Have you recently received a penalty notice for late submission of your tax return? If so, you’re not alone. Every year, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) issues countless automated penalties for late filings. The good news is, you have the right to appeal if you believe the penalty was unjust. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of how to appeal a self-assessment late penalty.

The first thing you need to do, is get your tax return submitted. HMRC are notorious for disallowing appeals to penalties if the return remains unfiled. If you have filed your return yet, head to our self-assessment service page, fill in the contact us form, and one of our accountants will sort it out!

Understanding Self-Assessment Late Penalties

When it comes to filing your tax return, punctuality is of the essence. But life can sometimes get in the way. Regardless of your reasons for late submission, HMRC will typically issue a penalty.

The Consequences of Late Filing

The penalty’s primary purpose is to incentivize timely filing and payment. The longer you delay, the steeper the fines become, and ignoring them won’t help your cause.

The Penalty Amounts

Penalties are calculated based on the length of the delay. Even a one-day delay can cost you a £100 fixed penalty. Longer delays can lead to additional charges or a percentage of your tax due, culminating in potentially £1600 or more if you’re a year late!

Why You Might Have Received a Late Penalty

Understanding why you received a penalty can help you address the root cause and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Common Reasons for Late Submission

Common reasons for late submission can include illness, postal delays, family bereavement, or even software glitches. HMRC considers these and other legitimate hindrances as “reasonable excuses” for late filing.

Situations Where You Don’t Need to File

It’s also possible that you no longer meet the criteria for submitting a tax return but HMRC isn’t aware of this change. In such cases, informing HMRC can get the return and any associated penalties cancelled.

Challenging Your Self-Assessment Late Penalty

If you’ve received a penalty that you believe to be unwarranted, or if you have a reasonable excuse for your late filing, it’s crucial to appeal promptly.

When You Have a Valid Excuse

HMRC is not unforgiving. If you’ve faced genuine difficulties that hampered your ability to file on time, these can be grounds for having the penalty revoked.

How to Make Your Appeal

Appeals can be submitted online or via post. Do note that HMRC prefers to receive appeals within 30 days of the penalty notice. While late appeals can be considered, they will need additional justification.

What Happens After Making an Appeal

Once you’ve lodged your appeal, the ball is in HMRC’s court.

HMRC’s Review Process

HMRC will review your appeal, considering the reasons provided and any supporting evidence. This process can take some time, so it’s important to be patient.

If Your Appeal Is Accepted

Should your appeal be successful, your penalty will be cancelled or revised, and you’ll be informed of this decision.

If Your Appeal Is Rejected

In case your appeal is rejected, you’ll still have options to challenge the decision further, including requesting a review by an independent HMRC officer or appealing to the tax tribunal.

Taking Proactive Steps Against Late Penalties

While appealing a penalty is always an option, prevention is better than cure.

Ensuring Timely Submission

The best way to avoid a late penalty is to submit your self-assessment tax return promptly. Organizing your financial documents and planning ahead can ensure a smooth filing process.

Regularly Updating Your Self-Assessment Information

Keeping your self-assessment information up-to-date with HMRC is also crucial. This includes notifying them if you’re no longer required to submit a tax return, which can prevent unnecessary penalties.

Appealing a self-assessment late penalty can be a complex process, but it’s your right to ensure you’re not paying more than you owe. Remember, help is available, and the tax system is not infallible. Reach out to us through our contact form and one of our accountants will talk you through everything you need to know.


Q. How long do I have to appeal a self-assessment late penalty?

A. Ideally, HMRC prefers to receive your appeal within 30 days of the penalty notice. However, they can consider late appeals with a valid reason.

Q. What qualifies as a “reasonable excuse” for late filing?

A. Common examples include illness, postal delays, a death in the family, or software problems.

Q. What if I no longer need to complete a tax return?

A. If you no longer meet the criteria to submit a tax return, inform HMRC. They can cancel the tax return and any associated penalties.

Q. What happens if my appeal is rejected?

A. You can challenge the decision further by requesting a review by an independent HMRC officer or appealing to the tax tribunal.

Q. How can I avoid late penalties in the future?

A. The best preventive measures are timely submission and keeping your self-assessment information up-to-date with HMRC.