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I can’t afford my tax bill

  • 4 min read
  • Last updated 24 Jan 2024

If you can’t afford your tax bill, don’t worry. There is support available. The first and most important thing to do, though, is to notify HMRC of your situation. The sooner they are aware of what’s going on, the faster they can provide you with help.

🚨You can call the Self Assessment Payment Helpline on 0300 200 3822 🚨

What options do I have if I can’t afford my tax bill? 

When it comes to paying your tax bill, HMRC offer some flexibility. 

Like us, they understand that everyone’s circumstances are different, and they take this into consideration when it comes to paying your tax bill. So, here are a few options to consider: 

  • Paying in instalments – if you can’t pay your full tax bill on time, you can set up a monthly payment plan with HMRC. The amount you’ll be asked to pay each month will depend on your personal and financial circumstances.
  • Do you have a reasonable excuse? – HMRC will allow you to appeal a fine for paying your tax bill late if you can provide a reasonable excuse.
  • Extra support based on your health – you can get extra support from HMRC if your health condition or personal circumstances make it difficult for you to pay your tax bill.

Paying in instalments 

Paying in instalments means you’ll still pay your tax bill, but the cost will be spread out across a number of months. 

To set up a payment plan you’ll need the following things:

  • Your unique taxpayer reference number (UTR) – a ten-digit code used by HMRC to identify you
  • Your UK bank account details – you must be authorised to set up a Direct Debit
  • Details of any previous payments you’ve missed

You can set up both a Self Assessment payment plan or employers’ PAYE payment plan online. 

You’ll also need your Government Gateway ID to hand, which can be found on previous emails from HMRC.

If you can’t find this information, don’t worry! You can also call HMRC on 0300 2003600 to retrieve your User ID and/or password instead. 

When setting up your payment plan, HMRC may ask you for some of the following details, so try to get it all together ready for the call to avoid any unnecessary delays: 

  • How much you can repay each month
  • Are there any other taxes you need to pay
  • How much money you earn
  • What savings or investments you have
  • How much you usually spend each month

By answering these questions, HMRC will be able to take into account things such as rent, food, utility bills, and fixed outgoings when determining the cost of your monthly payments. 

If your circumstances change, don’t worry! Simply contact HMRC and they’ll alter your payment plan in line with changes to things such as your employment, dependents, etc. 

What does HMRC consider a reasonable excuse?

A reasonable excuse is a reason that HMRC will accept if you want to appeal a fine for submitting or paying your tax return late. Here are some examples:

  • You or someone in your family passed away around the time of the tax deadline
  • You were in the hospital
  • The HMRC website wasn’t working when you were trying to submit
  • The post made a mistake or experiences delays
  • A fire, flood, or other disaster stopped you from completing your tax return on time

If any of these are true for your situation, still try to send your tax return or pay your tax bill as soon as you can to avoid a fine. 

To get a better understanding of your situation and the way delays could impact what HMRC charge, take a look at our late payment penalties calculator below. The more you know about your situation, the better your position to resolve things. 

Your situation

Outlined number oneImage of an arrow
Which tax year is this for?

Results

Outlined number two
    You’re fine.
    The current tax year isn’t over. The deadline is January 31st 2023.
    There are no penalties or interest to pay.

Do I qualify for extra support?

HMRC offers extra support to those who may be struggling to file their tax return because of a medical condition or other personal circumstances. Here are some reasons: 

  • You have a mental, physical, cognitive, or sensory disability
  • You’re struggling to afford basic necessities like food or shelter
  • You’re a victim of domestic and/or economic abuse
  • You’re receiving treatment in hospital

What if I don’t qualify for any of the above?

If you don’t qualify for HMRC’s extra support, please don’t worry. Financial difficulty can feel totally overwhelming, and it’s important not to forget that you don’t have to weather it alone. Organisations such as Samaritans are there to listen to you, no matter what, no matter why. You can call them anytime, day or night, no problem is too big or small. If you’d like someone to talk to, call 116 123 or email  [email protected]

For tax-specific help, you can also contact organisations such as TaxAid and/or Tax Help for Older People.  

For help managing your finances and/or debt you can speak to Money Helper. Their help is confidential and free to use, whether that’s online or over the phone. 

We’re here to help 

If you have further questions, we’re also here to help!  For any tax-related support minus jargon, check out our resources section on our website or chat to our support team (email [email protected] or message via the live chat on our homepage). They’re available to you for any tax-specific questions you may have. 


Remember, if you can’t afford to pay your tax bill, let HMRC know as soon as you can. Not only will this stop you from incurring additional penalties and fines but they’ll also be able to help to offer you a solution.

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