Tax return deadlines and penalties

There are some key dates each year when you must send in your Self Assessment tax return and make payments. It's important that you're aware of these dates. If you miss them you may have to pay interest and penalties.

On this page:

Do you need to fill in a tax return?

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will contact you, usually in April or May, if they already know that you need to fill in a tax return.

You'll receive a letter which explains when you'll need to send your tax return back. If you've previously sent your tax return on paper, you may receive a paper tax return.

If HMRC hasn't contacted you, but you think you may need to complete a tax return, follow the link below to check. You need to tell HMRC within 6 months of the end of the tax year that you need a tax return, or you may have to pay a penalty.

If HMRC asks you to complete a tax return but you think you no longer need to, let HMRC know as soon as you can. You'll have to pay a penalty if you forget and don't send your tax return in.

Find out if you need to complete a tax return

Telephone or write to HMRC

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Deadlines for sending in your tax return

31 October: paper returns

If you send a paper tax return it must reach HMRC by midnight on 31 October.

So for the 2013-14 tax year (ending on 5 April 2014), the deadline for paper returns is midnight on 31 October 2014.

There are very few exceptions. As an example, the deadline may be later if it's after 31 July when HMRC sends you the letter telling you to complete a tax return. In this case the letter will tell you the deadline - it is usually 3 months from the date of the letter. Or if you're sending a Self Assessment return for a registered pension scheme or non-resident company, you can only send paper returns so the deadline isn't until 31 January.

31 January: online returns

Your online tax return must reach HMRC by midnight on 31 January.

So for the 2013-14 tax year, the deadline for online returns is midnight on 31 January 2015. There are very few exceptions. As an example, the deadline may be later if it's after 31 October when HMRC sends you the letter telling you to complete a tax return. In this case the letter will tell you the deadline - it is usually 3 months from the date of the letter.

There's also an earlier deadline of 30 December if you want HMRC to collect any tax you owe through your tax code. You can ask for this if you owe less than £3,000. Please show this clearly on your tax return. HMRC will try to collect the tax due through your code, but they can't always do so.

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Penalties if you miss the tax return deadline

If you miss the deadline, the longer you delay, the more you'll have to pay. So it's important to send your tax return online to HMRC as soon as you can. The table below shows the penalties you'll have to pay if your tax return is late. If a Partnership tax return is late, each partner will have to pay the penalties shown below.

Penalties for missing the tax return deadline

Length of delay

Penalty you will have to pay

1 day late

A penalty of £100. This applies even if you have no tax to pay or have paid the tax you owe.

3 months late

£10 for each following day - up to a 90 day maximum of £900. This is as well as the fixed penalty above.

6 months late

£300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher. This is as well as the penalties above.

12 months late £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher.
In serious cases you may be asked to pay up to 100% of the tax due instead. In some cases the penalties can be even higher than this.
These are as well as the penalties above.

Example

Mrs A's tax return is due on 31 January 2015 but HMRC doesn't receive it until 5 August 2015.

It is over 6 months late so she will have to pay all of the following:

  • £100 fixed penalty
  • £900 penalty - this is £10 each day from 1 May to 29 July, when the maximum 90 day penalty is reached.
  • £300 or 5% of the tax due - whichever is the higher

You may think you have a reasonable excuse for sending your tax return late. You can find out more about reasonable excuses in the 'How to appeal' article (see link below). You don't need to wait until you get a penalty, you should let HMRC know as soon as you can.

How to appeal against HMRC tax decisions

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Receiving a tax estimate if your return is late

If you don't send your return by the deadline HMRC may estimate the tax you owe. You will have to pay this and also pay interest on any tax that you pay late. You can only change this estimate by sending your tax return. You will also have to pay any penalties due for missing the tax return deadline.

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Deadlines for paying your tax

31 January

You must pay any tax you owe by 31 January following the end of the tax year.

For example, for the tax year 2013-14 (ending on 5 April 2014) you must pay any tax you owe by 31 January 2015.

The payment deadline is the same for both paper and online returns and there are very few exceptions. As an example, the deadline may be later if it was after 31 October when HMRC sent you the letter telling you to complete a tax return. In this case your payment is usually due 3 months from the date of the letter.

On the 31 January, you'll need to pay one or both of the following:

  • any tax you still owe for the previous tax year
  • the first of two 'payments on account'

Payments on account are part payments towards your next tax bill. You don't always have to pay these - it'll depend on the amount of tax due and the kind of income you receive.

HMRC will usually send you a 'Self Assessment Statement' that shows how much you owe or you can check your tax bill online.

Your Self Assessment Statement - find out more

Log in to HMRC Online Services to view your account

31 July

This is your deadline for making any further payments on account. For example on 31 July 2014, you'd make your second payment on account for the 2013-14 tax year.

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Interest and penalties if you don't pay your tax on time

Interest charges if you pay late

You will have to pay interest on anything you owe and haven't paid, including any unpaid penalties, until HMRC receives your payment.

Find out the latest interest rates on late payments

Penalties for paying late

If you don't pay the tax you owe for the previous tax year on time, you'll have to pay a penalty after 30 days and the longer you delay, the more you'll have to pay. So it's important to pay the tax as soon as you can.

Penalties for paying late

Length of delay

Penalty you will have to pay

30 days late

5% of the tax you owe at that date

6 months late

5% of the tax you owe at that date. This is as well as the 5% above.

12 months late

5% of the tax unpaid at that date. This as well as the two 5% penalties above

The penalties above do not apply to any payments on account that you pay late.

Example

Mr T's tax for the 2013-14 tax year is due on 31 January 2015. HMRC doesn't receive it until 5 Aug 2015.

It is over 6 months late so he will have to pay all of the following:

  • 5% of the tax unpaid at 2 March (30 days after the date the tax was due)
  • 5%of the tax unpaid at 2 August (5 months after the first penalty)
  • interest on all outstanding amounts, including any unpaid penalties

You may think you have a reasonable excuse for paying your tax late. You can find out more about reasonable excuses in the 'How to appeal' article (see link below). You don't need to wait until you get a penalty, you should let HMRC know as soon as you can.

How to appeal against HMRC tax decisions

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More useful links

How to pay Self Assessment

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