Flood victims to avoid late tax return fines

26 January 2016

Tax payers hit by flooding won’t be fined if they’re late filing their self-assessment returns, after many homes and businesses were struck by bursting rivers in December.

Usually you’re fined £100 if your tax return is received up to three after the 31 January deadline. If it’s later than three months, you’re charged up to £1,600 depending on the length of the delay.

But with fresh flood warnings issued by the Met Office, HMRC says taxpayers who receive penalties notices for filing their return late can call it on 0300 200 3310 and make it aware of their personal circumstances. It will then cancel the late filing penalty.

However, it warns that they still need to get their returns submitted as soon as they can after the 31 January deadline.

To check if you need to file a return, see our self-assessment news story

As of the afternoon of Tuesday 25 January, 2.75 million returns were outstanding.

What if I pay my tax bill late?

You also need to pay your tax bill by 31 January.

If you’re late paying your tax bill, you’ll be charged interest on the payment from 1 February and if the tax is still outstanding 28 days after the deadline, a 5% surcharge kicks in. An additional 5% is charged on unpaid tax after six months, and again after 12 months.

However, if you’ve been affected by flooding, HMRC says you should call its special flooding helpline now on 0800 904 7900. It says it will agree installment arrangements where you’re unable to pay as a result of the floods.

It will also suspend debt collection proceedings for those affected by the floods and cancel the surcharges, although you’ll still be charged interest.

Can I escape the fines if a rat ate my tax papers?

No. Excuses for filing your return late, such as "a rat ate my tax papers”, “my husband ran over my laptop” and “I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for five years” – all of which HMRC said it received in the 2013-14 tax year – will not get you out of a fine.

Neither will bounced cheques, or the fact you found HMRC’s online system too difficult to use.

However, other reasonable excuses for filing your return late include:

  • Your partner or another close relative dying shortly before the tax return or payment deadline.
  • An unexpected stay in hospital.
  • You had a serious or life-threatening illness.
  • Service issues with HMRC’s online services.
  • A fire, flood or theft that prevented you from completing your tax return.


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