Well, the deadline for filing your Self Assessment tax return for the 2016/17 tax year blew past on the 31st of January. The good news is that a record 10.7 million people beat the time limit and got their returns in before HMRC's axe dropped this year.

It was a close-run thing in a lot of cases, though. A massive total of almost 759,000 people filed on the very last day. In fact, 30,000 of those were actually in the final hour before the deadline!

Keep in mind that the same deadline applies for actually paying the tax you owe, too. That means a lot of Self Assessment taxpayers were relying on some fast financial footwork at the last minute to keep them on the taxman's good side.

Not everyone was quick enough on the tax return trigger to make it, though. Around 745,500 taxpayers are currently looking at a minimum of £100 in fines for missing the cut-off date for their returns. That's actually a pretty decent drop-off in late returns from last year's 840,000, though.

If you made it through the paperwork on time, congratulations! If not, it might not be the end of the world. HMRC really doesn't like it when you don't file or pay up on time. They're not monsters, though, and they do understand that sometimes a late return or payment isn't your fault. You do need to have what they consider a “reasonable excuse” if you're hoping to avoid the fines, though. “My dog ate my homework” probably won't get you off the hook – and yes, people have literally tried that.

If you're suffering from a condition like depression, for instance, you might find the taxman a little more understanding. No one should be penalised for a recognised mental health condition, and HMRC gets that. Physical ailments can mean a softer touch from HMRC, too. Just don't think you can blag your way out of a fine by faking illness. That won't end well.

Other reasonable excuses might include:

  • Unexpected hospital stays.
  • A death in the family.
  • Serious computer crashes or other technical errors, whether on your side or HMRC's.
  • Unforeseeable disasters like fire, flooding or theft.

Of course, as we always say, fines and penalties for late filing or payment are never a problem for RIFT customers.

If you're not yet a RIFT customer and you've already landed yourself in HMRC's crosshairs, we might still be able to help limit the damage. Depending on your situation, we could even be able to get your fines cancelled altogether! Whatever your tax return or tax rebate needs, questions or problems, get in touch with RIFT to see how we can help.