By Daniel Hunter

A record 9.45 million Self Assessment tax returns were filed on time this year, and a record 7.65 million (80.9%) of them were filed online, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) revealed.

This means that for the first time in seven years 90.4% of taxpayers met the deadline — an increase of 4% (800,000 returns) on last year. In fact, it’s the highest on-time filing result since HMRC was created.

Although the 31 January deadline was unchanged, HMRC announced that no penalties would be issued for online returns received by midnight on 2 February, due to industrial action at HMRC contact centres. This year’s record numbers show an increase from last year, when around 6.9 million people had filed online by 31 January. The proportion filing online last year was 78%.

The busiest day for online returns was 31 January, when HMRC received nearly 445,000. The SA rush hour occurred between 4pm and 5pm on 31 January, when 37,460 returns — more than one every 6 seconds — were received by HMRC.

“I’m delighted so many people filed their tax returns online this year. The record number proves that it’s quick, easy and secure to do," David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said.

“HMRC have always been clear that they want returns not penalties, so it is good news that over 90% of all returns were submitted on time.

“I am also pleased that the extension to the filing deadline prevented people from being unfairly penalised if they were unable to speak to HMRC on the 31st.”

Many took advantage of the Christmas holidays to wrap up their returns this year, with 1,100 people filing online on Christmas Day; 3,512 on Boxing Day; 11,648 on New Year’s Eve; and 8,935 on New Year’s Day. In fact, 102 people put the New Year celebratory champagne on ice to file their return between 11pm and midnight on 31 December 2011.

The total number of returns submitted on time for both online and paper was 9.4m — breaking 9 million for the first time. With changes to SA penalties this year, everyone who did not file on time will receive a £100 penalty, which increases through the year.

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