HMRC has issued guidance on the 31 October tax return filing deadline. This year the paper filing deadline falls on a Sunday.

Paper returns:

For the 2009/10 tax year paper returns must reach HMRC by midnight on Sunday 31 October 2010.

The deadline for paper tax returns is normally only later than 31 October if:

  • you received your tax return or a 'Notice to File' (telling you to file online) after 31 July 2010, in which case the paper filing deadline is three months after the issue of the tax return or notice, or
  • there's no software available to file your tax return online, for example non-resident companies, in which case the deadline is 31 January 2011.

The deadline for submitting a tax return online remains 31 January 2011.

How to deliver a paper return

  • By post – it must be posted in time to reach HMRC by Sunday 31 October 2010.
  • By hand – HMRC enquiry centres can accept returns by hand and are generally open 8.30 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday.

Receipts for tax returns

In 2005 HMRC changed its policy so that it no longer issues receipts for tax returns delivered by post or handed in at tax offices. It is agreed between the professional bodies and HMRC that its staff will accept any reasonable evidence which the agent (or taxpayer) has that the return was filed on time. In order to satisfy the requirement for 'reasonable evidence' to be held by the agent, the professional bodies recommend the following:

  • that each batch of returns to be hand delivered to HMRC should be accompanied by a list, date stamped for the relevant date of delivery, and listing the name and the Unique Taxpayer Reference of each return in the batch
  • that each entry on the list should be checked back to the returns by a senior member of staff (for example, a manager), and this individual should sign the list to indicate that this has been done
  • that in all firms other than sole practitioners, each list should then be checked and countersigned by, for example, a Partner
  • that a sole practitioner should mark the items clearly as having been checked, and sign to this effect
  • that a copy of the list (signed and dated) should be retained in case of subsequent problems
  • that a copy of the signed and countersigned list should also be attached to each batch of Returns handed in at HMRC Enquiry Centres

HMRC is according to its website “happy to reconfirm our previous message via the Working Together Steering Group that the 'audit trail' generated above will normally be accepted as 'reasonable' evidence of delivery”.

The Royal Mail offers an online 'Track and Trace' facility with its special and recorded delivery services. HMRC recommends that returns be filed by Internet, as this enables electronic receipts to be issued automatically.

Penalties for returns delivered after the deadline

  • Tax returns that are in an HMRC office letter box when it's first opened on Monday 1 November will be treated as being received on 31 October for all purposes. They will not attract a late filing penalty and HMRC cannot give notice of an enquiry after 31 October 2011. This follows the decision in the case of Steeden v Carver (SpC 212).
  • Tax returns that are in an HMRC office letter box when it's first opened on Tuesday 2 November or delivered to an HMRC office by hand on Monday 1 November will be treated as being received on 1 November. You won't have to pay a late filing penalty, but HMRC will have until 31 January 2012 to open an enquiry.

A tax return delivered by post on the above dates or delivered by hand to an HMRC office on Tuesday 2 November, will be treated as being received on the day of receipt and will attract the £100 late filing penalty.

  • A penalty incurred for filing a paper return after 31 October cannot be mitigated by subsequently filing an online return before 31 January (HMRC will not accept an online return where a paper one has already been filed).
  • A penalty can be waived if there is a reasonable excuse for late filing.
  • A penalty can be reduced to nil by paying all the outstanding 2009/10 tax by 31 January 2011 (this does not apply to partnership returns).