Money Wellness
Image of a key board with a yellow post-it note on top saying 'tax return' - three days left to submit a self-assessment tax return or face fines - even if you have no tax to pay
category iconbills
calendar icon29 Jan 2024

Three-day warning for millions of self-employed

Millions of self-employed people have until Wednesday at 11.59pm (31) to submit their online tax return – even if they don’t have any tax to pay.

According to HRMC, nearly 3.8 million have so far failed to submit their online assessment for the 2022/23 tax year.

And, if you miss Wednesday’s deadline, you will be fined £100.

If you still haven’t submitted your return after three months, you’ll face even higher charges with fines of £10 a day – up to a maximum of £900.

After six months, you’ll have to pay a further penalty of 5% of the total tax owed or £300, whichever is greater, which is repeated again after 12 months.

Most of the 32 million taxpayers in the UK don’t need to submit a tax return as their tax is taken at source from their employer.

However, around 11 million people are required to submit a self-assessment.

Anyone self-employed or with an untaxed source of income needs to complete and submit a self-assessment return even if they’ve not earned anything, or their earnings fall beneath the threshold.

More than 180,000 people on low incomes – under £12,500 - were fined last year for not submitting a tax return.

Many of these people misunderstood the initial fine and were then hit by further penalties and interest. Some were left facing fines of thousands of pounds, which would take them years to pay.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: “The clock is ticking for those customers yet to file their tax return. Don’t put it off.”

What happens if you can’t afford to pay your tax bill?

It’s important to contact HRMC if you’re going to struggle to pay your tax bill. If you don’t pay it on time, you’re likely to end up paying interest and fines on the outstanding amount. HMRC also has the powers to:  

  • Collect it straight from your earnings or pension
  • Get bailiffs to recover the money
  • Take money from your bank or building society
  • Take you to court
  • Make you bankrupt or close your business

What is Time to Pay?

If you tell HMRC you’re struggling to pay your tax bill, they will work with you to put together a payment plan – known as Time to Pay.

A Time to Pay arrangement with HMRC is a payment plan that gives an individual or company more time to bring their tax arrears up to date.

Time to Pay plans typically last around six months, although up to 12 months can also be give in certain cases.

During this time, the company or individual must repay all of their HMRC tax debts – including VAT, PAYE, and Corporation Tax – as well as ensuring payment is made for any tax which becomes due during the Time to Pay arrangement.

You can speak to HMRC about setting up a Time to Pay plan by calling its helpline on 0300 200 3822.

Find out more information on Time to Pay here.

Do you need debt advice?

If your outgoings regularly exceed your income or you have less than £100 to live on once your bills are paid, you’re not alone. 60% of the people who contacted us last month found themselves in this situation.

Find out more about how free, independent debt advice can help you here.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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