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HMRC relaxes rules on tax returns amid fears coronavirus pandemic could cause millions to be fined

Tax deadline put back a month: HMRC relaxes rules on tax returns amid fears coronavirus pandemic could lead to late filings and millions of fines

  • HMRC still expects all tax payers to file their returns by Sunday but those who do not file by February 28 will no longer receive a £100 penalty
  • The relaxation is in recognition of the financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic 
  • Some have said that the scheme is helpful for self-employed people but that HMRC could be doing more to support this group during the pandemic

The traditional January 31 deadline for tax returns has been relaxed for the first time ever amid fears the pandemic could cause millions to be fined.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs yesterday said it will not penalise anyone who does not file their online tax return by the end of the month. Taxpayers will receive a £100 penalty only if they do not file and pay their bill by February 28.

More than 8.9million people have already submitted online self-assessment tax returns for 2019/20, but over three million are still yet to do so. 

However, taxpayers – including the self-employed, landlords and investors – are still expected to file by Sunday and interest will be charged from February 1 on tax owed.

The traditional January 31 deadline for tax returns has been relaxed for the first time ever amid fears the pandemic could cause millions to be fined

Derek Cribb, chief executive of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, called HMRC's intervention 'helpful' but said the Government body 'could go further to relieve some of the financial stress on the self-employed' [Stock photo]

Derek Cribb, chief executive of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, called HMRC’s intervention ‘helpful’ but said the Government body ‘could go further to relieve some of the financial stress on the self-employed’ [Stock photo]

HMRC boss Jim Harra said: ‘We recognise the immense pressure many people are facing in these unprecedented times.’ 

Dawn Register, of audit and tax services firm BDO, said: ‘HMRC clearly understands that those severely impacted by Covid-19 should not face receiving a ‘brown envelope’ in February, as it would result in unnecessary angst.’

Support is also available for customers who need help with their tax liabilities.

Once they have completed their tax return, customers can set up an online payment plan to spread self-assessment bills of up to £30,000 over up to 12 monthly instalments.

Derek Cribb, chief executive of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, said: ‘While this is a helpful intervention, we believe HMRC could go further to relieve some of the financial stress on the self-employed.’ 

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