The final countdown

To help taxpayers avoid the January blues, Anita Monteith, ICAEW tax faculty manager, has some tips for filing tax returns online

The final countdown

For most businesspeople, the new year means one thing: tax returns. Those who fail to meet the January 31 deadline will incur a penalty, even if they don’t owe any tax.

You will need to complete a tax return if:

• You are self-employed

• You are a company director

• Your income is over £100,000

• You have more than £10,000 in savings and/or investment income

• You have rental income

• You have taxable income from overseas

• You are an employee claiming expenses or professional subscriptions of £2,500 or more

Late-filing penalties are completely avoidable if you file online and on-time. If you file after January 31 you will incur an automatic, fixed £100 penalty regardless of how much tax you owe. If none of these apply to you, to be taken out of self-assessment you must call HMRC using the number on your tax return and ask for their advice. However, if they do apply, you have just three Sundays left to get your tax return sorted. Here’s what you have to do:


Sunday January 12: have all the necessary information to hand

You will need your accounts if you are self-employed or an owner/operator, along with details of any property income if you have a buy-to-let. You will also need details about anything you can deduct such as gift aid donations and pension contributions. It is worth checking your emails from websites such as If you’ve sponsored people, you can claim tax relief. Additional documents you might need include details about any employment income where applicable (P60 and P11D etc), interest statements and information on dividends from shares.


Sunday January 19: compare the return with last year’s

If there are any significant changes between this year’s tax return on last year’s, you need to explain why on the form. There is white space where you can make notes which will help to avoid unnecessary queries from HMRC later. You should also begin the tedious process of sorting all your paperwork into date order. Taking the time to do this now will save a whole lot of stress and make the filing process smoother the following week. Once in order, we would recommend splitting the paperwork into three-month blocks.


Sunday January 26: set about submitting

The first thing to say here is that you needn’t do the whole thing at once. Just like a paper submission, you can do it bit-by-bit when you have the time. The system can be paused and it will save your progress to allow completion over a period of time. Probably the best approach is to break down the day into four blocks, making sure to take a reasonable break in-between. You can then input the data for each quarter of the year in each of the four blocks, whilst saving your progress and reviewing what you’ve inputted at the end of each block.


Thursday January 30: double-check and send

The final day for submission is Friday January 31. Double-checking now is the last chance you will get to ensure it is correct. Once you are satisfied with it, click ‘submit’.

Finally, it is important to save a copy of your final return and print a copy of the receipt you receive when you submit it. You must keep records of all the information used to complete your tax returns for 22 months after the end of the tax year or for five years and ten months for those with a business or income from letting out property. There is a maximum penalty of up to £3,000 for each tax year for which records have not been kept. 


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