31 October deadline fast approaching- and now the taxman bites harder

taxreturnHappy end of  September. In addition to being Omid Djalili's birthday, the feast day of St Gregory the Illuminator and (since 2009) Blasphemy Day International, it is now a mere month until the first deadline for submission of your Self Assessment Tax return to HMRC. Jesus Christ.

31 October is the deadline if you want to send in a good old fashioned paper tax return and avoid a £100 penalty. Of course, the two-tiered deadline, the second being the 31 January deadline for online returns, has been around for a few years, but this year the taxman has grown a few more teeth.

You see, previously, even if you received a nasty letter from the Revenue slapping you with a £100 fine for late submission of your return, but you either paid all your tax on time or had no tax to pay overall, your £100 penalty was magically reduced to nil (or the amount of tax unpaid if between £0 and £100). This was a Really Good Wheeze, and this is presumably the reason why HMRC decided to put a stop to it.

However, from this year onwards, if your paper return is received by HMRC after 31 October, you will have to pay £100. Full stop.

And it doesn't stop there. The penalty for inaction rises over time- if your tax return is three months late, you'll have to pay a penalty for each additional day it is late. If it is six months late, you'll have to pay a further penalty and another final penalty if it is 12 months late. Altogether these could add up to a penalty of £1,600 or more.

But do not despair,  if you really can't manage to do it in the month you have left, do not cry tears for the £100 you have lost just yet. You can still submit online until 31 January. It isn't that scary, and you don't have to buy anything or pay an accountant. HMRC have their own (actually really easy to use) software that enables you to do it, but if you have not used it before you need to get a User ID and Activation Pin before doing so. That means you cannot think you might do it online after all on 30 January and expect to get all the information on time. We know that's what you were thinking.

And just think of how much Skol you can buy with the £100 you've saved...

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