Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! There is nothing like a good deadline to get you motivated, especially when it comes to that glorious time of year when taxes are due. Still, as we all get busy with our daily lives and other obligations, that 31 January deadline can creep up on us and leave us scrambling to complete them on time.
By mid-January an astonishing half a million people will not have filed their taxes with just two weeks left to do so. The result: many late filings and post-deadline tax returns. So, what can you expect if your tax return does not get there in time?
Okay, chances are if you file your tax return after the deadline your life will not be over with. There will be no execution mob that comes after you, but there may be something much worse – the government.
The government has not, in recent decades especially, taken lightly to the idea of missed or late tax returns. In 1992, it began to reassess the laws and provide individuals and businesses with stiffer penalties for not paying their taxes on time.
The penalties for filing your tax return late can be high. Firstly, there is an initial penalty of £100. You will then be charged £10 a day for the first three months up to the date that you submit your return, up to a maximum of £900. So, for example, if you file your tax return on the 12 February, you will incur a fine of £220 (a £100 initial penalty plus £120 for the 12 days you were late). If six months pass and you still haven’t got around to filing, you will either be fined 5% of the tax due or receive an extra £300 fine. And if a whole year goes by you will receive the same fine again. You may also be asked to pay your tax bill in full on top of all of the fines outlines above – which is something that no business wants to end up having to face.
With so many complications and filing issues, it would be better to avoid the late penalties and get on track with filing your return on time. Easier said the done! Rather than trying to take on the task all on your own, consider using the resources around you. Specifically, those in the financial fields well versed in the laws can help. Accountants are individuals who understand taxes and will be able to help you reach your end goal of filing more easily. Consider them as a great resource to avoid the penalties that late filing face.
Laura Ginn writes for www.realbusinessrescue.co.uk, a website that offers help to businesses that are in trouble.
For tips and practical advice on filing tax returns see the Tax Donut's latest blog.
The deadline for submitting your tax return is fast-approaching. Below are some tips to help make this an easier process.
31 January deadline
If you have a tax return and do not file it on time you will be fined £100.
If the return was issued in April 2009, or any time up to 31 October 2009, it must be submitted by midnight on Sunday 31 January 2010, with a very small number of exceptions.
(If you were sent a return after 31 October 2009, you have three months from the date it was issued. You can file it online or by paper, and the guidance below does not apply to you.)
If HMRC receive your tax return after 31 January you'll get a late filing penalty of £100.
If you pay all the tax you owe by 31 January you will not need to pay the penalty.
Submitting your tax return
You will now need to send your return online. If you send in a paper version at this stage, even before 31 January, you will be fined £100.
If you have previously filed online you can use the same system as last time.
You will need your user ID, which was sent by HMRC when you first registered. If you cannot find it, go to the HMRC online filing site where you will be able access 'lost user id' or 'lost password' services.
You will be asked a number of questions, following which a replacement user ID and password can be issued. These may be sent online or by post. If you think you may have lost the details, give yourself plenty of time to get a replacement.
If you can find neither ID nor password you should contact the Online Helpdesk.
Registering to file online
If you have not previously filed online, you will need to register to obtain an activation code. You will not be able to file online without this code.
The code will be posted to you, and to ensure you receive it on time you must register by 21 January 2010.
Tips for online filing
There can be many people trying to file at the same time. In 2008, 200,000 people filed on 31 January. Try to use quiet periods.
HMRC provide year round online services, 24 hours a day. Avoid delays by accessing them on weekdays after 5pm or before 8am.
There may be maintenance issues. Check the HMRC site for scheduled downtime.
Use the HMRC website for step-by-step guides, and also the built in help available in free HMRC software.
Visually impaired users can access specific help.
Paying your tax
As well as filing your return, whether paper or online, you must pay tax due for 2008-09 by 31 January 2010.
Direct Debit payments are now possible, provided you have registered online. Paying this way allows you to make a payment as soon as you have worked out what it should be.
HMRC now kindly let you manage your finances by setting up regular payments towards your next bill.
Exceptions to online filing
HMRC allow you to submit using a paper tax return after 31 October if: