Late tax returns will not be punished with fines this year, as long as the delay can be proven it was due to coronavirus.
HM Revenue & Customs will be taking a lenient stance to people who file after January 31 for Covid-related reasons.
Home schooling could be considered a valid reason for delay, as would people who can prove either they or their accountant has been recently ill with the virus.
HMRC said: “We want to encourage as many people as possible to file on time even if they can’t pay their tax straight away. But where a customer is unable to do so because of the impact of Covid-19 we will accept they have a reasonable excuse and cancel penalties, provided they manage to file as soon as possible after that.”
About 12 million people file their own tax return because they are self-employed, a landlord or have a second form of income. HMRC said slightly more than half had already filed a return by 4 January, meaning millions could benefit from an extension.
Under HMRC's usual rules, if you miss the 31 January deadline you'll be charged a £100 penalty – even if there's no tax to pay.
Further penalties of £10 a day are applied after three months, up to a maximum of £900. After six months, you'll also be charged 5% of the tax owed or £300 (whichever is greater), and this happens again after 12 months.
There's currently no way of getting out of a fine in advance, so if you file late because you're affected by coronavirus you will need to appeal against the penalty after you've been issued with it.
If you are fined, HMRC will send you a letter telling you about the appeals process, and you will need to follow this, explaining why coronavirus meant you were unable to file on time, to overturn these fees.
If you're fined £100 for filing late, you can appeal online via Gov.uk or by post. You’ll need to set up a Government Gateway account if you do not have one, to appeal online.
For other penalties, you need to appeal by post, sending a completed 'SA370 form' or letter explaining your appeal to HMRC's self-assessment department. You get three months to appeal from the date of the penalty. See Gov.uk for full details, including the postal address to use.
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