January 31st is looming: Tips for 2012/13 self-assessment tax returns

HMRC has warned it will take a hard line with taxpayers who miss the 31st of January deadline for completing an online self-assessment tax return, which needs to be returned to HMRC along with any payments you owe for the fiscal year ending in 2013.

Whilst ten million individuals are required to hand in their returns, on the 6th of January 4 million were yet to do so.

Even if you do not owe tax it is imperative you complete and hand in the file so you do not incur a potential penalty of GBP 100.

An instance in which you now have to pay tax (and didn’t for the fiscal year 2011/2012), includes if you received child benefit in the first quarter of 2013 yet one of your household members earned over GBP 50,000.

As of now, any tax return must be filled in online in order to make the deadline.

But remember, to complete your form online you must have been registered by HMRC online services, which requires activation by post (allow approximately two to three days for this).

With this in mind, here are some tips for completing your self-assessment form online for the fiscal year 2012/13.

Top tips

  • If you have lost your user ID, or cannot remember your password, you can find out your details by visiting www.hmrc.gov.uk/onlinehelp.
  • You will need to complete all pages, and re-enter your username and password – before you have completed your self-assessment (something HMRC says doesn’t always take place).
  • Before you begin your assessment, you should read up on the various instances you can claim for. If you are paid via PAYE (the withholding tax on your income payments), you can claim for mileage allowances, charitable donations, professional fees, uniforms and working from home.
  • If you are either freelance or work from home, you can claim for nearly all costs that you pay to keep your business running. This includes, in some instances, gas, electricity and water bills (taken as a proportion of your household bills), your mortgage, broadband and phone, computers and clothing. You can find the full expenses list here: www.hmrc.gov.uk/factsheets/expenses-allowances.pdf.
  • A common mistake many people make whilst filing their return is waiting for a missing figure or calculation. Rather than waiting (and incurring the fine), you should enter an approximate amount – and make it clear that it is an estimated figure. You can inform HMRC at a later date if the figure proves to be incorrect.
  • If you live abroad, you are not required to enter a postcode, and you should leave this field blank.

Worst late tax return excuses

And when you have finished your tax returns, you may want to cast your eye over the following, noted by HMRC as some of the worst excuses they received for filing their tax returns late (and all of whom received a GBP 100 fine for themselves):

  • A builder who was too busy grieving after the death of his pet goldfish
  • A farmer devastated by a run-in with a cow
  • An individual who was too stunned after watching a volcanic eruption on her television
  • A trader whose wife did not pass on the mail
  • A South East gentlemen who did not receive his mail – as he was busy touring the world on his yacht
  • And lastly a financial services firm in Kent, whose late tax return was on account of the fact “it doesn’t really do anything.”