London and Merseyside are the worst regions in the UK for filing a self assessment return within the deadline according to data received through a Freedom of Information request from HMRC obtained by TaxScouts, a company making it easy and quick to file your self assessment online.

The data found that in addition to London and Merseyside, the top five worst government regions in the UK to file a self assessment return before the 31 January deadline include East Midlands*; West Midlands; and Greater Manchester. More than 11.5 million taxpayers were required to file their 2017/18 tax returns. As of September 2019, the average for returns submitted after the deadline nationwide was 4.23 per cent. In 2016/17 the average was 5.25 per cent (see table in ‘Notes to Editors’).

Nationwide, 477,000 returns were filed late for the 2017/18 fiscal year, resulting in at least £47,700,000 in penalties for HMRC. In London alone, around 106,000 returns were submitted after the deadline for 2017/18. At a minimum, considering the initial £100 fixed penalty, that’s about £10,600,000 in late fines collected by HMRC, and this number could be even higher as the data accounts only for eight months in 2019 and doesn’t include late payment fines.

Mart “Tram” Abramov, Co-Founder and CEO of TaxScouts, commented: “Many people dread doing their taxes so much that they will leave everything to the last minute. When they do, often they get confused and struggle to understand exactly what HMRC is asking of them, a source of stress and worry for thousands of people in the UK every year. In 2020, January 31st could cause additional stress for many people having to file a return on the date the UK will be leaving the European Union. Brexit could cause an HMRC backlog and we don’t want people to be caught up in the potential chaos and bureaucratic delays when filing their return. It’s important to keep in mind that missing deadlines can result in hefty, increasing fines, so if you are late, make sure you catch up as soon as possible to reduce the amount you might owe.”

Previous national research conducted by global public opinion company YouGov and commissioned by TaxScouts looked into the stress of filing a self assessment return with HMRC. It revealed that one of the biggest drivers of stress is people worrying about making a mistake and what would happen if they did (38 per cent). Other causes of stress for taxpayers were not being clear if they were doing the right thing (19 per cent); not being able to understand the jargon or language being used (9 per cent); and the process being too complicated to be done by themselves (9 per cent).

Abramov added: “As we approach the deadline for submission, this chaotic eleventh-hour scenario is a cause of stress for a lot of people who need to file a return but just don’t know where to start. Some people don’t even know they have to submit a self assessment and end up missing the deadline because of that.”

With just over 45 days to go before the 31 January deadline, TaxScouts is urging individuals to complete their tax returns early to beat the Christmas and New Year rush. According to HMRC, last year more than 2,000 people sent their tax returns on Christmas Day. People who need to submit a self assessment include self-employed, sole traders, CIS subcontractors, high earners (£100K+), landlords, investors, people earning income abroad, and more.

In the same survey by YouGov and TaxScouts, when asked to compare the stress of filing a tax return with anything that came to mind, out of the 673 respondents who provided an answer, these were the most popular:

  • Dental or medical procedure, in some cases compared to “open-heart surgery” or “root canal treatment without anaesthetic” – 16.3 per cent

  • Completing applications for passports, mortgages, bank loans and others – 15.2 per cent

  • Taking an exam, in once case compared to “taking an exam for a subject I had not had classes for” – 12.2 per cent

  • Bad commutes, including “driving on the motorway in heavy rain” and “missing a flight or train” – 5.8 per cent

  • Others compared it to moving home (3.3 per cent) and working (4.8 per cent)

TaxScouts takes the stress out of preparing and submitting a self-assessment tax return. In a few clicks customers provide enough information for a certified TaxScouts accountant to quickly and correctly file a return, for a flat rate of £119.