LITRG Press Release: Don’t have nightmares - consequences of missing Halloween tax deadline are not so grave

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) is urging taxpayers in self-assessment not to freak out if they miss the 2017/18 paper tax return deadline on Wednesday – which coincides with Halloween – because they can avoid late filing penalties by submitting their return online by 31 January 2019 if they are well organised.

Head of Team at LITRG Victoria Todd said:

“While the taxman will give you a stay of execution if you miss the Halloween deadline for paper self-assessment, the axe will fall if you miss the 31 January 2019 online deadline. If you send in a paper return after 31 October rather than file online, then a £100 penalty will automatically be charged as a minimum. However, you can avoid any penalty if you file online by the end of January instead.”

LITRG is warning people to allow at least 10 working days before 31 January 2019 to complete and send their tax return to HMRC if they are using self-assessment online for the first time. This is because they will need to enrol into and ‘activate’ HMRC’s online self-assessment service first using a code they will be sent in the post. Up to 20 days may be needed if the person does not have a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number already.

Taxpayers used to doing their accounts on paper may feel daunted to switch to doing things online but HMRC’s online self-assessment service is quite user friendly. LITRG is urging taxpayers who miss the paper filing deadline to use its online digital services guide to help them. This explains everything to do with HMRC’s digital services and takes people, step by step, through the process of setting up an online account with HMRC.

Victoria Todd said:

“You can ask for help by phoning HMRC if you need some assistance to deal with your tax return online – perhaps because you lack IT skills or because you do not have internet access. They can help you find access to a computer and the internet, input information on your behalf or help you to do this yourself, or arrange a face to face visit if your circumstances require one.

“There are different ways of telling HMRC you need to complete a tax return depending on whether you are self-employed or not. But in all cases, HMRC will need time to process your information and issue you with a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). Once you have got this, you may need to set up an online self-assessment account as a separate step, which can take at least 10 working days in itself. If 2017/18 is your first year of self-assessment but you have not asked HMRC for a UTR, you may be looking at needing at least 20 days to get everything in place to meet the 31 January 2019 online deadline.’’

People who want to submit a paper tax return to HMRC for 2017/18 should do so by 31 October 2018. If a paper tax return is submitted after this date in paper form rather than online then a £100 penalty will automatically be charged, with penalties potentially rising up to £1,600 depending on the length of the delay. This penalty can be avoided by following LITRG’s advice and submitting an online return instead of a paper return by 31 January 2019.

There is further good news for people who failed to tell HMRC that they needed to complete a tax return for the first time for the 2017/18 tax year – the deadline to do this was 5 October 2018. Where the 5 October deadline is missed, a person should still register as soon as possible. Provided they get a tax return to HMRC and pay anything they owe by 31 January 2019 there will be no penalty for ‘failing to notify’.

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