Self-assessment is the process by which people file their own tax returns to the HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) who calculate how much income tax is owed.
Tax is usually collected automatically through wages using the PAYE system, or deducted from the interest on pensions or savings accounts. The self-assessment process is typically used by people who run their own businesses or receive income from other sources such as share dividends. Self-assessment also applies to those who accept child benefit support.
Filling In Your Tax Return
If you need to file a tax return, then a notification will be sent to you at some point following the end of the previous tax year. The tax year runs from April 6th of one year to April 5th of the following year. You then have several months in which to file your return.
You can choose to fill in your tax return online or complete a paper form SA1000 to be sent through the post.
Online tax returns must be filed by January 31st 2016 for the tax year that ended on April 5th 2015.
If this is your first time filling in a tax return online, don’t leave it to the last minute. In fact it is recommended that you register for self-assessment by at least October 5th following the tax year you wish to file for. This is because the registration process to use the online service takes at least 20 working days.
For those of you who would like to have your tax collected through your tax code in the PAYE system or from your pension, you will need to have returned your form a month earlier, by the 30th December 2015.
Assistance With Completing The Form
If you’re tackling the forms for the first time, they can seem a little overwhelming. Make sure that you keep and gather all relevant documentation before you begin the process. This includes your National Insurance number, receipts, bills and bank statements. It may be worth hiring an accountant to assist you in filing your tax return. This will spare you some time and may also save you some money as an accountant will deduct allowable expenses from your bill that you may not have been aware of.
Other advice is easily obtainable from the general Self-Assessment enquiries helpline on 0300 200 3310 or +44 161 931 9070 if you’re calling outside of the UK. They are available from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm on a Saturday and are closed on Sundays and bank holidays. However, it is worth noting that if you call at peak periods near to deadline dates, then you can expect your call to be kept in a queue for a lengthy period of time.
There are certain situations where it is necessary to file a tax return even if you don’t owe any tax. For instance, those who earn less than the Personal Allowance limit wouldn’t normally have anything to pay.
The fines for not filing your tax return on time are fairly hefty. An automatic fine of £100 kicks in immediately after midnight on the 31st January and there are then subsequent fines at different points over the next twelve months.
With the total cost for not filing your return amounting to £1,600 regardless of how much tax you owe, it’s vital that you start 2016 off on the right foot and file your return online by January 31st.
- License: Image author owned
Linda Carr is the founder of Linda Carr Accountants, a Chartered Certified Firm of accountants based in Peterborough, which was established in 2009. Linda recognises the need for SME’s to be able to access a reliable accountant at an affordable price.