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The deadline for self-assessment returns is looming: if you’re required to file a return, you have until the end of January (midnight on the 31st) to submit the necessary information to HMRC.

If you file your self-assessment return after the deadline, or if you make any errors, you run the risk of being fined – so it makes sense to leave plenty of time to go through and finalise everything. Here are some tips to help make the process of finishing your return as simple and swift as possible.

Who needs to file a self-assessment tax return?

If you’re unsure as to whether you need to file a tax return in the first place, consult an accountant for detailed advice. However, as a rule of thumb, you will need to file a return if you:

  • Are a company director.
  • Are self-employed.
  • Have taxable income of more than £100,000; or received more than £2,500 in untaxed income.
  • Received income of over £50,000 (or if your partner did) and you or your partner claimed child benefit.
  • Received income of over £10,000 from savings or investments.

Make sure you register in time

If you have not filed a self-assessment tax return previously, you will need to register with HMRC in advance – and the process can take over a week, particularly at the start of the year, so do this sooner rather than later! Bear in mind that HMRC cannot give you the required information by phone: it has to be sent via the post, so you will need to factor this in to your plans.

Ensure you have the necessary paperwork to hand

When filling in your self-assessment return, you will need to include full details of your income (both earned and unearned). To ensure that you are able to process your return in a timely manner, and to reduce the risk of making any mistakes, we recommend having the following documents to hand before you begin:

  • Bank statements.
  • Invoices and receipts.
  • Any PAYE-related documents (such as PAYE coding notices).
  • If you hold a salaried position and are paid wages (this may apply even if you’re a company director), the P60 form that shows your salary/tax for the 2017-2018 tax year (6th April 2017 – 5th April 2018).
  • If you’ve received any benefits from your employer (such as the use of a company car), you will also need a P11D form.
  • If you’ve left a position during the year, you will need your P45 from your previous employer. This document shows the income earned – and tax paid – for the relevant portion of the tax year.
  • Income and expense records (including unearned income, such as that from dividends). When it comes to expenses, ensure that you are fully apprised of what you can and cannot claim.
  • Bank account interest records. If you have any bank accounts that pay you interest, you’ll need to know how much interest you received and how much tax was taken off that figure (note that ISAs do not apply).
  • If you hold any investments, you will need the related tax certificates.

Avoid common pitfalls – and double check your return!

Even if you take real care over your tax return mistakes can still creep in, particularly when dealing with large volumes of information. Some of the most common mistakes include:

  • Leaving things out: the most obvious error is failing to declare the right amount of income, but it’s also easy to forget to include information pertaining to things like gift aid (you should include details of all charitable donations you’ve made during the relevant tax year, for example).
  • Forgetting to claim: you might miss out an important business expense, or even fail to take advantage of available reliefs (such as the relief available on pension contributions).
  • Making a mistake with figures: getting mixed up between net and gross income is common – and this kind of mistake is not always easy to spot.
  • Forgetting to file and pay on time: it’s not unheard of for people to fill out their returns, press ‘save’ (or put the form in an envelope), and then forget to submit the information before the deadline. Similarly, once you’ve filed your return, you have until 31st January to pay the bill – so don’t forget to transfer the funds to HMRC ahead of the deadline!

Filing an incomplete return or a submission full of errors may lead to rejection by HMRC, which carries penalties, as does failing to file your return or pay your bill on time (the penalty for lateness starts at £100 and escalates rapidly).

If you’re in the process of completing a self-assessment tax return but don’t feel confident, we highly recommend speaking to a qualified tax adviser before it’s too late. Whilst the various filing deadlines mean that January is a very busy month for IBISS & Co, we pride ourselves on delivering outstanding service to both new and old clients at any point in the year. Contact us today for a no-obligation discussion.

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