self-assessment penalties

Self-Assessment Penalties: Early Is Best!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

9th September 2020

Self-Assessment Penalties: Early is best!

HMRC has a strict process for self-assessment penalties, it is a major income stream for them and a complete waste of money for person who has to pay it. Sending your return in late is costly and normally avoidable. So, time for some scare tactics!

SA facts and figures

Facts and figures

Every year HMRC release some facts and figures on self-assessment returns. Remember you have 10 months from the end of the tax year to the deadline day!

For the tax year ended 5th April 2019, HMRC released the following figures:

  • 12 million self-assessment returns issued
  • 11.1 million filed on time
  • 958,000 missed the deadline
  • 700,000 filed on deadline day
  • 26,000 filed in the last hour

The first fine for a late return is £100, that is if you are just 1 day late. By my calculation that is a staggering £95 million of fines! That is without interest for late payments, and any further fines issued for returns that were over 3 months late.

£95 million given to HMRC for failing to submit a return within 10 months from the end of the tax year.

The Penalty Regime

The penalties for late filing increase the later the return and payment are submitted.  

Here is what can be expected if your return and/or payment is late:

the penalty regime




Miss the filing deadline




30 days late

5% of tax due

3 months late


Daily penalty £10 per day for up to 90 days (max £900)

6 months late


5% of tax due or £300 if greater


6 months late

5% of tax outstanding at that date

12 months late


5% or £300 if greater, unless the taxpayer is held to be deliberately withholding information that would enable HMRC to assess the tax due.


12 months late

5% of tax outstanding at that date

12 months & taxpayer deliberately withholds information


Based on behaviour

·         Deliberate and concealed withholding= 100% of tax due, or £300 whichever is greater

·         Deliberate but not concealed = 70% of tax due or £300, whichever is greater.


Reductions apply for prompted and unprompted disclosures and telling, giving and helping.


Fines and interest can be appealed, but if you do not have a good excuse then it is likely to be turned down. And why take the risk anyway?

A good excuse?

As well as releasing the self-assessment facts and figures HMRC also release a list of the best (or worst) excuses they have been given. HMRC received these creative excuses for missing the deadline:

‘My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.’

‘I’m too short to reach the post box.’

‘I was just too busy – my first maid left, my second maid stole from me and my third maid was very slow to learn.’

‘Our junior member of staff registered our client in Self Assessment by mistake because they were not wearing their glasses.’

‘My boiler had broken and my fingers were too cold to type.’

Perhaps unsurprisingly, HMRC didn’t accept any of these excuses.

Ok, these are extreme, but HMRC do not accept poor excuses. The HMRC website has a full list of reasonable excuses it’s willing to accept, though each appeal is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Are you convinced that early is best yet?

As well as avoiding the penalties and interest there are other reasons why getting your tax return is early is best:

  • Less stress – you know it’s done, no panic and good for your health
  • Time to plan for the payment – knowing how much you have to pay and when helps you budget and avoid that last-minute panic
  • Future planning – by seeing how you have done straight after the year-end you have plenty of time to make changes in the current year to lower your tax in future
  • Memory – The earlier you complete the return the less chance there is that something will get forgotten
  • Delays – just in case something does go wrong, you have plenty of time to correct it
  • Last minute rush – doing your return in a rush increases the risks of errors, increasing the risk of penalties.

An Accountant's plea

I have completed tax returns for over 20 years. Every year the January deadline turns into a nightmare for so many Accountants. More accountants suffer mental health issues in January than in any other month.

The pressure has got so great that some firm’s now charge extra for any return they do in January (if the reason is the client’s lateness).

So, being selfish, I want all my clients to get their information to me as early as possible. It helps everyone.

Need an accountant?

If you struggle to find the time to complete your return why not get an accountant to do it?

  • Save paying the fine
  • Peace of mind
  • Spend your time on your business, creating income
  • Make sure you are claiming everything you can
  • Tax planning ideas to save you tax in the future

A Self-Assessment Service To Help You

As a qualified accountant with over 25 years experience, numbers are my thing, repairing cars, for example, is not. I wouldn’t waste hours of my time trying to fix my car, when a mechanic can do it so much quicker and would fix it properly. I can spend that time earning the money to pay the mechanic. Less stress, better outcome, simple.

That’s why I provide a full self-assessment return service for total peace of mind.

However, if you are self-employed or have a small property portfolio and you complete your own self-assessment return, my self-assessment checking service is designed to give you some peace of mind, and I will make sure you are claiming for everything you can in order to minimise your tax liability.

For full details and prices please follow this link to my self-assessment page. You can also download my 10 Top Tax Tips for Self-Assessment to help you minimise your tax liability and stay best friends with the taxman.

handy hints to help you

Download a copy of my top 10 tax tips to help you minimise your tax liability and stay best friends with the taxman.

Keep updated

Keep up to date with the latest news, hints and tips affecting you and your business. with our free Money Matters monthly update.

Continue reading

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.