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Tax Tips - October 2017

How to avoid late filing penalties...

By the time you read this, the deadline for filing your paper 2016/17 Tax Return (31st October 2017) will have passed. If you normally file on paper but for some reason have failed to do so, don’t panic - you can file online and avoid any late filing penalties.

Filing your tax return online means that you have until the 31st January 2018 to file your 2016/17 tax return without penalty. However, don’t leave it until the last minute as it takes at least 14 days to register for online services. Penalties start at £100, rising to £1,600 quite quickly - so don’t delay. The tax due for the 2016/17 tax year must be paid by 31st January 2018 whichever method of filing you use.

How do I file online?

You will need your Unique Tax Reference number (UTR); you should already have one of these if you have filed a tax return before. You will also need your National Insurance Number and/or your postcode. If this is your first time and you need a UTR  contact HMRC to register your ‘Need to file a Tax Return’; you can either complete form SA1 downloadable from or call on 0300 200 3300. Once you have your UTR number you can register for online services.

Registering for online services – Visit, click Money & Tax, scroll down on the right – hand side of the screen until you see ‘Register for and file your Self-Assessment tax return’, and click on this. Scroll down again until you see ‘Create a Government Gateway account’, click on this and follow the prompts. You will be given a User ID number and you will create a password - keep these safe.  Once this stage has been completed you will be sent an activation code; follow the instructions in the accompanying letter to register the code and finally you are ready to sign in and file your Tax Return.

Go back to, click Money & Tax, scroll down on the right hand side of the screen until you see ‘Register for and file your Self-Assessment tax return’; click on this and scroll down until you see ‘Sign in using Government Gateway’; click on the green button ‘sign in’ and enter your ID and password.

I don’t have access to the internet - what can I do?

If you don’t have access to the internet and can’t register online you can either:

  • contact HMRC say that you can’t file online, and ask for assistance to file;
  • file your paper Tax Return as soon as possible, which will keep any late filing penalties to a minimum;
  • contact the Chartered Institute of Taxation or the Association of Taxation Technicians to find a local tax adviser who can file online;
  • if your income is low, contact Tax Help for Older People – details at the bottom of this article.

Do I have the right to appeal a penalty?

If you end up with a penalty but feel you have a valid reason for not filing your Tax Return on time you can appeal against the penalties issued to you, although you must file your Tax Return first. Reasonable excuses may include loss of a close relative or partner; loss of your tax records through theft, fire or flood and you couldn’t replace them in time; or perhaps a medical reason like being in hospital leading up to the deadline. Not receiving a paper Tax Return would not be seen as a reasonable excuse.

This article is by Tax Help for Older People registered charity no 1102276 (Scotland no SC045819), offering free tax advice to older people on incomes below £20,000 a year. The Helpline number is 0845 601 3321 or geographical 01308 488066.