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How to appeal an HMRC self assessment penalty

  • 3 min read
  • Last updated 24 Nov 2022

If you’ve received a penalty notice from HMRC, don’t worry (too much) because all is not lost! You can often appeal a Self Assessment penalty. You may be able to have this fine delayed or even reduced.

Why did I receive a fine from HMRC?

Usually, you were slapped with a fine for one of these two reasons:

How do I appeal a Self Assessment penalty?

There are two ways you can appeal a Self Assessment penalty:

In either case, you’ll need to provide details of your reasonable excuse for late filing or not filing at all. But this can’t be any old excuse though, like you had to walk your fridge. HMRC are quite strict with what excuses they deem reasonable. Find out more about this here.

What counts as a reasonable excuse?

Anything that stopped you from doing your taxes, even if you tried to. This could be:

  • Your partner or relative died right before the tax return deadline
  • You had a severe illness at the time
  • Your computer failed as you were filing
  • The HMRC online services didn’t work on that day
  • A fire, flood, theft, or other major incident that prevented you

In other words, very dire situations. 😮‍💨

What doesn’t count as an excuse?

A few examples:

  • You asked someone else to file your self assessment tax return, and they didn’t do it
  • Your payment failed
  • You couldn’t figure out how to use HMRC’s website
  • You made a mistake in your tax return
  • Even though you registered for online filing before the deadline, you didn’t get your access code in time
  • You couldn’t be bothered this time

How much time do I have to appeal?

You must submit your appeal to HMRC within 30 days of the date you received the fine. Unless you have a serious reason for appealing late. But quite frankly, HMRC doesn’t appreciate late submissions.

HMRC rejected my appeal. What now?

You had a reason, you appealed. But it was rejected. What next?

Here are your options; you can:

  • Appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) within 30 days of the date your appeal is rejected
  • Consider alternative dispute resolution

What if I can’t pay the penalty?

In this case, you also have options. You should:

Our advice? Act fast and get help! Our tax accountants are always more than happy to assist. Find out more here.

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