The annual deadline for submitting your online Self Assessment and paying any tax owed is midnight on 31st January each year. While most self-employed people these days choose to file their Self Assessments online, it’s still possible to do so the old way - via paper forms. Be warned though, if you submit a paper tax return the deadline is earlier, and HMRC must receive this by 31st October each year.
If you don’t file your return and pay any tax due on time, you’ll face fines – and there are potential extra penalties.
So don't delay, make sure you submit your return before the deadline and pay any tax you owe with whatever information you have available - even if you need to subsequently amend your tax return.
Suspension of late filing tax penalties until 28th February 2021
HMRC has announced that due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there will be no late-filing fine if your 2019/20 Self Assessment is filed late, as long as you file online by 28th February. However, you still need to pay any tax you owe by 31st January 2021 or you will incur interest penalties.
If you can’t afford to pay your Self Assessment tax bill by 31st January, you may be able to set up an affordable plan and pay in monthly instalments. But you will need to file your 2019/20 tax return before setting up a time to pay arrangement.
If you'd rather download a guide on Self Assessment to read later, check out the jargon-free PDF Self Assessment guide below.
How much is the fine if I miss the Self Assessment filing deadline?
Anyone who is required to file a return but misses the deadline receives an automatic £100 fine from HMRC – if you have an online account, this penalty will be added to it.
The fine is imposed regardless of whether you owe tax or not. If you fail to file within three months – that is, by the end of April – HMRC can then impose an additional £10 daily fine for the next 90 days, increasing the total penalty by £900 to £1,000.
Further penalties are imposed after six and then 12 months – and these could be based on the amount of tax you owe if a particularly large sum is outstanding.
On top of these fines, you’ll be charged interest on any unpaid tax.
As mentioned above, for the 2019/20 Self Assessment filing usually due by 31st January 2021, HMRC has announced that due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there will be no late-filing fine if your 2019/20 Self Assessment is filed late, as long as you file online by 28th February 2021. However, you still need to pay any tax you owe by 31st January 2021 or you will incur interest penalties.
Can I still submit a Paper Self Assessment?
Yes, you can although the HMRC deadline for paper submissions is 3 months earlier, the 31st October each year. If you'd prefer not to submit an online Self Assessment, or you can't, you can still file a paper return. However, if you submit only a paper return after the 31st October deadline, the same fine regime applies. This means that if you miss the paper deadline, you should submit online to avoid late filing fines.
Additional fines for late payment
This may sound obvious, but don’t forget that you must also have paid the tax you owe by the 31st January (see below for special information about automatic time to pay agreements available for tax bills due on 31st January 2021). If you didn't pay in time then you'll face these additional fines:
Don't get caught out by Payment on Account!
HMRC runs a system called “payment on account” for those who pay most of their tax through Self Assessment. This can catch many people out, especially if it is their first Self Assessment - as it means that the tax due is often 50% higher than expected. Read more in our article about payment on account.
The government’s ‘Time to Pay’ scheme for Self Assessment tax bills for tax year ended 5th April 2020
The government’s further COVID-19 support measures announced on 24th September 2020 as part of the Winter Economic Plan, include the option to spread the cost of your tax bill for the 2019/20 tax year which ended on 5th April 2020.
When you have completed your Self Assessment tax return for the 2019/20 tax year, you can use the online self-serve 'Time to Pay' service through GOV.UK to set up a direct debit and pay any tax that is owed in monthly instalments, paid back over up to a 12-month period.If you wish to set up your own self-serve 'Time to Pay', you must meet the following requirements for the 2019/20 tax year:
- no outstanding tax returns
- no other tax debts
- no other HMRC payments set up
- your Self Assessment tax bill is between £32 and £30,000
- it is no more than 60 days since the tax was due for payment.
If you do not meet these requirements, or need longer than 12 months to pay in full, you may still be able to set up a ‘Time to Pay’ arrangement by calling the HMRC Self Assessment payment helpline on 0300 200 3822 or going online to the “If you cannot pay your tax bill on time” page on the gov.uk website.
If you set up a 'Time to Pay' arrangement, you will have to pay interest on the tax paid late. Interest will be applied to any outstanding balance from 1st February 2021.
The deadline to complete Self Assessment tax returns for 2019/20 is 31st January 2021.
Can I escape a Self Assessment fine?
HMRC says it will waive the late-filing penalty for people who have a “reasonable excuse”, although this will be done at officials’ discretion.
You may be able to avoid a fine if a close relative died shortly before the Self Assessment deadline, if you have been seriously ill, or even if you have experienced serious IT problems. Fines may also be waived or suspended if you’re unable to file your returns due to issues with HMRC’s online services.
On the other hand, HMRC says it will not waive penalties for those who find the Self Assessment system too difficult to use or who did not receive an official reminder, for example.
If you do wish to appeal against a penalty, you’ll need to fill out what’s called a SA370 form, or you can appeal online.
Appealing a penalty notice due if you or your business have been affected by Covid-19
If you cannot file your Self Assessment by the due date because you have been affected by Covid-19, you can use such circumstances as the basis of an appeal against any late filing penalty.
Penalty appeal periods are usually 30 days following the date of the penalty notice. If you or your business have been affected by COVID-19, HMRC will give you an extra three months to appeal any penalty dated February 2020 or later. Send your appeal as soon as you can, and explain the delay is because of coronavirus. There is more information on the HMRC website on how to appeal against a penalty.
What to do if you miss the Self Assessment deadline
If you’ve missed the Self Assessment deadline you really need to get on with it as soon as possible - our article explains how to file your Self Assessment. The fines and interest will just keep building up, so you need to file and pay any outstanding tax as soon as possible.
If you’re already registered for Self Assessment online, all you need is financial information for the relevant tax year, such as your annual accounts, invoices and expenses, and/or P60, plus details of investment profits, savings interest, pension contributions, etc. It is possible to amend your return after it's been filed, so you should file online, as soon as possible with the information you have, even if you are missing some information.
If you aren’t registered yet, you need to start this process right away – but it can take several days, if not weeks, to register as HMRC needs to send you an activation code in the post. You can set the ball rolling by paying HMRC’s website a visit.
Avoiding future problems
Registering for Self Assessment is probably the most awkward part of the process. Once you’re registered, filing returns in future should be far more straightforward, providing you keep a note of your username and password for the service.
You must keep your records for at least five years after the 31st January submission deadline of the relevant tax year. HMRC may check your records to make sure you’re paying the right amount of tax.
This means if you filed your 2019/20 tax return online by 31st January 2021, you must keep your records until at least the end of January 2026.
Also, you should make a note in your diary to file your next return well in advance of next year’s Self Assessment deadline. You can file your return at any time after the tax year ends on 5th April each year.
And remember, filing your Self Assessment return early means the size of your next tax bill won’t come as a shock.
Let Crunch take the pain out of Self Assessments
At Crunch, we’re experts at looking after life’s numbers, so you can trust us to make your Self Assessment as worry-free as it can be. Our expert chartered certified accountants will take care of you, just like we did for over 7,500 clients in the last tax year.