Nearly one in four (24%) of small business owners have admitted they have previously failed to submit their online tax returns to HMRC in time to meet the strict 31 January deadline.

That’s according to new research which found that 4% of small business owners in retail, catering and leisure industries had failed on more than one occasion.

39% of owners in the retail sector who missed the deadline blamed this on their accountant or bookkeeper who they had outsourced the work to, who had been late in submitting the tax return.


The research, compiled by Informi, a website offering support and advice to small businesses, found that 26% blamed their lateness on having no idea how to fill out their return, and nearly one in three (29%) admitted that they didn’t know they were required to complete one.

While most small business owners (71%) who were late in complying with HMRC did eventually manage to complete their tax return within 31 days of the original deadline, 10% took over two months to submit their return.

The average fine for small business owners who missed the 31 January deadline was £264.45, but for one in six late returners (16%), the penalty exceeded £500.

Darren Nicholls, product manager for Informi, said: “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. With many small businesses struggling to keep their heads above water, it’s an unnecessary waste of money to boost HMRC’s coffers, and small businesses should do everything in their power to comply with the deadline.”