Business owners take note. The self assessment deadline is fast approaching and if you haven’t filed by midnight on 31 January expect hefty fines from HMRC. Although many can take it in their stride, for the uninitiated, completing a self assessment can be a daunting affair – especially if you don’t have a head for figures.
Do a bit of research and approach your personal tax return sensibly, though (and, of course, follow our simple tips below), and you’ll have it filed in no time.
Give yourself time!
Your self assessment isn’t something you can just sit down and do in one evening. If it’s your first time, you’ll have to wait for two separate pieces of information to arrive in the post from HMRC (your Unique Taxpayer Reference number, used to identify you, and your HMRC Online Services PIN number, which gives you access to the online filing system).
Not only that, but you’ll need your previous financial years’ bank and credit card statements. Banks often make procuring these records needlessly complicated, so plan in advance to make sure you have everything you need.
A large part of filing a self assessment is just that – filing. You need to organise all your financial records sensibly, ready for entry into HMRC’s online filing system.
Categorise your records by income and expenses, and separate out revenue streams. For example, you may receive money directly through your business, but also own a rental property that nets you a few hundred quid every month. These need to be recorded separately.
Don’t rely on HMRC’s hotline
Although HMRC Online Services is full of helpful hints and tips, its self assessment hotline becomes virtually inaccessible for the last few days of January, as disorganised individuals rush to complete their tax return at the last minute.
You may be able to get through if you persist, but HMRC’s call centres shouldn’t be relied upon around personal tax season.
If in doubt – consult an expert
Those with more complicated finances may well be better off engaging an accountant to complete their self assessment. Many firms offer a one-off personal tax service for about £75, which can prove a real lifesaver if you get stuck.
Remember, you have to pay your tax on the 31 January, too
If you leave your filing to the last minute only to find out you owe HMRC thousands, that’s bad news for you and your bank balance. Filing early will allow you to find out how much tax you owe beforehand, so you can plan appropriately.
Self assessments aren’t always bad news, though. If you’ve overpaid your taxes in the last financial year you’ll be in line for a refund from HMRC and filing early means you’ll be at the head of the queue when the taxman’s purse open.