HMRC relax penalties for late returns and interest on payments - by 2 days

HMRC have just announced that due to potential problems around strikes on 31 January, they have decided not to charge a penalty for online SA filers who file on 1 or 2 February. The enquiry window is not extended for people filing online on 1 or 2 February. No interest will be charged on payments due on 31 January if taxpayers pay on 1 or 2 February.

Due to strike action planned for 31 January 2012, HMRC have taken a pragmatic decision not to charge late submission penalties for self assessment tax returns filed by midnight on 2 February, nor interest on payments due 31 January received by 2 February.

This will mean that any taxpayers, who are unable to get through to call centres on 31 January to resolve issues and as a result submit their return slightly late, will not need to submit a claim for reasonable excuse. This will also relieve HMRC of having to process a large number of claims.

HMRC have confirmed that the enquiry window, which is usually determined by the quarter in which the return is submitted, will not be extended.

Some taxpayers who are unable to file their return online by midnight on 2 February may have a reasonable excuse for filing late. Rather than wait for a penalty notice, taxpayers or their agents can file a ‘claim for reasonable excuse form’ together with the return. If the ‘claim’ is received soon after the deadline and accepted by HMRC, they may be able to suppress the penalty notice. The form is available at:

The alert from HMRC states:


Self Assessment filing on 31 January 2012

‘On 31 January strike action by some HMRC staff will focus particularly on our telephone contact centres. As a result we recognise that some Self Assessment online customers who need to talk to HMRC on 31 January, may not get through.

We have decided online filers will not face penalties provided they file in the first two days of February.

We will treat all online Self Assessment returns that come in by midnight on 2 February as though they were submitted by the 31 January deadline.

This allows any customers who have questions or queries about their return more time to speak to an adviser before submitting it.

It’s all part of HMRCs measures to ensure that customers don’t receive a £100 penalty through no fault of their own.

Also no-one will have to pay interest on payments due on 31 January if they pay on 1 or 2 February.

We believe that this action will ensure that customers are not put to any unnecessary worry. It will also save on unnecessary bureaucracy and costs to both the customer and HMRC.
We’ve always been very clear that we want people to file their returns and not charge penalties. For that reason, we don’t want anyone who can’t get through for help and advice on 31 January to be disadvantaged in any way. It’s very important that customers know we will treat them reasonably and sympathetically.

By Thursday morning, the Department had received 7,738,466 or 74 per cent of the 10.5 million Self Assessment tax returns issued, against 70 per cent at the same point last year.’


We also attach some Q&As drafted as a result of comments received from HMRC on this issue.

Technical Team

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