Corporation tax is the standard tax on business profit paid all limited companies.

Penalties will generally apply for late filing of corporation tax returns or late payment. These situations often apply when a business is in difficulties, usually financial difficulties. 

If you need advice and help because you face a corporation tax penalty or you need advice on cashflow, financial problems or options on closing your business, we can help. We are experts in business debt advice and our Insolvency Practitioners can help you close your business in the best available way, if that is needed.

If you need more information about the penalties which accrue if you file late, or fall into arrears, we cover this below.


1. Understanding HMRC’s Corporation Tax Penalties

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) enforces corporation tax penalties to ensure compliance with the UK’s tax laws. These penalties are imposed when businesses fail to file their tax returns or pay the due taxes on time. The significance of adhering to these regulations is underscored by the potential financial impact of penalties, which can escalate depending on the delay and the amount of tax unpaid.

Types of Penalties for Non-Compliance

Penalties vary from fixed fines to percentage-based charges relative to the unpaid tax. Key regulations include the Finance Act, which outlines the structure of penalties for various offenses, from minor oversights to serious tax evasion. Understanding these legal frameworks helps businesses mitigate risks associated with non-compliance.

2. How to Avoid HMRC Penalties

Steps to Ensure Tax Compliance

Compliance involves timely submission of accurate tax returns and payments. It’s crucial for businesses to maintain up-to-date records and adhere to the filing deadlines specified by HMRC. Usinf accounting software or consulting with tax professionals can help in aligning with these legal requirements.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Many penalties arise from simple errors, such as incorrect tax calculations or misunderstanding tax obligations. Awareness and understanding of specific HMRC guidelines can prevent these errors. Regular reviews of tax affairs and consultation with experts can also be beneficial.

3. Calculating Your Potential Financial Exposure

Examples of Penalty Calculations

Type of FailureMaximum Penalty Payable
Non-deliberate30% of the potential lost revenue
Deliberate but not concealed70% of the potential lost revenue
Deliberate and concealed100% of the potential lost revenue

Penalties can be a fixed amount or a percentage of the tax due, depending on the nature of the non-compliance. For instance, a late filing might attract a fixed initial penalty, with additional costs accruing over time.

Businesses should use HMRC’s penalty calculators or seek professional advice to estimate their potential financial exposure.

Type of ErrorPenalty Range for Unprompted DisclosurePenalty Range for Prompted Disclosure
Non-deliberate0% to 30%15% to 30%
Deliberate but not concealed20% to 70%35% to 70%
Deliberate and concealed30% to 100%50% to 100%

4. Resources and Assistance

Where to Find Help

HMRC provides resources and guidelines on their official website, which can be essential for businesses seeking to understand their tax duties and penalties. Additionally, professional tax advisors and legal experts can offer tailored advice and strategies for compliance.

When to Seek Professional Advice

Complex tax situations or large businesses with significant tax obligations might benefit from professional tax advice. This ensures compliance with current laws and regulations, potentially avoiding severe penalties.


An HMRC investigation can be triggered by discrepancies in tax returns, late submissions, or failure to pay the due amount. Regular audits are also a common practice to ensure compliance.

If you discover an error on your corporation tax return, you should amend the return as soon as possible. HMRC allows corrections within 12 months of the statutory filing date without penalty.

HMRC may offer relief from penalties through their “Time to Pay” arrangement for businesses that are unable to pay but have genuine reasons. First-time offenders can also request a review or appeal against a penalty decision under certain conditions.

Repeated non-compliance can lead to increased penalties, including higher fines and potential legal action. Continued failure to comply can severely impact a business’s financial health and operational capability.

To dispute a penalty, you must initially contact HMRC to explain your reasons for disagreement. If unresolved, you can formally appeal the decision, a process for which HMRC provides guidelines on their website.