Time is running out to file your paper tax return

If you have a paper tax return to complete, it must be in by October 31
Malachy McLernon

QUESTION: I have always submitted my personal tax return on paper to HMRC. I have read that their move to a digital submission process may remove the paper filing option. Will HMRC accept my paper tax return if I file it before October 31?

ANSWER: The days of the paper tax return could well be numbered as HMRC begins rolling out its Making Tax Digital initiative from next year. But until that time comes, if you do file by paper you still need to meet the October 31 deadline for the year ended April 5 this year (or risk late filing penalties). The same date may also trigger further late filing penalties in relation to outstanding tax returns for the 2015/16 tax year.

If you intend to submit a paper return for 2016/17 and do not do so by October 31, you still have the option of submitting an electronic return by January 31 to avoid late filing penalties.

But if a tax return for 2015/16 is submitted after October 31 in paper form rather than electronically then the maximum automatic late filing penalties of at least £1,600 (or £1,000 plus 10 per cent of the tax due if greater) will eventually be charged.

You may have missed the tax return deadline due to an unforeseeable event. This would be classed as ‘reasonable excuse' and grounds to appeal a penalty charge. If the appeal is successful then the penalties will be cancelled.

If you have not submitted your tax return because you are unable or cannot afford to pay any tax due, then be aware that HMRC regard submitting a return and paying the tax due as two separate and distinct obligations. Penalties will continue to build up if you do not submit the return and you will not be able to arrange a debt payment plan with HMRC while the return is outstanding.

HMRC's guidance states that a reasonable excuse is something unexpected or outside your control that stopped you meeting your tax obligation for example an unexpected stay in hospital or the death of your partner shortly before the tax return deadline.

If HMRC reject your appeal you can request a review of their decision. The review will be carried out by another team from HMRC who have not been involved in making the original decision. If you lose at statutory review, they will provide you with details about how you can make a further appeal to the independent tax tribunal.

:: Malachy McLernon ( is a director of PKF-FPM (www.pkffpm. com). The advice in this column is specific to the facts surrounding the question posed. Neither The Irish News nor the contributors accept any liability for any direct or indirect loss arising from any reliance placed on replies.

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