It’s that time of year again! Christmas and New Year are already a distant memory, the promise of spring is just around the corner, although the temperature says otherwise! and the deadline for tax returns looms on the horizon. Emma Potter gives us some tips and takes us through the information you need to have to hand to just get it done.

1. Register for on-line services

If you’re not already registered for self-assessment and should be, you need to do so immediately. HMRC have warned that first time self-assessors must register with their on-line services 10 days before the 31 January deadline, but if it’s the first time you’ve filed on-line you’ll need to wait to receive a Unique Taxpayer Reference through the post, which will apply to all your records and should be quoted on any payments or correspondence. You only have longer than this if you’ve received a letter, telling you to send a tax return, after 31 October. In this case you’ll have three months from the date you received that letter.

2. Get what you need to hand

You’ll need to list any income received in your return, less any allowable business expenses. The HMRC website offers advice on what to include but the list below gives some of the general paperwork you’ll need:

  • Business P&L from all your invoices raised and received, bank and credit card records, payroll and finance paperwork.
  • Records of any expenses incurred working at home e.g. a proportion of utility and telephone bills
  • Bank Interest certificates
  • Dividend vouchers
  • Paperwork regarding payments into a pension scheme
  • Receipts for donations under gift aid
  • Records of any purchases or sales of assets, both for capital allowances and capital gains.
  • Portfolio statements
  • Notification regarding any state aid.
  • Tax paid on account
  • Details of any income you’ve received from employment, shown on P45’s/P60’s
  • Benefits, P9Ds/P11Ds from employers

It’s good practice to keep your business and tax related paperwork for 6 years in case of queries or inspections.

3. Do some calculations off-line

From the HMRC website you can print out the basic tax return form plus any supplementary forms you need – there is a tick-list on the front of the main return which will indicate the required additions. Going through your return on this printed copy can be a good idea as it allows time to ensure everything is correct, you’re then ready to file on-line without the system timing out when you’re at a crucial point!

Always round income down to the nearest pound, expenses up to the nearest pound and tax paid to the nearest pound.

If a box does not apply to you, leave it empty; do not write anything other than what’s asked.

If you don’t have exact figures you can use an estimate which HMRC will accept as your final figure or a provisional figure which can be adjusted when you confirm the actual amount. Use the ‘Additional Information’ section to say how you’ve arrived at estimate or provisional figures and why you can’t use actuals. You’ll need to tell the Revenue when you have the accurate figures and if you make adjustments at a later date and you’ve underpaid tax you may have to pay interest and penalties.

Any income that has already been taxed must still be declared on your return, then deduct the tax taken at source before the calculating the final amount due on your return.

4. Get help now if you need it

If you’re not sure about anything regarding your return both the Revenue’s website or helpline are available – 0845 900 0444, have your unique taxpayer reference when you call

Once you’ve filed your return you’ll receive an automatic acknowledgement and find out what you owe or are due back. You then need to make any payments due so that they are received by the 31 January if you want to avoid penalties. If your tax liability is over £1000 or not much of your tax is collected at source you may be asked to make an instalment for the following year’s tax, as well as this years. If you don’t send your return by the deadline HMRC may estimate the tax you owe, which will have to be paid along with any interest due to late payment and any penalties for missing the tax return deadline.

5. Get help for next year!

If, like most of us, you are busy with other peoples businesses and your own falls to the bottom of the list then next year consider enlisting the services of another virtual assistant to prepare your return, and even to do your book-keeping throughout the year.  This is after all what virtual assistants pride themselves on, helping other businesses use their time and skills to their best advantage.

I hope all this helps point you in the right direction and make the return seem like a less onerous task – I know I might be asking for miracles here! If nothing else we can all look forward to February…

Emma Potter
Expedio Virtual Assistance