Number of late Self Assessment returns doubles, HMRC reveals

The number of taxpayers who failed to file their Self Assessment tax return on time has doubled, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has revealed.

The figures come after the regulator announced that automatic penalty fines for late returns would not be charged until 28 February in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the report, an estimated 12.1 million tax returns for the 2019/20 tax year were due on 31 January. But the office received just 10.7 million returns, meaning the number of late returns had doubled from just under one million last year to 1.8 million this year.

While HMRC confirmed that no late penalties will be charged until a month after the deadline, it has reminded businesses that interest will continue to be levied on the outstanding balance and they should “pay their bill as soon as possible”.

Should customers wait until 03 March 2021, or fail to arrange a payment plan before then, a five per cent penalty of tax due will be added.

Commenting on the figures, Karl Khan, HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, said: “Thank you to the 10.7 million customers who have sent in their tax returns. We won’t send anyone a late filing penalty if they complete their tax return by 28 February.

“We know that many individuals and small businesses are finding it harder to pay this year, due to the pandemic. Anyone who can’t afford to pay their tax bill in full can set up a payment plan, once they’ve filed their return, to spread their tax bill into monthly instalments.”

The report comes after the tax office increased the Time to Pay threshold from £10,000 to £30,000, meaning more taxpayers than ever can arrange a payment plan.

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