Self Assessment: How to submit your 2019/20 tax return late without penalty
HMRC has announced that, as a one-off measure for the 2019/20 tax year, it’s possible to submit your Self Assessment tax return as late as midnight on 28 February 2021 without incurring a penalty.
HMRC says this is because of the “immense pressure that many people are facing in these unprecedented times”.
In this article, we cover what this means for you and the steps you can take now:
How do I use this and do I need to apply?
HMRC continues to make it clear that those who can meet the 31 January 2021 deadline to submit their 2019/20 Self Assessment tax return should do so.
If you miss this deadline by up to three months then – ordinarily – you would incur an automatic fine of £100. There are larger fines if your Self Assessment tax return is submitted even later than this.
Sometimes the fines are waived if you’ve a good excuse for filing late, but that involves speaking to HMRC first and making your case.
HMRC’s announcement means that, for the 2019/20 tax year’s Self Assessment return, it’s waiving the mandatory £100 fine – provided the return is submitted online by midnight on 28 February 2021.
In other words, it’s not accurate to say HMRC is extending the deadline. It’s just not fining those who submit up to a calendar month late.
As such, there’s no need to apply to HMRC to make use of this measure, or seek permission first. Simply submit your 2019/20 Self Assessment return as soon as you can – and by 28 February 2021 if you wish to avoid fines.
Does this apply to postal Self Assessment tax returns too?
The measures in the announcement are limited to online submission of the Self Assessment tax return. So postal submissions are not within its scope.
The deadline for paper-based tax returns arriving at HMRC already passed as of 31 October 2020 (unless the paper-based tax return is for a registered pension scheme, in which case the deadline is 31 January, but again HMRC’s announcement applies only to online Self Assessment tax return filing).
Can I pay late as well as submit my tax return late?
Sadly not. You must still pay your tax bill by 31 January 2021. If you fail to do so, HMRC will charge interest at a rate of 2.7% on the amount you owe.
In other words, HMRC’s announcement doesn’t mean you can simply forget about Self Assessment for a calendar month – even if circumstances beyond your control mean you can’t sort it out. You must still pay the tax bill.
However, it’s possible to spread the tax bill payment across 2021 in monthly payments.
This existing measure is part of the government’s recent Winter Economy Plan, in response to the coronavirus disruption, and the arrangement can also include the Self Assessment tax bill from July 2020.
More than 25,000 people have already used this service.
However, you will need to have submitted your Self Assessment tax return by 31 January 2021 to be able to make use of it.
In other words, you can’t both delay your tax return and also agree an instalment payment plan.
To set up payment by instalments, you need to contact HMRC’s Self Assessment Payment Problems helpline (0300 200 3822) before 31 January 2021, and request a Time To Pay plan, as per the Winter Economy Plan announcement.
If you’re eligible, you can also apply online.
Note the payments can only be spread across instalments in this way if you owe £30,000 or less, have no other outstanding tax bills, and are not already making use of an HMRC payment plan.
However, if any of these apply then you can still phone HMRC to discuss potentially using Time to Pay as its discretion.
Why has HMRC made this decision?
HMRC has been monitoring the number of Self Assessment returns coming in, in light of the coronavirus disruption.
It says it is “increasingly clear from the filing rate that some taxpayers and agents cannot file on time”.
The advice from both HMRC and accountants is to submit your Self Assessment well ahead of time.
Considering that most people using Self Assessment have all the information they need at the end of the tax year each April, waiting until 31 January the following year is considered to be taking an unnecessary risk.
However, in these extraordinary times, it’s clear that normal patterns have been disrupted. The announcement of the easing of the late penalty until 28 February 2021 will be just what many people need, and will ensure they are able to get their taxes done without anxiety.