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Recent reports have suggested that, given the COVID-19 turmoil that HMRC may have softened towards personal taxpayers and extended the 31 January Self Assessment filing deadline.

Unfortunately, this has not (yet) happened. While HMRC are reportedly still ‘considering’ this option, currently the deadline remains Sunday 31 January 2021 for filing tax returns for the 2019/20 tax year. What HMRC have confirmed is that they will be lenient on those claiming a ‘reasonable excuse’ when appealing the £100 penalty for late filing.

Alongside the lack of deadline extension, the practical aspects of not filing on time should be noted. If a return is not logged as received by 31 January HMRC’s systems will automatically issue the £100 fine. As with any HMRC penalty, however, the customer (i.e. the taxpayer) can appeal against the penalty. For late Self Assessment filing penalties, this means there must be a ‘reasonable excuse’ why you were unable to file on time. While HMRC periodically report details of ridiculous excuses they have received, such as “my hamster ate the post”, they have already stated on record that delays owing to COVID-related delays will be accepted as a reasonable.

But before you sigh with relief and get back to Joe Wicks’ PE lessons, as with everything tax, it is not quite so simple. As stated, the penalty will be automatically issued and if you do not appeal within the prescribed time limit (also helpfully extended by HMRC from 30 to 90 days), you will still have to pay the £100. Given the number of people who might be looking to make an appeal, this process may take a while.

Bear in mind also that filing after the deadline will extend the enquiry window that allows HMRC to enquire into your return, that late payment of tax will likely incur interest charges and that having outstanding returns may affect your ability to enter a time to pay arrangement. In addition, any 31 July payments on account that were deferred from July 2020 will still be due for payment on 31 January 2021.

Overall, our advice is still to get your tax return in by 31 January if you possibly can, and if you have not already registered for online submission, to do so as soon as possible.

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