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Self-assessment tax deadline: what's the worst that could happen if you miss it?

It’s not just a football transfer deadline day, it’s also tax return deadline day (Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
It’s not just a football transfer deadline day, it’s also tax return deadline day (Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

An estimated 2 million people face a mad dash to file their self-assessment tax returns on time.

The deadline for online returns is midnight tomorrow, Wednesday – with the prospect of an automatic £100 fine if they miss it.

Many may also not be aware that it’s not enough just to file the return before the deadline, the taxman also demands his money.

MORE: ‘I couldn’t file my tax return… my wife was seeing aliens’

That means that as well as completing the online submission – the paper deadline passed in October – the millions of last-minute filers will also have to pay what they owe at the same time.

The penalties for late tax returns:

If you miss the final deadline to file your 2016-17 return, HMRC will charge you £100.

Three months late – a fine of £10 for each following day up to a 90-day maximum of £900. This is in addition to the fixed penalty, so the overall fine could be £1,000.

Six months late – a fine of either £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, will apply on top of the earlier penalties.

12 months late – another £300 fine or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher, will be added to your bill on top of the penalties already incurred.

In serious cases you may be asked to pay up to 100% of the tax due instead, as well as any tax you owe, doubling your payment.

A major advertising campaign has been warning people of the looming deadline (HMRC)
A major advertising campaign has been warning people of the looming deadline (HMRC)

MORE: How was Christmas for you? 10,000 people filed self-assessment tax forms

Some 11.8 million people, primarily those with more than one source of income and the self-employed, are required to complete returns.

HMRC says it has received 9.2 million returns, according to the latest available data, with 167,337 people submitting their details on Sunday, the final non-working day before the deadline.

An HMRC spokesman said: “If people are genuinely having difficulties in filing or paying, they should get in contact.

“HMRC has previously announced that we will treat those with genuine excuses leniently, as we focus our penalties on those who persistently fail to complete their tax returns and deliberate tax evaders. This remains the case, although the excuse must be genuine and we might ask for evidence.”

Some of the more outlandish excuses rejected by HMRC include the man who said his wife had encountered aliens and he could not get in the house and another who claimed his return was upstairs but he suffered from vertigo and could not fetch it.

Missing the deadline could cost you hundreds of pounds (PA)
Missing the deadline could cost you hundreds of pounds (PA)

Some campaigners have warned that people may not be aware that payments at the Post Office were banned in December and the credit card option was cut from 13 January.

The credit card payment option – used in 454,000 cases in 2016-17 – was withdrawn following the change in the law which bans surcharges on Visa, Mastercard and American Express payments.

MORE: Pub worker paid almost £20,000 for a prison job he never actually started

HMRC was charging up to 0.6% for payment by credit card, but would have had to foot the bill had it not withdrawn this method of payment.

The tax due can still be paid by debit card, via a bank’s BACS, CHAPS or Faster Payments system, or by setting up a direct debit.

For online advice and help from HMRC see here.