More than 1.4 million taxpayers had to pay interest for late payments in the 2020-21 tax year after missing filing deadlines
There was a 15% increase in the number of people charged interest on overdue tax payments in 2020-21, compared to the pre-pandemic figure of 1.2m, showed a freedom of information (FOI) request by investment platform AJ Bell.
The FOI did not reveal how much money HMRC was raised from taxpayers who failed to pay their tax bills on time.
The increase came despite furlough and corporate dividend cuts meaning many would have owed HMRC less than normal for that year.
Around 270,000 people were hit with a penalty for missing the self assessment tax return deadline in 2020-21, down from 290,000 the year before. A further 110,000 had to pay a late filing penalty as well as interest charges.
In total, the tax authority raked in around £27m in overdue self-assessment tax payments, which sees an initial £100 penalty for those who fail to process their returns on time.
By the 2024-25 tax year, the number of people HMRC estimate to be paying dividend and capital gains tax (CGT) will increase by 2m, according to AJ Bell.
It indicates that hundreds of thousands more taxpayers could find themselves facing penalties for late tax payments if a similar proportion misses the deadlines.
The scale of these penalties as a result of missing the tax return deadline highlighted the large number of taxpayers struggling with the UK’s complex tax system, with the issue set to be exacerbated by frozen tax thresholds and cuts of dividend and CGT allowances.
Those who fail to process their self assessment tax returns by the deadline of 31 January each year face an initial £100 penalty from HMRC. If the return is filed more than three months late, a daily £10 penalty is charged.
However, the current standard £100 fine is due to be changed to a points-based system in 2026.
HMRC has confirmed that the penalty system will be reformed in a bid to curb abuse of the self-assessment system and support taxpayers who make occasional mistakes.
The planned penalty reforms for paying tax late will be based on the length of time the tax is outstanding but will only affect the 5% of non-compliant taxpayers. The earlier an overdue tax payment is made, the lower the penalty charge will be.
Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, said: ‘These figures lay bare just how hard the British public find completing their tax return and paying their tax bill.
‘As the government drags more people into paying tax via self assessment, we’ll see more and more taxpayers hit by these penalties. With the tax-free allowance on capital gains and dividend taxes being dramatically cut in the next year, more people will have to file a tax return for the first time.
‘On top of that, those who earn more than £100,000 must file a return, as well as those who have hit the child benefit high income charge and people who have other sources of income from their main job. Some people are going to struggle to complete the return, or not even realise they have to file one in the first place.’
Suter recommends that one way to avoid late filing is to set regular calendar reminders to prompt you to file on time.
‘Another alternative is to outsource it to a professional. It’s very possible to file a return yourself, especially if it’s just to report an investment gain, for example, but you might decide that delegating it to an accountant or tax specialist is worth the cost.’
The Bank of England has raised the interest rate by 0.25% to 1%, marking the highest rate for 13 years
The rate has gone up by 0.25% from the current 0.75%, and is likely to continue to rise over the next 12 months. The Bank expects the base rate to increase to 2.5% by mid 2023, falling to 2% at the end of 2024.
The current 7% rate of inflation is creating an intensifying cost of living crisis with soaring electricity and gas prices. CPI inflation is expected to rise further over the remainder of the year, to just over 9% in 2022 Q2 and averaging slightly over 10% at its peak in 2022 Q4. However, the Bank then expects inflation to drop back to 2% in 2024.
‘Global inflationary pressures have intensified sharply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This has led to a material deterioration in the outlook for world and UK growth,’ the Bank said.
These developments have exacerbated the combination of adverse supply shocks that the UK and other countries continue to face. Concerns about further supply chain disruption have also risen, both due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to Covid-19 developments in China.
Martin Beck, chief economic adviser, EY Item Club said: ‘There is a bit of difference of view in our forecast and what banks are expecting. We do not think there will be a further rise this year, but banks expect 2% rate. What is currently an inflationary problem may prove to be deflationary in time.
‘There are plenty of examples of central banks tightening too fast in the past. We think they will take a more cautionary approach. The Bank can vary the interest rate but could also print money – quantitative easing. But when interest rate reaches 1% the Bank said it would start selling bonds back to the market, but quantitative tightening is not something the Bank has done before so they will want to take a cautious approach.’
Alpesh Paleja, CBI lead economist, said: ‘Another rise in interest rates is warranted, given the persistence of high inflation. However, the Monetary Policy Committee are walking an increasingly fine line.
‘Further action to curb price pressures needs to be weighed against the increasing need to protect growth, particularly in light of a historic cost-of-living crunch. Households are feeling it and so are businesses, with cost pressures across the board.
‘While monetary policy is the appropriate first line of defence in tackling inflation, government needs to take further action to shore up the broader resilience of the UK economy. In the near-term, higher inflation will hit poorer households hardest, so support measures for this group will need to be kept under review. Over the longer-term, securing greener energy supply and a relentless focus on raising potential growth will bolster our ability to withstand shocks and further price pressures.’
Paul Clifford, regional CEO at Azets, said: ‘This is the first time in 13 years that the UK base rate has been at 1% – many businesses and the 1m-plus householders on variable mortgage rates aren’t used to seeing a continuous rise in borrowing costs and the impact that has on budgets.
‘This is also the fourth rise in half a year, from 0.25% in December.
‘The interest rate rise, whilst still historically low, will now place additional repayment burdens on borrowers and have a knock-on impact on businesses as spending is reined in, with SMEs likely to be hit hardest.’