No self-assessment filing penalties until 28 February!

HMRC announced on (Monday) afternoon that it had decided that 2019/20 tax returns filed online up to 28 February 2021 would no longer be subject to the £100 late filing penalty that normally applies for returns filed after 31 January.

Broadly, this gives taxpayers (and agents!) an extra 4 weeks to finalise and submit their 2019/20 tax returns. HMRC estimates that there are around 3million returns left to file, with 7 days on the clock (that is about 25% of the total projected 12million+ SA return population for 2019/20)

However, note:

  • This does NOT mean that the filing deadline has been extended. Rather, it seems that HMRC has decided to assume automatically that a taxpayer has a “Coreasonable excuse” for failing to file by 31 January, and will have taken steps to file within a reasonable timeframe afterwards, if they have in fact filed by 28 February. The distinction matters because this approach arguably causes the least disturbance to the underlying framework of Self-Assessment – e.g., enquiry and repair periods, etc. – and a return filed after 31 January will still count as ‘late’.
  • The payment deadline likewise remains 31 January, and interest (and potentially penalties) will be charged for payments made afterwards
  • Taxpayers will need to file before asking for Time to Pay

A couple of lines from the letter itself stand out:

1. “It has become increasingly clear from the filing rate that some taxpayers and agents cannot file on time”, and
2. “More than 42,000 customers have already used the [online 12-month payment plan] service”

(1) stands out because HMRC’s Chief Executive had written to the professional bodies only 7 days prior, to say “filing rates are still holding up well”, alongside the assurance that “agents are receiving similar customer service [on the Agent Dedicated Line] to our other telephone lines” which could, let’s face it, be interpreted in a number of ways (not the least damning of which is that the whole point of the ADL is to get a ‘better’ service).

(2) stands out because that is a very small number. Perhaps SA taxpayers really do not like the idea of having to make regular monthly payments of Income Tax…

The above is an extract from Lee Sharpe’s One Month in a Minute which is produced regularly for subscribers to Bloomsbury Professional Tax Online. Interested in reading more content like this? Sign up for a two week free trial today. Sign up for a free trial

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