Tax return fine threatens millions

Up to three million people had still not filed their 2003/04 tax return by the end of December, and are now just days away from being landed with a £100 fine, according to new figures from the Inland Revenue.

Up to three million people had still not filed their 2003/04 tax return by the end of December, and are now just days away from being landed with a £100 fine, according to new figures from the Inland Revenue.

Around 9.5m UK citizens have been sent tax returns in the past nine months, which they must file with the Revenue before 31 January. Late returns incur a £100 fine, although you will be exempt if your tax bill comes to £100 or less. All bills must also be paid by the end of the month, with interest equivalent to 7.5 per cent a year charged each day until your payment has been received.

The Revenue will also charge an extra 5 per cent interest to people who have not paid by the end of February, and another 5 per cent for those who have not settled their account by the end of July. An additional 5 per cent is then charged every six months that the bill remains outstanding.

The new figures suggest that the Revenue may be heading for a bumper year of fines, with a much higher number of people having left it to the last minute this year.

By the end of December 2003, more than 6.5m people had filed their tax return, with a further two million filing in January in time for the deadline. However, just six million had filed their returns by the end of last month, leaving around three and a half million people racing to meet the Revenue deadline in 16 days time.

Mike Warburton, a partner for Grant Thornton, the accountants, said many returns are deliberately not filed until the last minute to take maximum advantage of the so-called "carry-back" rules. These rules allow you to account for pension contributions made before 31 January, as part of your previous tax year's allowance.

He said that those who tend to miss the deadline often fall into one or two social categories. "It tends to be people who are disorganised with their affairs for one reason or another - young people who would rather be out drinking, or self-employed people who are working every hour under the sun," he said.

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