The landlord’s last-minute guide to filling in tax returns

Around 5.5 million taxpayers have only a few days left to file their self-assessment returns before the midnight deadline on January 31. Among those are the UK’s estimated two million landlords and if you’re reading this, it’s probably you too.

If you’ve left it this late, you’re not alone. HM Revenue & Customs is expecting 11.5 million returns for filing by the deadline – and payment of any tax due. Last year, in a last-minute filing stampede, 758,707 taxpayers posted their returns on deadline day.

And if that’s not leaving it late enough, the rush-hour was between 4 pm and 5 pm when 60,596 returns were posted online at the rate of 1,010 a minute – or 17 every second. Late-filing penalties were narrowly missed by another 30,348 taxpayers who filed their self-assessment returns after 11 pm on deadline day with less than an hour to go.

If you’re in the same boat and pushing the deadline this year, here’s a quick guide to submitting your return to avoid time running out.


Do you need to file a return?

Even if you don’t owe any tax, you must file a self-assessment return if you have received a notice to do so from HMRC.

  • If the notice was received before October 5, the deadline unless told different is January 31.
  • If the notice was received after October 5, HMRC will probably have given a later deadline, which means you can ignore January 31 and stick to the new date

Taxpayers can ask HMRC to withdraw the notice under some limited circumstances, such as having all income taxed under PAYE leaving them no extra liability.

A quick note, don’t bother completing a paper return if you’re yet to file, you’ve missed the deadline considerably. Paper tax returns should have been filed by October 31, and so filing online is now the quickest/only way to complete your tax return.

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Apply now for your Unique Tax Reference (UTR)

For those of you still yet to file, you need a UTR to do so: everyone filing a self-assessment return needs one to access HMRC online services through the Government Gateway.

If you are unsure what your reference is then you can look at your online account or any letters from HMRC for the 10-digit number.

If you don’t have a UTR, apply online IMMEDIATELY. The application process takes 10 working days to arrive, so the final application date for the current tax year is Friday, 18th January.  This doesn’t guarantee arrival in time to beat the deadline, but if you want to avoid a fine, it’s the only way.


What are the late filing penalties?

Self-assessment late filing penalties are like fixed penalties for drivers and apply if tax is owed or not.

The penalties stack the longer the filing is delayed:

  • Filing after the midnight on January 31 – £100 automatic penalty that effectively sets a May 1 deadline as no other penalties are due until then.
  • May 1 – £10 a day for every missed day until July 31
  • August 1 – £300 or 5% of tax due, whichever is most
  • February 1 (A year late) – £300 or 5% of tax due, whichever is most

HMRC will impose other penalties and interest for paying tax late.

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How to avoid a late-filing penalty

The first tip is don’t panic. No one likes shelling out money for a fine, but sometimes, it’s inevitable. However, there are some additional ways a tax professional can handle late self-assessment returns.

HMRC states clearly that anyone can make a change to their self-assessment return after filing to correct any errors up to a year after filing. This leaves the amendment window open until midnight on January 31, 2020.

If you’re leaving things to the last minute, it is a good idea to fill in your self-assessment returns as best you can—covering income for between April 6, 2017 and April 5, 2018—and estimate any missing figures.

Tell HMRC the figures are provisional and explain why, giving an estimate for when the actual figures are expected.

Put the explanation in the additional information box on the main self-assessment return.

Figure out how much tax is due with an online calculator. If you think you’ll owe more when the final figures are calculated, then you can overpay.

This way, you have met your legal obligation to file a self-assessment return and you’ve paid the tax owed.

Next, sort out the final figures as soon as you can and go back into the HMRC online system to make any adjustments to your self-assessment return.

If you have over or under paid tax, make an adjustment or claim a refund.

Excuses for filing a late tax return

If you’ve been hit with a fine, you can appeal if you have a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline.

Acceptable excuses include:

  • Someone close died just before the deadline
  • You were in hospital and couldn’t complete your return
  • Suffering a serious or life-threatening illness
  • A computer, software or broadband stopped working as or while you were ready to file online
  • HMRC online services were inaccessible
  • A natural disaster, such as fire or flood stopped you from completing your tax return

Some excuses won’t work, however. Each year HMRC discloses the worst explanations for self-assessment late-filing, and there are some beauties. Like the man whose wife claimed she had seen aliens and wouldn’t let him in to her home to collect his tax return, or the person claiming he couldn’t get his tax return because he suffered from vertigo and the paperwork was upstairs or the man far too busy touring the country with his one-man play.


Whether you’ve done your return or not, you will need landlord insurance. Find out more about our award winning cover here.

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