What To Do If You’re Late To File A Tax Return in The UK

What To Do If You’re Late To File A Tax Return in The UK

What To Do If You’re Late To File A Tax Return in The UK

13th February 2024 | Tax

Filing a tax return on time is crucial for both individuals and businesses across the UK. 

The deadline, set by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), is a date that many dread yet must adhere to avoid unnecessary penalties. 

Whether it involves corporate or personal tax return consulting, understanding the implications of a late submission is essential. 

Each year, many find themselves in a position where, for various reasons, they miss this crucial deadline, leading to a series of financial and legal repercussions. 

This article aims to guide those who have found themselves in this predicament, offering solutions and advice on how to navigate the process of late tax filing. 

It's not just about acknowledging the mistake but taking proactive steps to rectify the situation. With the right approach, filing tax late doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. 

Importantly, this guide also highlights how professional tax consulting services can play a pivotal role in managing the aftermath of a late tax return in the UK, ensuring compliance and minimizing penalties.

The Consequences of Late Tax Filing

Understanding the repercussions of missing the tax filing deadline is the first step towards rectifying the situation. The UK tax system imposes strict penalties on those who fail to submit their tax returns on time, a system designed to encourage timely compliance and maintain fairness in the taxation process.

Immediate Penalties for Late Submission

The moment the deadline passes, an automatic penalty of £100 is levied against anyone who has not filed their tax return. This fine is applied regardless of whether there was any tax due at the deadline or not. It serves as the first in a series of potential charges that escalate the longer the delay continues.

Escalating Charges

If the return is not filed within three months, additional daily penalties of £10 up to a maximum of £900 are added to the initial £100 fine. After six months, a further penalty of either £300 or 5% of the tax due (whichever is higher) is charged. 

After twelve months, another similar penalty is added, potentially doubling the financial consequences of filing tax late. This escalating penalty structure underlines the importance of addressing late tax returns promptly to avoid these substantial charges.

Understanding Late Payment Penalties

Alongside the penalties for failing to file a tax return on time, there are additional penalties for not paying the tax you owe by the deadline. These late payment penalties are separate from the late filing penalties and can add significantly to the amount you owe. It’s crucial to be aware of these charges, as they can accumulate quickly, adding a considerable financial burden.

Interest on Late Payments

From the day after the payment deadline, interest starts to accrue on any unpaid tax at the current rate of 7.75%. This interest charge continues to grow until the outstanding amount is paid in full, making it imperative to settle any unpaid tax as soon as possible to minimize the amount of interest charged.

Additional Penalties for Late Payment

Beyond the interest, there are additional penalties applied at 30 days, 6 months, and 12 months past the due date. The first penalty is 5% of the unpaid tax that was due at the payment deadline. Another 5% is charged on any tax not paid after six months, with a further 5% added after twelve months. These penalties are in addition to the interest charges, compounding the financial consequences of late payment.

Reasonable Excuses for Missing the Deadline

HMRC recognizes that sometimes there are genuine reasons beyond your control that prevent you from meeting the tax return or payment deadlines. In such cases, it's possible to appeal against penalties by providing a 'reasonable excuse' for why you were late.

What Constitutes a Reasonable Excuse

HMRC has specific criteria for what they consider a reasonable excuse, including unexpected hospital stays, the death of a partner close to the deadline, significant IT failures, or service issues with HMRC's platforms. It’s important to note that these excuses must be genuine and not due to avoidable mistakes or lack of planning.

How to Appeal with a Reasonable Excuse

If you believe you have a reasonable excuse, you must appeal to HMRC as soon as possible after your ability to file or pay has been restored. The appeal process involves providing evidence of the reason for your delay and clearly explaining how it directly impacted your ability to meet the deadline. HMRC will then review your case and decide whether to waive the penalties.

These sections aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the financial implications of late tax filing and payment, as well as the potential for leniency in circumstances beyond your control. The key message is the importance of acting swiftly to mitigate any penalties and understanding when and how you can appeal them with a reasonable excuse.

Navigating Late Paper and Online Tax Returns

Filing your tax returns on time can prevent a host of complications, but when you find yourself submitting late, it's important to understand the differences in penalties between paper and online returns and how you can navigate through them. The choice between paper and online filings can significantly affect your penalty outcomes should you miss the initial deadlines.

The Impact of Late Paper Returns

For those who opt for the traditional paper filing method, the deadline is earlier than that for online returns, typically October 31. Missing this deadline means immediate penalties, and with paper returns, there's no leeway for extended postal dates or electronic submissions' instantaneous nature. If you've missed the paper deadline, consider switching to online filing if the subsequent January 31 deadline hasn't passed to potentially reduce your penalties.

Transitioning to Online Filing After a Missed Deadline

If you've missed the deadline for a paper return, filing online before the January deadline can be a strategic move. However, it's crucial to note that penalties incurred from missing the paper deadline don't disappear but transitioning to online filing may prevent further penalties associated with later stages of delay. This approach requires quick action and understanding the specific dates and requirements for online submissions to HMRC.

Correcting Mistakes on Your Tax Return

Mistakes on tax returns are not uncommon, and HMRC provides mechanisms for correcting them. Whether these errors are simple miscalculations or incorrect data entries, addressing them promptly can mitigate potential penalties, especially if you discover them after filing late.

How to Correct Errors Post-Submission

After submitting your tax return, if you notice mistakes, you have up to 12 months from the filing deadline to amend it online. This window allows taxpayers to rectify errors without immediate penalties, provided the corrections are made within this timeframe. It's essential to review your return thoroughly after submission to catch any inaccuracies early.

Penalties for Mistakes on Tax Returns

HMRC's approach to penalties for errors on tax returns depends on the nature of the mistake. If an error is deemed to arise from carelessness but without deliberate intent to deceive, penalties can be much lower, sometimes waived if you disclose the mistake voluntarily. 

However, for errors seen as deliberate, penalties can be severe, ranging up to 100% of the underpaid tax. This tiered system emphasizes the importance of honesty and accuracy in tax filing and the benefits of proactively correcting errors.

Where To Find Help and Support

When facing the daunting task of dealing with late tax returns or corrections, knowing where to turn for help and support can make a significant difference. The UK tax system, while complex, offers various resources designed to assist taxpayers in navigating their responsibilities and rectifying issues related to late filing or payment.

HMRC Guides and Helplines

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) provides comprehensive guides, help sheets, and online resources tailored to assist individuals and businesses in understanding and meeting their tax obligations. 

For direct assistance, HMRC's Self-Assessment Helpline offers personalized support, allowing taxpayers to discuss their specific situations and receive guidance on how to proceed. These resources are invaluable for clarifying the steps needed to address late filings and payments, understand penalties, and explore possible avenues for appeal.

The Value of Professional Tax Consulting Services

While HMRC resources are helpful, the complexity of tax legislation and the nuances of individual or corporate tax affairs often necessitate professional advice. 

Tax consulting services specialize in navigating the intricacies of the tax system, offering tailored advice that can prevent costly mistakes and ensure compliance. Professionals in this field can assist with strategic tax planning, penalty mitigation, and effective communication with HMRC, offering peace of mind and potentially significant financial savings.

How ARK Chartered Certified Accountants Can Assist

In the realm of tax compliance and strategic planning, having a knowledgeable partner can be invaluable. ARK Chartered Certified Accountants stands out as a beacon of expertise, offering a range of services designed to navigate the complexities of both corporate and personal tax affairs.

Expert Tax Consulting Services

Our team of chartered certified accountants and registered auditors possesses a deep understanding of the UK tax system, enabling us to provide expert advice on a wide array of tax matters. From corporate tax return consulting to personal tax advice, we tailor our services to meet the unique needs of each client, ensuring that they achieve the most tax-efficient outcomes possible.

Benefits of Professional Advice for Tax Returns

Engaging with professional tax advisors like ARK Chartered Certified Accountants ensures that your tax affairs are managed effectively, minimizing liabilities and maximizing compliance. Our proactive approach allows us to identify potential issues before they become problematic, offering solutions that align with your personal or business goals. 

Whether you're dealing with late tax filings, seeking to optimize your tax position, or simply aiming to understand the tax implications of your decisions, our team is here to support you every step of the way.


Navigating the complexities of late tax filing in the UK can be a challenging journey, filled with potential pitfalls and stringent penalties. However, with the right approach and expert guidance, it's possible to address these challenges head-on, ensuring compliance and minimizing financial repercussions. 

At ARK Chartered Certified Accountants, we're committed to providing comprehensive tax consulting services tailored to your unique needs. Discover how we can assist in optimizing your tax position and steering you clear of common pitfalls by visiting our services page at ARK Chartered Certified Accountants Tax Consulting Services

For personalized advice, don't hesitate to get in touch with us at +44 0161 706 1998 or via email at [email protected]

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