If you still complete a paper tax return then you should have done so by the end of October last year for tax year 2018/19, which ended on the 5th April last year.
If you didn’t send a paper return but you have to complete a tax return, then the deadline is the end of this month, next Friday. And it’s important to note that these are the dates by which HMRC need to receive your return, not the dates that you have to send it.
Around two million people miss this deadline every year so if you are one of these taxpayers who is still scrambling around trying to pull together all of the receipts and invoices and bank statements that you need to complete a set of accounts that will allow you to then fill in your tax returns and get them off to HMRC by the end of the month then you need to get a move on!
It’s a boring process but if you work for yourself then you have a responsibility to complete a return so that HMRC can ensure that you are paying the correct amount of tax.
Depending on how complicated your affairs are you may be able to complete your accounts and prepare your tax return yourself, and nowadays there are lots of apps and software systems that you can buy that allow you to keep track of your income and expenditure on as regular basis so that it is easy to send the information that HMRC require in a format that suits them.
If your situation is a bit more complex you may want to use an accountant. You can give an accountant a box of receipts and a note of your income and ask him or her to prepare your accounts and complete your return for you, or you can do a lot of the work yourself and just ask your accountant to work out your tax bill and send it to HMRC for you. The cost of using an accountant will depend on what you ask him or her to do for you.
It’s not just the self-employed who have a responsibility to complete a tax return. If you are taxed under the pay as you earn system but have other income that’s HMRC don’t know about, perhaps because it’s investment income, or income from a second job or from renting out a property, then you may also have to complete a tax return and pay additional tax.
And there are some other groups of workers, such as company directors, those who earn over £100,000, and members of Lloyds who have a responsibility to complete a tax return as well.
Remember that completing a tax return can work in your favour if you have paid too much tax elsewhere and have relief to claim because of pension contributions or other expenses. In these cases you might end up with a refund in the form of a cheque or reduced tax bill for next year.
As well as completing your return and getting it to HMRC by the end of the month you also have to ensure that you pay any tax that is due by the end of January. This amount could be in two parts. It is likely to include the balance of tax due for the last tax year as well as a first payment on account for this year. If your income has reduced, or is likely to reduce for this year, then you can ask HMRC to reduce that payment but be aware that if your income doesn’t actually decrease then you could be hit with late payment penalties.
You will have to pay a penalty if you don’t get your return to HMRC by the end of this month, and on top of this you are likely to face further penalties if you don’t pay all of the tax that is due by the 31st January.
A version of this article appeared in The Daily Record on the 24th January 2020.