New record for digital tax returns, but 890,000 miss deadine

HMRC oversaw the biggest digital Self Assessment event ever this year, receiving 10.24 million tax returns by midnight deadline on 31 January – a record 85.5 per cent of which were sent online, it revealed.

However, as many as 890,000 people face a £100 fine for failing to file their online tax returns on time, HMRC has said.

The number failing to meet the deadline was greater than last year, but well below the 1.6m recorded in 2010. Further fines are imposed if people fail to complete their returns after three, six and 12 months.

“This is another record-breaking year for self-assessment, with 210,000 more people filing their returns on time than last year,” said Ruth Owen, HMRC’s director general of personal tax. But she also warned people that fines would mount up if they did not complete the forms quickly. “If you’re one of the minority who missed the deadline, you still need to get your tax return to us as soon as possible, to avoid further penalties and interest mounting up,” she said.

Peak times for tax returns

The busiest days for filing were 30 and 31 January, when HMRC received 980,000 returns. The busiest hour was between 1pm and 2pm on 30 January, when almost 50,000 returns were received – 830 per minute.

The busiest hour on deadline day was between 11 am and midday, when almost 32,000­­ returns were received – 530 per minute. HMRC also answered 95 per cent of calls first time on deadline day.

Around 4.3 million customers (42 per cent) left it until January to file their returns, which HMRC issued in April 2014.

By the end of January, more than a million Self Assessment-only customers (self-employed, with no other source of income, no employees and not VAT-registered) opted to receive electronic messages from HMRC, rather than paper communications. If you are eligible, you can sign up by logging into your Self Assessment online account and following the prompts.

Did you miss the deadline?

Missing the tax return deadline results in an automatic £100 late-filing penalty. There are further late-filing penalties after 3, 6 and 12 months (see below).

People with a genuine reason for not filing should contact HMRC to ensure they do not incur more penalties.

The penalties for late tax returns are:

  • an initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay, or if the tax due is paid on time;
  • after 3 months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900;
  • after 6 months, a further penalty of 5 per cent of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater; and
  • after 12 months, another 5 per cent or £300 charge, whichever is greater.

There are also additional penalties for paying late of 5 per cent of the tax unpaid at 30 days, 6 months and 12 months.