalties are issued including £10 a day after three months from the deadline. These will be for a maximum of £900. After six months, a charge will be issued of 5% of the tax owed or £300. This will happen again after 12 months. HMRC will charge the highest amount of the two.
HMRC haven’t provided any specific guidance, in fact, they have been rather vague. They won’t provide any specifics on what constitutes a valid COVID-related reason. There could be a number of COVID-related reasons for the late filing of a return. The most obvious is if a person has the virus and this impacts their ability to complete the return. There are a number of other related reasons whether it be a loved one with the virus, or the many repercussions of the pandemic on the ability of a person to conduct a task. This could include the pressures of managing work and home-schooling, limiting the time available to complete the return. Alternatively it could be the inability of a person to have a face-to-face meeting with their accountant.
If you can, we advise it’s still best to file your tax return on time, just to be on the safe side. If you are struggling due to a COVID-related illness or reason, we advise contacting HMRC directly. They have a dedicated page on the website you can refer to here.
You can contact HMRC in advance, but you will not be able to waive the fine in advance. The fine will be processed as normal and you will need to appeal against it, explaining your COVID-related reason for the last filing. If you do incur a fine, HMRC will send you a standard letter. Within the letter, it will include details about the appeals process. As part of the appeals process you will need to explain why COVID meant you couldn’t file your tax return on time.
You can appeal by post or via Gov.uk. It’s important to know, you will need a Government Gateway account already set up if you want to appeal online.
HMRC are clear in that late payment fees for not paying your tax on time won’t be waived, regardless of COVID. Penalties for late payment of taxes don’t trigger on 31st January. You’ll be charged an extra 5% of the unpaid tax after 30 days. You will also be charged another 5% after six months, and then again after one year.
HMRC state they will treat each appeal on a case by case basis. If you do need any advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Kinsell Tax for advice. You can contact us on 0800 471 4546.