• Emma Walsh

HMRC Rejects calls to relax Tax Return 31 January deadline

HMRC will not waive late filing penalties or extend the 31 January deadline, but it will accept pandemic related disruptions and agent delays as a reasonable excuse and will also extend the period to appeal a penalty.


HMRC’s chief executive has rejected requests from the ACCA, CIOT, AAT, ICAEW and ICAS to ease the self assessment deadline due the COVID-19 workload pressures accountants are under.

Responding to the joint letter from the accountancy bodies, HMRC said their proposal to waive late filing penalties for a short period after 31 January would “complicate” HMRC’s self assessment message and would “send a blanket signal that it is OK to file late”.


The chief executive explained that this could have some “serious disadvantages” for taxpayers. He added that it would also encourage some taxpayers to file late when they don’t need to. Instead, HMRC wants as many taxpayers as possible to complete their returns by the self assessment deadline, “even if they can’t pay in full”.

HMRC's Chief Executive explained that “filing their return is key to crystalising their SA liability and being able to get our support, if they need it, to pay their tax”.

No penalties for late filing caused by COVID-19 delays However, HMRC has acknowledged some taxpayers and agents will not be able to file on time due to the impact of the coronavirus.

The HMRC chief executive said that these taxpayers should get their returns in as soon as they can but they will not be penalised if they need more time.

While HMRC will not issue a blanket waiver of late filing penalties, it will accept pandemic-related disruption caused to the taxpayer’s business or their personal circumstances as a reasonable excuse. The same applies when agents are delayed in filing a return due to the pandemic and this will also be treated as a valid reasonable excuse.

Extend late filing appeal These taxpayers will receive a penalty notice, but those affected or their agent can get the late filing penalties “cancelled easily” by contacting HMRC. HMRC will extend the appeal period from one to three months to give taxpayers and agents more time.

HMRC's Chief Executive signed off the letter by expressing his gratitude for the “valuable and vital work” the accountancy profession has undertaken during the pandemic.

“I understand and sympathise with the extreme pressures your members have been under in this exceptional year: they have helped deliver the economic response to the pandemic to the suffering effects of the pandemic on their own firms.”


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