It’s fair to say that the self-assessment tax return deadline isn’t looked forward to as much as Christmas is. However, just like Christmas, your tax return is likely to go far more smoothly if it’s prepared for carefully and well in advance.
Make a Date
Of course, what we’re talking about here is the deadline for online submission of your tax return. The deadline for filing paper returns has come and gone, I’m afraid, so fingers crossed you’re not a technophobe if you still need to submit your return – particularly since HMRC is moving everyone inexorably towards managing their tax affairs entirely online with its Making Tax Digital scheme.
31 January 2017 is the deadline for submitting your 2015-16 Self Assessment tax returns to HMRC online, and it is also the deadline for paying any tax you owe.
Obviously, though, the earlier you attempt to submit your tax return, the better; this allows time for any issues you may have with both completing your return and submitting it through the online system – so put a chunk of time aside now to ensure you’ve got all the necessary information you need to fully complete your return.
Be aware that if you’re submitting your 2015-16 Self Assessment return online for the first time, you will need to register for SA Online which you can do quickly and easily at www.gov.uk/selfassessment. Self Assessment customers can now also submit their return via their Personal Tax Account. It you haven’t signed up for your yet, the process is simple and can be done here: www.gov.uk/personal-tax-account.
Costs Are Not Just For Christmas
Ignore what the Alice in Wonderland film tells you if you snuggle up to watch it at Christmas; being late, late for a very important date really isn’t that amusing when the date in question is the tax return deadline, and the cost of leaving tax returns and tax payments beyond the deadline can make the cost of Christmas pale into insignificance.
There are stringent late penalty fees and while HMRC says it will “treat those with genuine excuses leniently,” the emphasis is very much on the ‘genuine’ – and they may ask for evidence.
The penalties for late tax returns are:
an initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay, or if the tax due is paid on time
after three months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900
after six months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater
after 12 months, another 5% or £300 charge, whichever is greater.
There are also additional penalties for paying late of 5% of the tax unpaid at 30 days, six months and 12 months.
New Year’s Tax Resolution
The message, then, is to prepare your tax return well in advance – and preferably to leave it in the hands of your accountant. They will not only ensure your tax return is completed correctly and on time, but also ensure you keep every penny you can – plus they’ll deal with HMRC directly for you should the need arise.
If you do opt to do it yourself and run into problems, seek help from HMRC straight away, urges Ruth Owen, HMRC Director General of Customer Services. “There will always be help and support available for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time. If you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now – the earlier we’re contacted, the better.”
Make a resolution that next year, you’ll ensure your tax affairs are in order well before the deadline – so that you don’t spend another Christmas with the shadow of an unfiled tax return looming over the festivities!
Want to learn more?
Subscribe to our newsletter to get accounting tips like this right to your inbox
About The Author
We work very closely with our expert accountants to bring you the latest factually correct tax and accounting news. We also enjoy writing about small business news that we hope you find useful!