HMRC to waive fines for those who file late tax returns due to Covid-19

13th Jan 2021
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During the current lockdown you probably fit into one of two categories - mind numbingly bored and mind numbingly busy. You would either jump at the chance to tackle a task as long and arduous as a tax return just to have something to do, or the mere thought of even trying to find the time to do one makes you literally laugh out loud like a maniac as you scrape two kids off you whilst cleaning up dog sick from the carpet. If you identify more with the latter, then I have some good news for you.

Yes, while the deadline for completing the year 2019/20 tax return is 11:59pm on Sunday January 31st 2021, HMRC have kindly taken into account that some people may be, well, predisposed, and are waiving fines normally given for filing tax returns if you have a valid coronavirus related excuse. 

Now, the problem is that HMRC haven’t been crystal clear on what constitutes a coronavirus related excuse and have said that they will look at each situation on a case to case basis. But applying common sense to the question I think it’s safe to say that a valid excuse might be something like having to homeschool your children during lockdown, being ill with Covid-19, or having a death in the family related to Covid-19. There is no way to apply in advance for leniency, rather, it will be a case of appealing after the fact. 

The usual fine for missing the 31st January deadline is a £100 fine and a further penalty of £10 a day is applied after three months up to a maximum fine of £900. After six months you’ll also be charged 5% of the tax owed or £300 (whichever is higher), and this happens again after twelve months, Yikes! 

If you do get fined this year then you’ll receive a letter from HMRC that explains their appeals process and this is what you’ll need to follow in order to have the penalty waived. You can appeal by post or online, provided you have a Government Gateway account. 

Additionally, HMRC issue a list of other reasonable excuses for filing late tax returns which are as follows:

  • 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's online services.
  • A fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return.
  • Postal delays you could not have predicted.
  • Delays related to a disability you have.

Another snag is that this leniency only applies to tax returns filed late and not late tax payments so make sure you still pay on time if you can. However, if you are unable to do so you can always appeal based on the reasonable excuses listed above.

So there you have it. If you’re currently experiencing your third mental breakdown of the week like me then this will be very welcome news indeed. Now, I’m off to homeschool the cats and take the kids to the vet, I’ll tackle the tax return after. Wish me luck!


Aoibheann Byrne


Written by Aoibheann Byrne
BrightPay Payroll Software