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Filing a paper self-assessment tax return? You need to act NOW

If you're submitting a self-assessment tax return, the paper deadline to avoid a £100 fine is just days away – and we've just passed the 100-day countdown for the final deadline in January. 

Over 11 million people filed a self-assessment tax return last year, but those who miss the deadlines face fines of at least £100. 

  • If you're submitting a paper return. You need to send an SA100 form to be received by Wednesday 31 October.

    Remember the form must be received by HM Revenue & Customs by the 31 October, so you'll need to post it off before this – but if you're worried you'll miss this deadline, you can still avoid a fine by submitting your tax return online instead.

  • If you're submitting an online return. You need to fill out the online form by 31 January 2019.

Who needs to file a self-assessment tax return?

You'll need to submit a tax return if any of the following applied to you in the last tax year (6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018):

  • You're self-employed and your income was more than £1,000.
  • You or your partner's income was more than £50,000, and one of you claimed child benefit.
  • You earned more than £2,500 from renting out property, or from other untaxed income such as tips or commission.
  • You earned more than £100,000 in taxable income.
  • You earned £10,000 or more before tax from savings, investments, shares or dividends.
  • You earned income from abroad, or lived abroad and had a UK income.
  • You need to pay Capital Gains Tax.
  • You're a trustee.
  • Your state pension was more than your personal allowance and was your only source of income (unless you started getting your pension on or after 6 April 2016).
  • HMRC has told you that you didn't pay enough tax last year (and you haven't already paid up through your tax code or voluntary payments).

See the Government website for a full list, or use its free tool to check whether you need to file a tax return.

What will I need to pay in my return?

While you'll need to send paper tax returns in by next week, the deadline for paying your tax bill is 31 January 2019.

As well as any 2017/18 tax owing, most self-assessment payers must also pay the first half of what's called a 'payment on account' for the 2018/19 tax year.

This is half the total expected tax due for 2018/19, which is estimated based on what you earned and paid in tax the previous year. So if you owe £2,000 for 2017/18, the first payment on account will be for £1,000, to be paid by 31 January 2019.

The next half (£1,000 in the example above) must be paid by 31 July 2019, and come 31 January 2020, you'll settle 2018/19's tax bill, as you're doing now for 2017/18.

If you don't think you'll earn as much money, you can ask for your payment on account to be reduced, but you'll have to give a valid reason, such as an expected drop in profits or a change in circumstances.

You only have to make payments on account if your previous year's tax came to more than £1,000. But if an employer (if you have more than one job) has already deducted more than 80% of that figure, you won't owe a payment on account.

HMRC will usually send you a self-assessment statement that shows how much you owe, or you can check your tax bill online.

How can I pay?

You can pay your tax bill by bank transfer, debit card or cheque. You can also pay at your bank or building society, if you have a paying-in slip from HMRC. 

HMRC accepts money under the Faster Payments system, which allows cash to go through in two hours. However, each bank has a limit on how much you can transfer under Faster Payments. The limits range from £5,000 to £100,000. See each provider's limit

You can no longer pay the bill using a personal credit card or at the Post Office.

What if I can't afford to pay the tax?

If your bill is correct but you find you can't afford it, contact HMRC as soon as possible as you may be able to avoid late payment penalties by coming to an arrangement to spread your payments over a period of time. (Also see our Free Tax Code Calculator to ensure you're on the right tax code).

You'll need a reasonable excuse for not paying your tax on time. This is usually something unexpected or outside your control that stopped you meeting a tax obligation, for example:

  • Your partner or another close relative died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline.
  • You had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs.
  • You had a serious or life-threatening illness.
  • Your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return.
  • Issues with HMRC online services.
  • A fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return.

What happens if I miss the deadline?

While the paper deadline is set for 31 October, if you're happy to file your tax return online you'll have until midnight on 31 January 2019 to submit.

If you send a paper tax return after 31 October, or an online tax return after 31 January 2019, you'll face a penalty fine.

This starts at £100 for missing the original deadline. After three months, it increases by £10 per day for a maximum of 90 days. 

The Government provides an online tool for calculating how much you'll need to pay in penalties and interest if you miss the deadlines.

If you have a reasonable excuse for why you couldn't file your tax return on time, you can appeal the penalty.

Who should I contact for further advice?

The Government provides helpsheets and videos for guidance on submitting your tax return.

You can also contact HMRC for advice directly by calling the helpline on 0300 200 3310. It's open 8am to 8pm on weekdays, 8am to 4pm on Saturdays and 9am to 5pm on Sundays. You can also get general help using Twitter, by starting your tweet with @HMRCcustomers.