06 Feb 2018 10:33 AM

More than 750,000 people left it until the last day to file their tax returns for 2016/17, including 30,348 who submitted in the final hour. A record 10.7 million taxpayers submitted their tax returns for 2016/17 by the 31 January deadline, but despite this around 745,000 self-assessment returns are still outstanding.

If you left it late this year you should try to avoid the final rush in future. The best advice is to file relevant documents as you receive them, and aim to file your accounts in June or July. You will then have plenty of time to plan and save for any tax that needs to be paid.

The 745,000 taxpayers still to file are now looking at an automatic £100 penalty. This fine is imposed even if there is no tax to pay or, somehow, the right amount of tax is paid on time. A further daily penalty of £10 starts from 1 May. You can avoid the penalties if you have a reasonable excuse, but what you consider to be reasonable may well differ from what HMRC thinks. Examples of acceptable reasons include:

  • Your partner or a close relative died.
  • You had an unexpected stay in hospital.
  • Your computer or software failed.
  • A fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your return.

HMRC will not accept any of the following excuses:

  • You relied on someone else to submit your return and they didn’t.
  • You found HMRC’s online system too difficult to use.
  • You didn’t get a reminder from HMRC.

There are also more imaginative excuses which people have offered. For instance, HMRC did not look favourably on the taxpayer who said they couldn’t file his return on time as his wife had been seeing aliens and wouldn’t let him enter the house.