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Part of the process for setting up your own business involves deciding how you want to structure it. You may choose to set up a limited company, or you might decide to work as a sole trader, for instance. The structure that you use impacts how and when you submit a tax return to report your business income.

The deadlines for submitting a return depend on what sort of tax you must submit information for. In this article we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about tax return due dates.

What type of tax return do I need to submit?

This depends on what sort of income you need to report to HMRC. For example, if you operate a business as a sole trader then you’ll normally need to file a Self Assessment tax return. If you register a limited company then you’ll need to prepare a Company Tax Return to report your company’s profits.

What is the tax return deadline for Self Assessment?

The latest date to submit your Self Assessment tax return is:

  • 31st October for paper-based tax returns
  • 31st January if you submit your Self Assessment tax return online

You can submit your tax return well before the deadline, giving yourself more time to prepare. Submitting earlier doesn’t change the deadline for paying your tax bill on 31st January.

Some people need to submit Self Assessment returns even though they’re not self-employed, but this doesn’t affect the submission deadline.

When do I need to submit my Company Tax Return?

The deadline for filing your Company Tax Return is 12 months after the end of the accounting period that the return is for.

The filing requirements for limited companies can be slightly more complicated than they are for other types of business because there’s a bit more to do:

You might also need to submit a Self Assessment tax return to report your personal income from the company – for instance, if you’re a shareholder and you receive dividends.

What is the VAT reporting deadline?

If you’re registered for VAT then you’ll need to make regular MTD VAT submissions to report the amount you pay, and that you collect on sales. The timing of these submissions depends on what type of VAT accounting scheme you use.

When is the PAYE reporting deadline?

If you’re an employer or pay a salary to company directors, you must register for PAYE. You’ll need to send an RTI submission to HMRC to tell them about the payments and any tax deductions you make.

The reporting deadline is the 19th of the next tax month if you run your payroll on a monthly basis. The deadline to pay your PAYE bill is:

  • 22nd of the next tax month if you pay online
  • 19th of the next tax month if you pay through the post


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What happens if I miss the deadline for submitting my tax return?

HMRC charge late penalties on tax returns that are overdue, and the fine increases with time. You might also need to pay interest and further penalties on late payments.

  • Self Assessment: HMRC issue an automatic £100 fine for tax returns that are even a day late, and up to 3 months late. You might need to pay more if your Self Assessment is later.
  • Company Tax Return: Again, there’s an automatic £100 penalty if your tax return is 1 day late. After 3 months you’ll receive an additional £100 penalty, and then at the 6-month mark HMRC will add a further charge of 10% on the estimated tax bill.
  • VAT: HMRC operate a points-based penalty system for late MTD VAT submissions

Where can I get help if I can’t pay my tax bill?

If you need to submit a tax return but you’re worried about paying the bill, you might be able to make a Time to Pay agreement with HMRC. This is basically a payment plan between you and HMRC, so you can make affordable payments if you’re struggling to pay the bill – just be aware that you’ll normally still need to submit your tax return.

Learn more about the Time to Pay scheme.

What if I have a reason for not submitting my tax return?

HMRC are keen to point out that they will try to help if you have a genuine reason for submitting your tax return late, and you can appeal a fine if you need to.

The criteria for having ‘a reasonable excuse’ is fairly strict, and includes the death of a close relative or unexpected illness. Just to clear a few things up though, HMRC published a list of excuses which were refused:

  • “My tax return was on my yacht, which caught fire.”
  • “A wasp in my car caused me to have an accident and my tax return, which was inside, was destroyed.”
  • “My dog ate my tax return…and all of the reminders.”
  • “My wife helps me with my tax return, but she had a headache for ten days.”
  • “I couldn’t complete my tax return because my husband left me and took our accountant with him. I am currently trying to find a new accountant.”
  • “My husband told me the deadline was 31st March.”
  • “My child scribbled all over the tax return, so I wasn’t able to send it back.”
  • “I work for myself, but a colleague borrowed my tax return to photocopy it and lost it.”
  • “The postman doesn’t deliver to my house.”

Learn more about our online accounting services, including support for your tax return. Call 020 3355 4047, and get an instant online quote.

About The Author

Beth-Anne Karellen

I'm an experienced and fully AAT and ACCA qualified accountant, who is enthusiastic about helping business owners succeed. I also love cooking and needlepoint (at different times!). Learn more about Beth.

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