Ten top tips to get your self assessment tax return sorted for Christmas

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Date: 3 December 2021

No one enjoys filling out their self assessment tax return. You may dread having to do each year, because you're busy with other things and it's a hassle you can do without.

Each December, with the 31 January online-filing deadline looming, many people start to worry about completing their self assessment tax return, when they'd much rather be getting into the Christmas spirit. Even if you leave it until after Christmas, having to complete your self assessment tax return in the New Year can be an unwelcome chore when you're trying to get back into work mode. 

But filing your self assessment tax return is unavoidable if you earn money that's subject to income tax. Thankfully, good advice and support can make a big difference. So, here are ten top tips to make self assessment tax return much less taxing, so you can look forward to a cracking Christmas and New Year.

1. Use accounting and self assessment filing software

Using good accounting software to record your income and expenses accurately and regularly can make completing your self assessment tax return much easier, because key numbers are automatically calculated for you. You can also use other third-party software that makes completing and filing your self assessment tax returns much easier, while ensuring that your self assessment tax returns are error-free.

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2. Improve your self assessment know-how

Do some online research and search for advice from reliable sources. You may be able to find ways to save time and make sure that your self assessment tax return is properly filled out. Read HMRC's guidance on self assessment tax returns. HMRC has published a comprehensive range of self assessment guidance, including concise YouTube Self assessment videos and live and recorded webinars (registration required).

3. File your self assessment return now

Why put off completing and filing your self assessment tax return? You don't have to wait for the deadline. In fact, you could have completed and submitted your self assessment tax return months ago, when the new tax year began on 6 April. If you can't do it immediately, do it ASAP. Do yourself a favour: get it off your plate.

4. Give yourself enough time

You need to go through the self assessment tax return form thoroughly, paying due care and attention when entering data. The more you rush, the more likely you are to make mistakes that later need correcting. Often, the reason people rush is because they have left it too late or they don't give themselves sufficient time to complete their self assessment tax return.

5. Have all the necessary information to hand

As already explained, accounting software can take much of the legwork out of completing your self assessment tax return. Make sure you have all the relevant facts and figures to hand or at the click of a mouse. It will save hours because finding the information, from hard-copy invoices, bank statements and receipts, etc, will mean that filling out your self assessment tax return takes much longer.

You'll also need your UTR (ie the unique ten-digit reference number that enables HMRC to identify you), your National Insurance number, P60 if you're also employed and paid via PAYE (it shows your earnings and tax paid in the tax year), records of earnings from all taxable sources (eg rental income, interest/investment income, pensions, state benefits, etc), details of expenses, etc.    

6. Claim your rightful tax allowances and reliefs

Income tax payers can claim a variety of tax allowances (upon which no tax is payable) and reliefs (which lower your profit and resulting income tax liability). The government's GOV.UK website explains expenses you may be able to claim if you're self-employed, as well as income tax reliefs and personal allowances. Do some research or seek professional advice to make sure that you're claiming everything to which you're entitled.

7. Consider using simplified expenses

"Simplified expenses" is an HMRC-approved way to claim business expenses using flat rates rather than working out actual costs, which can take much more time and effort. You can use simplified expenses for business mileage, operating a business from home or living at your business premises (eg if you run a B&B).

While saving you time when filling out your self assessment tax return, you should be sure that claiming simplified expenses won't leave you out of pocket. GOV.UK offers an online simplified expenses checker tool that enables you to find out.

8. Double-check your facts and figures

Once you've entered data into your self assessment tax return, double-check it all before submitting it to HMRC. Also take care when ticking boxes, as this is where mistakes can also occur. More serious errors can lead to a penalty if HMRC believes they're the result of your being careless. Don't let that happen by being sloppy or rushing to get it finished.

9. Don't miss the self assessment filing deadline

With so much to do, the run-up to Christmas can be hectic. You may not manage to get your self assessment tax return done and dusted before the New Year. Sometimes, that's unavoidable. But still, try to get it done early in the New Year, so it's out of the way. You don't want to miss the online filing deadline of midnight on 31 January either, because this will result in a £100 penalty.

10. Reach out for self assessment support

In addition to HMRC's online information resources, you can call the HMRC self assessment helpline (0300 200 3310 – Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm). Make sure your personal details and address are up to date in your personal tax account, otherwise you could fail telephone security questions when asked. Also have your National Insurance number and UTR to hand when you call.

Final thoughts

If the thought of completing and filing your first self assessment tax return or slogging your way through another one is all too much, you could always get an experienced professional to do it for you or at very least, check over one you've filled out. It may be cheaper than you think. Consider it a nice early Christmas present to yourself.

Sponsored post. Copyright 2021. Featured article by Mike Parkes of GoSimpleTax - tax return software that can help you manage your self assessment.

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