Why file an old-fashioned paper form? Well, if you submit a paper return to HMRC before midnight on the 31st of October 2013 they calculate your tax for you. They can also let you know the amount you need to pay by the 31st January 2014, and if it’s less than £2,000, may be able to collect the money through your tax code rather than in lump sum. So there are still benefits to filing this way.
Filling in a paper self-assessment form is a time-consuming process, so if you’ve opted to take pen to paper and are in a rush to get it finished, here are some tips to beat the deadline:
• Where you do not have the exact figures needed, put in estimates. HMRC advise you to do this. Ensure estimates are as accurate as possible and comment on the form that figures are ‘provisional’. Exact figures will be needed at a later stage but providing educated estimates will save precious time.
• If you do not have a P60 form from your employer your most recent pay slip is likely to contain much of the same information. Bank statements can also disclose much of what you need to know – general income, how much you paid in pension contributions, charitable donations, and such.
• Do not forget to declare the interest you received from your bank. Your September statement will often show how much interest you received over the last year, so that’s the most important one to look at. Your bank is generally able to provide this information over the phone.
• Similarly, you must declare dividends received from shares or similar investments. This rule applies whether dividends were received as cash or were reinvested. If you do not have a personalised dividend certificate, the fund manager or company will normally list the dividend paid per share on its website. Multiply that by the current number of shares you own to work out the dividend you received.
• If you receive rent on a buy to let property, don’t forget to declare it. Annual income from this should be easy to calculate and you can claim mortgage interest and a wear and tear allowance against it, as well as any other bills for repairs or maintenance incurred. If you don’t have exact amounts for any of this put forward an educated estimate and locate the precise details for filing with HMRC at a later date, which is likely to be at their specification.
• Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, if you cannot find the relevant paper statements or receipts, you may be able to get the information you need over the phone or online.
• Remember to deduct all eligible expenses. HMRC allow you to take into account certain costs, such as student loan repayments and personal pension contributions, when submitting the Self Assessment tax return. Remembering to include these costs as it can make a considerable difference to your tax bill. You can use provisional figures here also, but remember to declare them as such.
• If your business’ annual turnover was less than £70,000 you need only fill out the ‘short’ form, which is only a few pages long. The ‘full’ form needs details of any UK savings and investments, pensions, annuities and benefits, life insurance gains and AVC refunds and any other taxable income.
Before you mail your completed form, be sure to photocopy the whole thing, in case it gets lost in the post. HMRC won’t acknowledge receipt, but will let you know when your form’s been processed.
If you’re in need of additional help, call the Self Assessment Helpline on 0845 900 0444 (note that it’s only open until 8pm in the evening). Phone lines will be very busy today, call sooner rather than later if you can, and you’ll need your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number to hand.
John Hoskin is a director of CleverAccounts.com, an online accountancy firm that seeks to simplify business accountancy. By paying a fixed monthly fee, small businesses, limited companies, sole traders, freelancers and contractors have access to accountancy and tax planning services, simple-to-use online bookkeeping and taxation advice, 24/7 access to business figures and simplified tax return completion and filing.