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Tax return form UK 2022

600,000 taxpayers missed the tax return deadline


After having 10 months after the end of the tax year to file their tax return, around 600,000 taxpayers still missed the 31 January deadline and may now face a fixed penalty unless they provide a reasonable excuse for why they filed late. 

1st Feb 2023
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The morning after the self assessment deadline HMRC confirmed that a record 11.7m taxpayers filed their tax return on time. While the results today suggest that taxpayers have finally circled the 31 January deadline on their calendars after over 25 years of self assessment, thousands still waited until the final hours and minutes to file. 

“Thank you to the millions of customers and agents who got their tax returns in on time. Customers who have yet to file, and who are concerned that they will not be able to pay in full, may be able to spread the cost of what they owe with a payment plan,” said Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services in a press release. 

The number of taxpayers that missed the deadline is considerably lower than last year when 2.3m failed to file their return before the midnight deadline. However, it is not fair to compare this year’s figures to the prior year as HMRC suspended late filing penalties until 28 February for the second year running in order to give taxpayers and agents more breathing space as the surge in Omicron cases was putting pressure on accountancy practices and businesses. 

However, the number shows that taxpayers are gradually getting to grips with the deadline when you compare to the 958,296 taxpayers that missed the deadline on 31 January 2020 and the 1,096,186 tardy taxpayers in 2019. 


According to statistics released by HMRC, 861,085 taxpayers filed on the final day, with 36,767 filed in the last hour before the deadline. 

HMRC revealed that between 4pm and 4.59pm were the peak hours for filing, after 68,462 taxpayers chose to file during this time. 

But out of the over 12m taxpayers that were expected to file, HMRC estimated that 600,000 missed the deadline. These taxpayers may face a fixed penalty of £100, even if - as Dan Neidle raised this past week - they don’t have any tax to pay. 

Neidle moved on from investigating Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs to calling for a cancellation of the automatic fixed penalty after highlighting that 400,000 taxpayers between 2018 and 2020 that paid little to no tax but still received a late filing penalty.   

A week before the deadline HMRC said that 3.4m taxpayers still had not filed their returns. 

In total HMRC said that this year 12,060,872 Self Assessment returns were due, with 94.5% of the returns expected came in before the deadline. Almost 11m of the returns filed was done so online. 

Wait times and delays

It wouldn’t be self assessment season without some frustration over wait times, but this year agents and taxpayers faced extensive delays and a four day outage

At the start of December taxpayers and agents were unable to get through to HMRC phone lines and access some online services after “abnormally high traffic on IT firewalls” exceeded HMRC’s processing capacity and took out the service from 1 December until 5 December. 

There were reports of further delays at the start of January of taxpayers waiting over an hour on the phone line, only to be cut off without actually speaking to anyone. 

HMRC’s chief executive Jim Harra had to defend the tax authority’s customer service levels in a letter to the Treasury Committee where he also revealed that the average wait time in January was 27 minutes compared to 12 minutes in 2022. 

As wait times spiralled, Harra suggested that taxpayers use online services to free up the helpline advisers. 

HMRC redeployed 850 employees from across the organisation to focus on self assessment as the deadline approached, but this affected other services such as the agent dedicated line which was restricted to ‘complex queries’. While agents complained about stripped back service and the prospect of longer wait times on the customer line for basic queries, one AccountingWEB reader took to the Any Answers forum to actually praise the agent dedicated line in January and the “sensible, helpful” advisers.

Replies (12)

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By Hugo Fair
01st Feb 2023 13:12

I'm not sure that there is "more on this story" (in the way it is portrayed)?

The figures announced by HMRC each year may change slightly (usually as far as one can tell in order to 'illustrate' whatever message they're trying to push that year).
BUT what we *never* get is any qualification of the baseline numbers.

* What is the *actual* number of "taxpayers that were expected to file"?
It's been the same vague "over 12m" for many years - despite increases in the population and the employed workforce.
* Is that the same number of Notices issued by HMRC or some sort of 'forecast'?
In the latter case, the basis of the forecast should be disclosed - along with variances from previous forecasts.
* Of the "around 600,000 taxpayers still missed the 31 January deadline and now face a fixed penalty" (or the slightly different number quoted in previous years):
a) how many were later found to be dead or 'gone away' permanently?
b) how many did file eventually - one month late, and 2 months late, and so on?
c) how many of those who were issued with a penalty, subsequently paid it?

I sympathise with DN's campaign ... but these questions are just as pertinent, as they will demonstrate the validity (or otherwise) of HMRC's claims regarding both taxpayers' efficiency and their own effectiveness as collectors.
If of course they claim not to know the answers, then that will be the most damning outcome of all!

Thanks (2)
By Catherine Newman
01st Feb 2023 16:30

4 of mine had the provisional box with an X in it so were complete garbage but kept the client legal. I know some people on here don't agree with it but this year, the clients were warned. I wanted to finish at 4pm.

Thanks (2)
Chris M
By mr. mischief
01st Feb 2023 16:36

In response to the "fine first, ask questions later" policy of HMRC, I see no reason for them to criticise my "file first, ask questions later" policy.

Thanks (0)
Replying to mr. mischief:
By Catherine Newman
01st Feb 2023 17:44

My point made above exactly.

Thanks (0)
By GHarr497688
01st Feb 2023 23:46

So they all filed as a last minute job I suspect using HMRC's free software and by doing anything with the system to get the tax low and the filing complete. People will so anything to save fines or tax. So what about the long awaited MTD ITSA - how can MTD work if this is the result after months of opportunity. What a joke the tax system is in the UK.

Thanks (1)
By djtax
02nd Feb 2023 10:34

Whilst I did manage to get all mine in by about 4.30pm on Tuesday I feel let down by HMRC (to put it politely) in that their as yet unresolved chronic problems/delays/ sheer incompetence over the last year meant that I have spent on average considerably more time per client than usual. In some cases I feel that HMRC have actively hindered my efforts to ensure clients returns are completed correctly and in a timely fashion. The biggest waste of my time has been on the duplication of effort in chasing up HMRC replies to issues raised up to a year ago and mollifying the clients affected by the prolonged delay in addressing those (still today) unanswered issues.

As I have said before HMRC are a national disgrace, no longer fit for purpose.

Thanks (2)
By bendybod
03rd Feb 2023 11:15

I'm always intrigued by this and frequently find myself wondering whether the figure would be different if they had, say, six months after the year end to file. Most countries give far less than we do. Do they get a lower level of compliance? Yes, HMRC have their significant issues but would those issues be fewer if the deadline were, say, 31 October? Then we could all enjoy Christmas and avoid the peak time for staff sickness etc. Clients might also understand better the relationship between the profit that they make and the tax that they pay if it were due closer to the event.

Thanks (0)
03rd Feb 2023 11:22

I have tax returns filed on 30th and 31st January, with proof of filing showing on my software, but as of 3rd February HMRC are still showing them as not yet received. I would not believe this figure of late returns

Thanks (1)
Replying to BV:
By Software Seeker
03rd Feb 2023 15:08

BV wrote:

I have tax returns filed on 30th and 31st January, with proof of filing showing on my software, but as of 3rd February HMRC are still showing them as not yet received. I would not believe this figure of late returns

Me too, and some of those clients are now contacting me to ask if the Return was actually filed. I am of course responding in the positive, however it's just another waste of my time.

Thanks (0)
By Silver Birch Accts
03rd Feb 2023 11:32

'However, the number shows that taxpayers are gradually getting to grips with the deadline'

Well they have only had a quarter of a century to do so, hats off to them I say.

Thanks (1)
By Mr J Andrews
03rd Feb 2023 13:49

How many of the 600K supposed latecomer customers will have been advised by HMRC during the year that there was no longer an obligatiion to file a 2021/2022 Return . And then to find that no-one within HMRC had pressed the right button to prevent a penalty notice.
Stats produced by HMRC should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Thanks (2)
By kevinringer
06th Feb 2023 10:25

I would like to know whether there has been any change in the number of provisional Tax Returns filed. If the agents I have spoken to are anything to go by, the number of provisional Tax Returns filed has increased dramatically: perhaps 10x the level of pre-Covid years.

Thanks (0)