Sinead Moore 3 Jan 2017 02:08pm

Festive tax return figures down

Over 24,000 people submitted their self assessment tax returns over the holiday period this year, ahead of the 31 January deadline

According to figures by HMRC, more than 16,000 people submitted their tax return on New Year’s Eve, while almost 2,000 took time out on Christmas Day to file their return and a further 6,200 completed the arduous task on Boxing Day.

While these figures might come as a surprise, they are significantly lower than last year when a record breaking 24,546 people submitted their tax returns on 31 December 2015 – a 2.5% increase on the previous year – and a further 11,467 submitted their returns on New Year’s Day. More than 600 filed their return between midnight and 10am on 1 January.

Over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day last year, an additional 21,475 people took time out from the festivities in order to complete their tax returns.

The total number of Christmas Day filers grew 13% on the previous year to 2,044, resulting in another record breaking number.

The deadline for sending 2015-16 self-assessment tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2017.

The penalty for late tax returns is an initial £100 fixed penalty, and additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900, after three months.

After six months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300 is imposed, and after one year, another 5% or £300.

There are also additional penalties for paying late of 5% of the tax unpaid at 30 days, six months and 12 months.

HMRC has already issued a warning to customers who chance their arm by offering farfetched or untrue excuses for late tax returns.

Ruth Owen, HMRC director general of customer services, said, “Blaming the postman, arguing with family members and pesky insects – it’s easy to see that some excuses for not completing a tax return on time can be more questionable than others. Luckily, it’s only a small minority who chance their arm.

“But there will always be help and support available for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time. If you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now - the earlier we’re contacted, the better.”

HMRC said that customers who provide a reasonable excuse before the deadline can avoid a penalty after this date.

However, the excuse must be genuine and HMRC might ask for evidence.

Caroline Miskin, technical manager within ICAEW's tax faculty advised those who have not yet filed their tax return to do so ahead of the January 31 deadline or alternatively inform HMRC if their circumstances have changed in order to avoid a penalty.

“Approximately 890,000 people missed the deadline for filing self assessment returns in January 2016, so publicity around the deadline is very necessary. The one page “Notice to File a Tax Return” is easily missed; these were issued in April/May 2016 and HMRC no longer sends paper reminders. A Notice to File a Tax Return must never be ignored - if there is no requirement to file a return the taxpayer or their agent must contact HMRC to request that the return be formally withdrawn.”