Tips on how to file your tax return online

5 January 2010

January marks the final deadline for sorting out your tax return. While the last day for HM Revenue and Customs to receive paper returns was 31 October, the deadline for filing it online is 31 January. 

Apart from giving you another three months’ respite, there are many other advantages to filing online. For example, it’s safe and secure, as you’ll be given an encrypted account and password, and online tax returns are also processed faster than paper returns.

Your tax is also worked out automatically as you complete the form, so you know exactly what you owe or are owed straightaway. In addition, if you file online, you’ll get an immediate on-screen acknowledgement that the return’s been received, while receipts are not provided for paper returns.

Make sure you fill out your form before the deadline has passed, as any late form will automatically incur a £100 penalty - and you may be hit with further penalties. Plus, if you pay your tax late, then HMRC will charge interest from the date the tax was due until your payment is received.

If you still haven't paid last year's bill by 28 February, you may be hit with a 5% surcharge, on top of the amount you still owe and in addition to any interest you've been asked to pay. If 31 July rolls by and you've still not paid, another surcharge of 5% may welll be added to your outstanding debt.

However, HMRC will waive these penalties if you have a "reasonable excuse" for missing
the deadline. While there is no hard and fast rule on this, usually the delay must be completely due to an "exceptional or major unexpected event that's outside your control".

For example, if you are suffering a life-threatening illness or if your partner dies shortly before the deadline.

1. Registering

If you haven’t already registered with HM Revenue & Customs’ online service, do so as soon as possible as this process can some time to complete. You should make sure you have registered by 21 January if you don’t want to miss the deadline.

Once you have registered you will be given a User ID and an activation PIN – but this could take around five to seven days to arrive through the post.

2. Organise your information

While you are waiting for your PIN to arrive, it is a good idea to get all your paperwork together. This will make your self-assessment easier to fill in once your account is activated.

Documents to dig out include your employment income, including your P60 and P11D, any interest statements from your bank or building society, and information on dividends from shares.

Don’t forget to collect the details of all your deductions, such as Gift Aid and pension contributions.

3. Filling out your return

As soon as your PIN arrives you should activate your account. If you have time, then make a start of filling out the online return form – you don’t have to complete the whole process in one go, and the sooner you get it done, the sooner you can stop worrying about it.

Make sure you save the information your entered on each screen as you go along. If you make a mistake then don’t worry, as you can always go back and make changes later.

4. Pay your tax

Once you’ve completed your tax return you also need to make sure you keep to another deadline – paying your tax.

You can do this by over the phone or internet, using Direct Debit or by post. However you choose to settle your tax bill, remember that some payments take a few days to clear so leave enough time.

Quick self-assessment tips
HMRC may question any significant changes from your last return, so don’t forget to explain any differences clearly in the section for further information
Once you’ve completed your tax return, make sure you save it property and print off a copy of the receipt
For legal reasons, you should also keep all the information you used to complete your tax return
Before you submit your tax return take a moment to review all the information you’ve entered to check that nothing has been missed, everything makes sense, and figures are correct


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