We are rapidly approaching the first tax return deadline of 31st October 2012, which is the deadline for paper tax returns to be submitted.

The second deadline of 31st January 2013 applies for online submission of the tax returns, so if the first deadline is missed then a penalty can be avoided if online submission is used.

After that the fines start to mount up, with continued lateness resulting in fines of £1,600 or more – even if there is no tax due.

I have seen several people who have been charged the daily £10 fine for late returns relating to 2011, and I would expect HMRC to continue to enforce these penalties for the 2012 returns as well.

In most cases submitting the return before the deadline will not result in the tax becoming due any earlier, so it makes sense to submit the return as soon as possible so that you know what the tax liability will be. This is particularly important as we have been seeing HMRC refuse to agree time to pay arrangements in 2012, when these were once fairly straightforward to obtain.

The normal due date for tax relating to the 2012 return is also 31st January 2013, so submitting the return just before the deadline could mean that there is insufficient time to arrange payment for any unexpected tax liabilities.

I therefore recommend that people let their accountant have the required information to prepare the return as soon as it is available.