Five last-minute tips for filing your online tax return

Tax return

The deadline for filing your online self-assessment tax return for additional income received in the 2012/13 tax year (and paying what you owe) is 31 January 2014. 

If you file your tax return late, you will incur late filing penalties (see below). In addition, interest will be charged on anything owed and unpaid from the due date until the debt is settled. Penalties for late payment will also begin to apply once the tax is more than 30 days overdue.

The late-filing penalties are as follows:

  • One day late = A fixed penalty of £100, which applies even if you have no tax to pay or have paid the tax you owe.
  • Three months late = £10 for each following day, up to a 90 day maximum of £900. This is as well as the fixed penalty above.
  • Six months late = £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher. This is as well as the penalties above.
  • 12 months late = £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher. In serious cases you may be asked to pay up to 100% of the tax due instead. In some cases the penalties can be even higher than this. These are as well as the penalties above.

Also, remember that if you miss the deadline, HMRC may estimate the tax you owe and you will also have to pay any penalties due for missing the tax return deadline.

So to avoid hefty fines, it's time to get organised. Jo Nockels from TaxAssist Accountants has five last-minute tips for anyone worrying about meeting the deadline:

1. Apply for access to HMRC's online filing system

Those who have not registered for Self Assessment Online must do so as quickly as possible, because it can take up to seven working days. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will send you an activation code in the post.

However, if you don't have seven days to wait for the code, it may be possible for an accountant to file your tax return.

2. Get your paperwork together

It's much easier to tackle your tax return if you have everything to hand. This may include information about:

  • Income from employment – you will need your P45 or P60, together with any P11Ds. And don't forget, you should include any tips you've received too.
  • Expenses – when you're employed you may have to pay expenses out of your own pocket in order to do your job. You may be able to claim for some or all of these expenses (such as your phone bill or the cost of computer equipment) to reduce the tax you'll have to pay.

For more information on expenses, see

  • Self-employment income – receipts, bank statements and invoices will be required as a minimum.
  • Benefit payments – some state benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance and Incapacity Benefit are taxable.
  • Pension income received and any tax paid on it - remember the state pension is taxable.
  • Investment income – such as bank interest or dividends.
  • Income from property – record details of the income you've received and the expenses you've paid from letting out property.
  • Tax reliefs – don't forget to enter details of any tax reliefs available to you, such as pension contributions or donations made under the Gift Aid scheme.

3. Don't panic

If you are missing figures and you can't get copies of the paperwork in time, as a last resort you could estimate the figures on your tax return but you must tell HMRC if any figures are estimated (i.e. to be treated as final) or provisional. If you provide actual figures at a later date and you've underpaid tax there may be interest and penalties to pay.

4. Find a quiet corner

Find yourself an empty room, turn your mobile phone off and don't answer the landline if it rings. If you get distracted or rush your tax return, you could risk making a mistake, which could lead to you paying the incorrect amount of tax. The common errors are to omit figures altogether or swap digits around, so before you hit 'submit', make sure you double-check your figures.

5. Pay your tax before the deadline

Whether you filed your 2012/13 tax return on paper or online, the deadline for paying your tax is the same – 31 January 2014. There are a variety of payment methods available, including Direct Debit, BillPay, CHAPS, at the Post Office or even cash or cheque using a Bank Giro. Allow time for these to clear and any time you may require to transfer between different back accounts.

If you are unable to pay the full amount by 31 January, telephone the HMRC Payment Helpline on 0300 200 3401. HMRC may be able to arrange a payment plan with you, but it will question why you cannot pay and are unlikely to help you if you're tax is already late.

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