1 in 14 SME owners have missed online tax return deadline more than once

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Many small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners have a history of not submitting their online tax returns on time, a new study has found.

According to research by Informi, one in 14 SME owners have missed the January 31st deadline on multiple occasions.

Figures also showed that a quarter have failed to submit their online tax returns on time at least once in the past.

Nearly a third of these revealed they missed the deadline because they did not know how to submit their details.

A similar proportion said they were unaware they had to do so, while others held their accountant responsible for the missed deadline.

Informi revealed that the average fine these individuals faced came to £284.56. However, 13 per cent had to pay more than £500, while two per cent were hit with fines exceeding £800.

Darren Nicholls, product manager for Informi, commented: "Small business owners and their employees need to act quickly to take action on their tax returns before the month is out, saving their business potentially costly penalties.

"Missing the deadline isn’t the end of the world, but will trigger an automatic £100 fine which will rise by £10 a day after three months."

Mr Nicholls pointed out that with so many small businesses struggling to stay afloat in the current climate, these fines represent an "unnecessary waste of money to boost HMRC's coffers".

As a result, he believes SME owners should do "everything in their power to comply with the deadline".

According to figures from Informi, 87 per cent of SME owners seek advice when filling out their tax returns.

Some 57 per cent go to accountants or bookkeepers for assistance, while 30 per cent turn to the internet.

Meanwhile, 21 per cent consult friends and family for advice on completing their tax returns.

Ruth Owen, director general of customer services at HMRC, acknowledged that only a small minority "change their arm" and come up with "questionable" excuses for missing the deadline.

However, she stressed that support and help is always available for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time.

"If you think you might miss the January 31st deadline, get in touch with us now," Ms Owen commented. 

"The earlier we’re contacted, the better.”

Some of the more suspect excuses received by the HMRC have included "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” and "My wife helps me with my tax return, but she had a headache for ten days”.

Other dubious explanations ranged from "My dog ate my tax return…and all of the reminders” to "My child scribbled all over the tax return, so I wasn’t able to send it back".