The Self Assessment Countdown Is On!

Sunday December 1, 2019

If you file your Self Assessment tax returns online, then the hard deadline for your next one is the 31st of January 2020. Of course, you have to be registered well in advance if you’re new to the Self Assessment game. That means you’ll need a decent run-up to get your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number from HMRC. It takes a while and they’ll only send it to you by post, so don’t leave it until the Christmas rush really kicks off before getting registered.

Keep in mind that you might need to file a Self Assessment return even if you don’t consider yourself “self-employed”. Even just having a hobby selling a few things online can count as running a business, if you’re doing enough of it. Generally speaking, if you’re making over £1,000 a year like this, you’ll need to file a tax return to tell HMRC about the income – and possibly the expenses as well. Depending on your circumstances, you might also need to declare the cash you’ve got coming in when you’re renting out a room or property, getting commission or tips at work or have any income from abroad or from investments and savings.

Even assuming you’re all set up, you’ll still want to avoid putting your tax returns at the bottom of your Christmas list. The closer we get to the deadline, the more rushed things get at HMRC. Also, if you leave it all to the last minute, you’ll have no leeway in case illness, technical mishap or other crises throw a spanner in your tax return’s works. The taxman’s list of valid excuses for missing a deadline is a short one, but his list of penalties is a lot longer. There's an automatic fine of £100 if you're late with your filing, even if you don't actually owe any tax - and those fines go up sharply if you're severely late. Depending on the situation, you might even find HMRC making its own calculations or estimates about how much you owe. Needless to say, that can go badly for you in a hurry.

Another thing to watch out for is the taxman’s separate deadline for people who want to file their Self Assessment returns on paper. In fact, if that was your plan and you haven’t done it yet, you’re already too late. The deadline for paper returns was the 31st of October, so jump online and get your digital return sorted as quickly as possible. Have a chat with RIFT if you need help.

Look – we get it. The last thing you want to be worrying about at this time of year is tax paperwork. Make no mistake, though –if you haven’t filed your Self Assessment return yet then the taxman is spending a lot of his time worrying about you. 2,000 people actually took time out of Christmas Day 2018 to submit their tax returns – which makes you wonder how bad the sprouts must’ve been that year. Do your digestion a favour and get it done well in time – and remember to come to RIFT with any problems, worries or questions you’ve got.

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