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HMRC internal manual

Self Assessment Manual

Returns: filing paper returns: 31 October deadline: introduction

The Self Assessment (SA) tax return is the key document in the annual income tax cycle for many of our customers with more complex tax affairs. Those who receive a return are required to deliver it to ‘an officer of the Board’ which effectively means anyone in HMRC.

The deadline for filing most paper returns is 31 October following the end of the tax year. However, there are some exceptions where customers, who are unable to file online, have a paper filing date of 31 January, or have a non-standard filing date. More information about these exceptions can be found under subject ‘Exceptions to paper filing date’ (SAM120545).

Every year a large proportion of the returns received are delivered by hand on the deadline day or very close to it. Known as the ‘paper peak’ this usually occurs in the week running up to 31 October. Customers may deliver SA returns to all locations where there is a letterbox or HMRC officers are employed, these locations could range from local VAT offices during normal office hours to having a return passed to an HMRC officer by someone leaving Heathrow airport at 23:59 on 31 October. There may even be returns left in honesty boxes at ports which are part of our estate and through which we must accept delivery. But it should be noted that security staff who are not employed by HMRC cannot take returns from customers. Alternatively, the customer should be encouraged to put the return in the buildings letterbox or in the mail (SAM120630 refers).

All HMRC staff need to be aware of how to deal with SA returns in the very busy period up to the 31 October paper filing deadline. This will help ensure our customers do not receive incorrect penalty notices. Everyone must ensure they are familiar with how their own area of the business handles receipt of SA returns should they receive any in person. If in any doubt you must ask your manager.

To avoid penalties being charged incorrectly, you must in every instance ensure that

  • The date and place of receipt is clearly and accurately recorded on every return (or envelope if handed in sealed) before it leaves the location at which it was received
  • The return/sealed envelope is passed, at the earliest opportunity, to the appropriate HMRC office to ‘log’ it in as received
  • Movement of any return at any stage in the process is carefully managed and data security rules should be strictly followed to avoid any going astray

Managers and staff working in offices that have letter boxes, must ensure that they are emptied shortly before close of business on a Friday when 31 October falls on a weekend, this will enable customers to deliver their SA returns using the letterbox over the peak weekend.

Paper returns posted in a letterbox at any HMRC office which cannot log the return or is not co-located with an SA Processing Office will need to be sent to Leicester Logging Unit for logging. This includes airports, VAT and Customs offices.