Unfortunately, HMRC are not as forgiving as Mrs. Smith the English teacher, who might accept the excuse of the dog eating your homework as a reason to extend a deadline.
To avoid any concern, we suggest that you do your utmost to comply with submission deadlines for any tax liability paperwork and payments. Not only do late submissions incur penalties, but HMRC may view any failures to comply as an indicator that you have a lax attitude to tax matters, and give them cause to delve deeper into your tax affairs.
HMRC state that late submissions are only acceptable if you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. So, what does this mean?
Realistically, a reasonable excuse means something serious must have impeded your ability to complete and return your forms on time.
While there are no hard and fast rules, some examples of a reasonable excuse might be:
- life-threatening illness, for example a heart attack, or the onset of a disability or a serious mental health condition that prevents you dealing with your tax affairs
- the death of a partner shortly before a payment or tax return deadline
- unexpected or unforeseeable postal delays
- important documents lost, through theft, fire or flood, that can’t be replaced in time
- late receipt of your online Activation Code, User ID or password even though you asked for them before the tax return deadline
Examples of unacceptable excuses
HMRC will not usually accept you have a reasonable excuse if:
- you don’t have enough money to pay the tax due
- you relied on another person to send your return and they didn’t
- you didn’t receive a reminder for your tax return or payment
- you didn’t get your online Activation Code, User ID or password in time, but you didn’t ask for them until after the tax return deadline
Here’s our top tips on avoiding that last minute panic and the need to make an excuse at all:
- Make sure you diarise not only the HMRC deadline dates for any tax submissions due, but also the date you need to start compiling all the required information and completing any returns
- The best way to make the form-filling easier is to keep comprehensive and well-organised records. If you are unsure what records you need to keep, give us a call and we can advise
- If, for any reason, you foresee a delay – get in touch with HMRC as soon as possible. There are occasions where provisional figures may be acceptable, for example, if there is a delay in receipt of information you need to complete the return. These would always need to be corrected when actual figures are received, but it may give you some breathing space as long as HMRC are aware and have agreed this in advance
- And, if you’re really not good at form-filling and managing deadlines – we suggest you employ a trusted accountant who can keep on top of that side of your business for you
Finally, if your return is late but you do have what you consider to be a ‘reasonable excuse’, don’t put off contacting HMRC and advising them of your reason – or get someone to do this on your behalf if you cannot do it personally.
For more information or advice on submission of tax returns, please contact Annette Dwyer on 01922 418111.