Tax return deadline looms - avoid a fine!

Were you one of the 4,757 people that filed their tax return on Christmas Day? Or the 12,136 that filed on Boxing Day? It may seem extreme to be doing your tax return over the festive period, but for those diligent people the chore is done for another year – and they have avoided the stress of leaving it too late and risking an automatic penalty of £100. In the 2020/21 tax year around 290,000 were fined.

And it’s not just late filing that can see you paying a penalty. You also have to pay the tax due! In that same tax year a further 1.43 million people were fined for not paying up on time, up from 1.24 million the year before. And that was despite the fact that HMRC waived the late filing and late payment penalties by one month that year, in recognition of the pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

HMRC has announced that it will only be dealing with priority calls in the lead up to the end of the month, as according to The Times, waiting times to speak to someone for assistance have soared from 5 minutes in 2017 to 20 minutes in 2022. 

Who has to send in a tax return

Apparently more than 1 million people will have been drawn into self-assessment for the first time due to the increase in taxes due on everything from savings and dividends to capital gains, because of the freeze in many allowances that was introduced in 2021 and it set to continue until 2028.

And some people could be first timers if the increase to their income, including the State Pension, pushes their income over £100,000.* But there could be other situations too, so, you might be surprised to find that you do need to file a self-assessment tax return.

As there are so many more who may need to do a self-assessment tax return, it could be wise to check if you need to send a tax return if you’re not sure.

According to the website, you must send a tax return if, in the last tax year (6 April to 5 April), any of the following applied:

  1. you were self-employed as a ‘sole trader’ and earned more than £1,000 (before taking off anything you can  claim tax relief on)
  2. you were a partner in a business partnership
  3. you had a total taxable income of more than £100,000
  4. you had to pay the High Income Child Benefit Charge

You may also need to send a tax return if you have any untaxed income, such as:

  • some COVID-19 grant or support payments
  • money from renting out a property
  • tips and commission
  • income from savings, investments and dividends
  • foreign income

What do you need if you have to file a tax return?

If you are filing online you’ll need to have a login to the Government Gateway and you’ll need your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number.

More information is available on, so this is a great reference point especially if you don’t yet have a Government Gateway account. But you really need to get a move on if you want to avoid a penalty.

Remember that HMRC will charge interest on these fines and any unpaid tax and the amount is calculated as base rate plus 2.5% - so currently this is 7.75%. This is bad enough, but if HMRC owes you money because you have overpaid tax, they will only apply base rate minus 1% (4.25%), known as the repayment interest rate! Even more of a reason to make sure you pay up on time and accurately.


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This article is intended for general information only, it does not constitute individual advice and should not be used to inform financial decisions.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) does not regulate tax advice.