The deadline for self-assessment tax returns is the 31st January, but don't panic too much if you're yet to send your return to HMRC as there’s still time to pull things together.
Here are a few tips to get things under control:
Get your documentation together
You’ll need to gather all your accounting information for the entire tax year – including records of all sales and income, business expenses, VAT details, PAYE documentation (if you employ someone) and personal income.
If you don’t have all of these records to hand, don’t panic. Although it’s good practice to keep everything together (and probably something you should consider doing in future years), you should still be able to complete your tax return by providing details of your salary and dividends.
Include all required information
Don’t forget that you’ll need to provide details of any income you receive – whether it’s from pensions, property, interest on your savings or salary from a previous employer before you set up your company (if applicable). Be wary about including information – HMRC doesn’t like this!
You also shouldn’t include notes such as “more information to follow” or “as per accounts” – as this won’t be accepted by HMRC. Your return will be classed as incomplete and you’ll be fined.
Remember your payments
With all the talk about submitting your tax return, it’s easy to forget that the 31st January is also the deadline to make payments to HMRC. This includes anything you owe for the 2015/16 tax year plus your first payment on account for the 2016/17 tax year.
It’s important to make your payment by the deadline or you’ll be charged interest and may also incur a penalty if you’re late. You’ll need to allow a certain number of days for the money to clear, which varies depending on your method of payment. For more information on this, please click here.
If you’re worried that you won’t be able to make the necessary payments, don’t bury your head in the sand. Speak to HMRC immediately and see if you can work something out. More detail about this is available here.
Missing the deadline
We hope this doesn’t happen, but if you’re not able to submit your return on time the important thing is not to worry too much. You can still send in your information late, but you’ll incur an automatic £100 penalty.
The quicker you get everything to HMRC, the better as the fines build up over time. For example, if you leave it three months you’ll be charged £900 if you still haven’t filed your return. If you’re 12 months late paying tax, you could face an additional penalty of 15%.
A word about “reasonable excuses”
If you don’t meet the deadline, there is a very slight chance that HMRC won’t charge you a penalty if you have good reason for not being on time. This is decided on a case by case basis.
The most common reasons can include serious illness or family bereavement, but it’s important not to rest on your laurels and still file your tax return on time if at all possible.
Over to you
If you’d rather avoid leaving things until the last minute next year, we’re here to help. Our dedicated team of accountants are on hand to help take the hassle out of self-assessment. We’ll also be providing more information in the coming weeks, so keep an eye on our blog.