Taxpayers have less than a week to submit their 2014-15 self-assessment tax return.
Don’t risk a £100 fine – read our tips on how to beat the 31 January deadline.
You can send your 2014-15 self-assessment return right at the last minute and still escape a fine. HMRC received over 4m tax returns during January last year, with 980,000 of these being sent on the last two days of the month.
How to submit a tax return quickly
In a recent Which? survey, 75% of taxpayers said that completing their tax return took them up to three hours, while a further 10% said it took them even longer. However, there are ways to speed up the process.
1. Use the Which? tax calculator
The free Which? tax calculator allows you to run through your tax figures before you submit them to HMRC. Our helpnotes give clear guidance on what to declare, tax-deductible expenses you can claim and how to pay tax on investments.
2. Get clued up on your expenses and allowances
If you’re self-employed, you can claim certain expenses against your tax bill.
Not all business expenses qualify though, and it can be time-consuming to work out exactly what you’re entitled to.
Our guide on tax-allowable expenses for the self-employed makes it clear what expenses you can claim.
If you receive income from renting out a property or a spare room, our guide on tax-allowable expenses for landlords should prove useful too.
Which? members can access a series of short video FAQs on both of these pages, which make it even easier to calculate what you owe.
3. Provide provisional figures if necessary
One scenario that commonly slows taxpayers down is not having all the figures they need. Even if you’re still waiting for a bank statement or you can’t find key paperwork from your pension provider, there’s no reason to miss the tax return deadline.
It’s possible to use provisional figures on the return, so long as you indicate this is what you’ve done. Provisional figures are ones you’ll be able to get paperwork to confirm later. Estimated figures, which you may also submit, are those you won’t be able to confirm in this way.
Last minute submissions
Provided you are set up to submit an online tax return, there is no reason to miss the deadline. To log on you normally need a valid user ID and password. You should activate your account with the code you were sent by HMRC.
If you’ve lost your log-in details, it is still possible to log on however, using HMRC’s new digital verification service– verify. This uses third parties, such as Experian or the Post Office to check your ID. It also gives you access to a digital tax account.
Better late than never
When you submit your online return, wait for an acknowledgement to appear on the screen and make a note of the submission receipt reference number. You should also receive an email acknowledgement from HMRC. This is proof that you met the 31 January deadline.
If you fail to meet this deadline, there are very few excuses HMRC will accept. Examples include the death of a partner shortly before the tax deadline, an unexpected stay in hospital, or a fire which prevented you from completing your return.
In December 2015 HMRC set up a telephone helpline (0800 904 7900) for anyone affected by severe weather and floods. It’s designed to enable anyone affected to get practical help and advice.
Even if you miss the January deadline, it’s still worth submitting your tax return as quickly as possible or you run the risk of further fines. In cases of difficulty, you can get advice from HMRC’s self-assessment helpline (0300 200 3310).