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Mad scramble to beat tax deadline

Nearly 360,000 people have filed self-assessment tax returns in a last-minute rush to meet the deadline.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said they were received between midnight and 9pm and almost 10.2 million had been filed in total.

The deadline for submitting an online self-assessment tax return and paying any tax due is midnight tonight.

Those in self-assessment who fail to meet this face an initial fixed penalty of £100, even if there is no tax to pay, plus interest on any tax not paid by the due date. All tax returns which are still outstanding must be submitted online, as the deadline for filing paper returns passed on October 31 last year.

On last year's deadline day, 557,000 people scrambled to get their returns in online.

HMRC also noted that about 400,000 people every year are told they are unnecessarily filling out a self assessment form.

This is due to the mobile nature of the UK workforce which means that people move in and out of having to make a self assessment return all the time.

Giving up self employment or selling a property portfolio may be behind some of the reasons someone may move out of the self assessment category which rules out the need for a return to be filed.

An HMRC spokesman said: "We automatically review the self assessment system to ensure only those who genuinely need to complete a tax return have to do so.

"Anyone who thinks their circumstances have changed so that they don't need to complete a return should let us know.

"We take around 400,000 people out of self assessment every year because they can be accurately taxed without filling in the return."

Recent HMRC analysis suggests that women are more likely to get their tax returns in on time than men. For every 10,000 tax returns received last year by HMRC from men, 394 were after the relevant deadlines, compared with 358 late returns for every 10,000 received from women.

Some "terrible tax excuses" seen by the tax man in the past for people missing the deadline include: "My pet dog ate my tax return - and all the reminders," as well as: "I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn't find a postbox or get an internet signal," and: "I've been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs."

One late filer tried to blame the president of the United States, saying: "Barack Obama is in charge of my finances."

Another excuse from someone else which was also unsuccessful was: "I've been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency."

If someone cannot pay because of an unforeseen, serious event outside of their control, they should get in touch as soon as possible, HMRC said.

Offering tips on submitting self-assessment returns, HMRC said people should gather all their information, such as P60s and bank statements, in one place, to make filling in the return more seamless. The system saves information as people go along, so they can take breaks and come back to complete their return.

Help on filing a return is available from the gov.uk website or the self-assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310. Customers with general tax queries can also tweet the @HMRCcustomers Twitter feed. Tweets should not include personal information.

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