What to do if you can't pay HMRC

Make sure you've sent in your tax return

If you haven't sent your tax return to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), you should send it as soon as you can. HMRC will have estimated your tax bill and it may be too high. You will still have to pay penalties for sending your tax return late, but the longer you delay, the more you'll have to pay.

If your bill is right but you still can't pay

If your bill is right but you can’t pay, you must get in touch with HMRC as soon as you can. If you don't, your bill will go up. This is because penalties and interest will be added on.

If you get in touch straight away, you may be able to avoid paying penalties and come to an arrangement to spread your payments over a period of time. You will need to discuss your financial position openly with HMRC and bring any outstanding tax affairs up to date.

Who to contact before you receive a payment statement, bill, reminder or demand

You will need to call HMRC's Business Payment Support Service Helpline on Telephone 0300 200 3835. This service is available for individuals and businesses who have not yet received a payment demand.

What will happen when you contact HMRC

You will need to explain why:

  • you are unable to pay in full and on time
  • what you have done to try and raise the money to pay your debt
  • how much you can pay immediately
  • how long you think you will need to pay the rest

If this discussion reveals that you are able to pay immediately in full you must do so. The HMRC adviser you speak to will be able take a payment over the phone, either by Direct Debit or debit/credit card, or they can advise you on other payment options available.

If you are unable to pay immediately HMRC will want to ask you a number of questions to judge your ability to pay off your debt whilst paying ongoing liabilities. HMRC will ask questions about your income and expenditure, your assets and the changes you are making so that you can return to making payments on time.

If you have previously been given time to pay you will be asked more in-depth questions.

In more complex cases HMRC may ask for documentary evidence to consider your request for time to pay.

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