What happens if you don’t submit a Self Assessment tax return?

The online-filing deadline for Self Assessment tax returns is the same every year – midnight on 31 January. In 2024, according to HMRC, 12,187,811 Self Assessment returns were due and 11,581,962 were filed before the deadline.…

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Last Updated: 8th February 2024

The online-filing deadline for Self Assessment tax returns is the same every year – midnight on 31 January. In 2024, according to HMRC, 12,187,811 Self Assessment returns were due and 11,581,962 were filed before the deadline. That means an estimated 1.1m were late.

People miss the Self Assessment tax return online-filing deadline for many reasons. Sometimes, they simply don’t realise that they need to submit a Self Assessment tax return to report taxable income. Many miss the deadline, despite their best intentions, but they file in the days or weeks that follow. There are those who know they need to report taxable income, but don’t submit a tax return, which makes them guilty of tax evasion.

Who needs to submit a Self Assessment tax return?

You must file a Self Assessment tax return if, in the last tax year (6 April to 5 April), you:

  • were a self-employed sole trader with income of more than £1,000 before claiming any tax relief/expenses
  • were in an ordinary business partnership
  • are a limited company director with taxable income that hasn’t been paid through Pay As You Earn
  • earned total taxable income of more than £100,000
  • earned taxable income from renting out property or land
  • received taxable tips or commission
  • earned taxable income from savings, investments or share dividend payment
  • earned taxable income from overseas sources
  • have capital gains tax to pay on sale of a taxable asset
  • had to pay the High Income Child Benefit Charge.

Need to know! If you need to complete a tax return and have never sent one previously, you must register for Self Assessment by 5 October following the end of the tax year (5 April) during which you earned taxable income. If you’ve registered before, but didn’t send a Self Assessment tax return last year, you just need to reactivate your existing tax account.

What if you’ve missed the Self Assessment online-filing deadline?

  • If you’ve missed the Self Assessment tax return filing deadline, unless you have a valid excuse (eg partner’s death, serious illness, prevented by disability, etc), there’s an automatic £100 late-filing fixed penalty – even if there’s no tax to pay or you pay any tax that’s due.
  • Then, after three months, there’s a further penalty of £10 per day for up to 90 days (ie up to a maximum of £900).
  • After six months, there’s a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is higher. This is on top of the penalties already detailed above.
  • After 12 months, another 5% or £300 is payable, whichever is higher, in addition to the previous penalties.
  • If you have a valid excuse for not filing your Self Assessment tax return before the deadline, you should appeal within 30 days of your penalty notice being issued. HMRC will consider later appeals in special cases.

What if you needed to submit a Self Assessment tax return but didn’t?

If HMRC sends you a tax return, by law, you must complete and file it (or complete one online), even if you don’t owe any tax because you haven’t earned any taxable income in that tax year – unless you contact HMRC and request that the tax return be withdrawn.

If you do not file a tax return after you’ve been asked to do so, HMRC will charge you penalties. It will also send you an estimated bill (a “determination”), which you must pay. HMRC can pursue payment through the courts – even if that means making you bankrupt. The only other alternative is to fill out a tax return so that the correct amount can be calculated and paid.

Need to know! HMRC penalties for late payment can be significant, especially if you don’t act quickly. After 30 days, you’ll be charged 5% of tax unpaid. You’ll be charged another 5% of the unpaid tax after six months, then, after 12 months, there will be another 5% of the unpaid tax to pay. GOV.UK provides advice on what to do if you cannot pay your tax bill.

GoSimpleTax is award-winning software that makes it quick and easy to complete and file your Self Assessment tax return and supplementary pages. It can also prevent you from making basic tax return errors that can later cost you time and money. Thousands of sole traders, landlords and other taxpayers love GoSimpleTax. Start your FREE trial today!

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Blog content is for information purposes and over time may become outdated, although we do strive to keep it current. It's written to help you understand your Tax's and is not to be relied upon as professional accounting, tax and legal advice due to differences in everyone's circumstances. For additional help please contact our support team or HMRC.

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