If the thought of filling in your tax return sets your teeth on edge, you’re not alone. Some 41% of people say they fear their self-assessment more than a trip to the dentist, new Which? data reveals.
The deadline for submitting your tax return is 31 January, less than a month away. In the lead- up, Which? explains how to take the pain out of your tax return this year.
Chores or tax returns?
Most of us (53%) find tax returns more of a chore than jobs like cleaning the bathroom, or ironing, the Which? survey found.
But we won’t quite do anything to avoid our taxes. The annual return is slightly less feared than dirty jobs like cleaning an oven (49%) or unblocking a drain (47%).
There’s even a significant number of people (23%) who’d rather fill out their taxes than visit their in-laws, which could explain why HMRC recently announced 6,000 completed their return on Christmas day.
Tax doesn’t need to be taxing
As with many unpleasant or tedious tasks, you might well find the fear of your tax return is worse than the job itself.
The majority (59%) of self-assessment taxpayers say they actually find it quite easy, though admittedly around a fifth (19%) say it causes them some hassle.
The vast majority of people say that once they sit down, their tax return takes less than three hours. For a nifty 29% they’ve whittled the process down to under an hour.
Take the pain out of your tax return
Missing the 31 January deadline for online returns will cost you at least £100, and the costs can rise into the thousands for the worst offenders – so, leaving it until the last minute could prove stressful and costly.
If you want to settle your tax bill by credit card you’ve got even less time, as HMRC bans personal credit card payments next week.
The key to making the process run smoothly is to get your paperwork in order before you begin – 44% of people who file taxes say gathering details of income, expenses, invoices and other evidence is the biggest hassle of the process.
But there are a lot of people who find HMRC’s jargon tricky too. In our survey, 34% of self-assessment taxpayers said getting their head around HMRC’s forms is the biggest hassle, and another 10% are slowed down by trying to understand the terminology.
There’s plenty of tools and services to help speed things up, or make it easier. Personal finance software, apps or websites like the Which? Tax Calculator can cut out the jargon.
If you want, you can track expenses and receipts as you go. This makes submitting your return as simple as giving it a once over and pressing submit.
Top tips to submit your returns in January 2018:
The key to no-hassle tax filing is advance preparation:
- Keep track of your expenses and receipts. Personal finance software, apps or websites can help you track your expenses and invoices as you receive them through the year, so you don’t spend the end of the year drowning in receipts. Find out what information you need in advance.
- Get your head around the self-assessment process before you’re up against the deadline. Our guide to self-assessment can help you understand what’s required – and we have additional information for the self-employed, investors, landlords or pensioners.
- Know your deadlines: Your final chance to file your tax return is 31 January 2017, unless HMRC has told you otherwise. But if you want tax to be withheld from your pay, you’ll need to file by 30 December. And remember you’ll now have to file online – the deadline for paper returns was 31 October.
- Consider using an online tool: You’re able to file unassisted directly with HMRC. But if you want a helping hand, there are a number of online tools that can streamline the process – including the easy-to-use, jargon-free Which? Tax calculator