What to do if your tax return is not ready on time

The deadline for filing self-assessments is midnight on January 31 – but what can you do if your tax return is not ready on time?

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is unlikely to listen to many excuses for lateness and even if you owe no tax and file after the deadline, you will pick up a £100 fine.

Reasonable excuses for filing late include serious illness, the death of a close relative, fires or flooding that prevented filing or a last-minute computer disaster.

Waiting for final figures is not an excuse, but if you do not have all the information available to complete your tax return, don’t worry because a procedure is in place to cater for problems.

Provisional and estimated figures

You can put a provisional or estimated figure in your tax return and update them with the correct amounts later.

  • A provisional figure is one supplied pending the final amount
  • An estimate is a final figure you want HMRC to accept as a final figure when you do not have the actual figure, for instance the records are lost or destroyed

In the ‘additional information’ box explain why the figures are provisional or estimates.

For provisional figures, include information when the final figures will be available and the date you expect to complete the return.

File the return before the deadline and pay the estimated amount of tax due.

This way, you will avoid any fines and interest on outstanding tax and also stop HMRC chasing you for late filing and adding interest to any tax due.

HMRC tells tax inspectors to accept provisional or estimated figures rather than accept delays in filing returns, provided the figures are reasonable.

Putting mistakes right

If you provide an incomplete return, HMRC may open a tax inquiry, but if you can explain why you have taken your action, this should not be too much of a problem to deal with.

If you file a tax return and discover you have made a mistake in the figures, you can go back to change the information for up to12 months after the filing.

For adjusting tax returns filed more than 12 months ago, you have to write to HMRC.

You can adjust the figures and HMRC will recalculate the tax you owe – or they owe you.

Ignoring the filing date will lead to HMRC automatically generating penalties and adding interest to any outstanding tax.

HMRC imposes penalties for mistakes on tax returns, late filing and unpaid tax. The penalties depend on why a tax return was wrong or late and how long fixing the problem takes.

Read more about HMRC penalties

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