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4 Jan 2022

How many people filed their tax return at Christmas?

Thousands used the festive break to file - here's how to make the process easier if you haven't submitted your 2020-21 return yet

More than 31,000 people filed their 2020-21 self-assessment tax return to HMRC between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, with 2,828 choosing to submit on Christmas Day.

Festive finances have become more popular; Christmas Day filers are up from 2,700 in 2020.

The majority of people who tackled their tax on 25 December did so between 12:00 and 12:59, when 227 returns were received - perhaps filling some time while the turkey was in the oven. The busiest period, however, was between 11:00 and 11:59 on Christmas Eve, when 2,914 returns were filed.

Read on for tips to make filing your tax return easier, whenever you choose to do it.

Christmas Eve most popular day to file

Over the festive period, Christmas Eve saw the most tax return submissions, with 19,802 taxpayers deciding to file. This is down from 2020, when a record 22,200 people filed their return the day before Christmas.

Boxing Day saw 8,641 submissions; the busiest time was between 12:00 and 12:59 when 821 returns were received.

While the thought of sorting your tax return might be the last thing you want to do over Christmas, these festive filers have the benefit of knowing how much tax they need to pay by 31 January, while being safe in the knowledge they won't be charged a late filing fee.

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How to make tax returns less taxing

It's not anyone's favourite task, but there are plenty of ways to make submitting your tax return a bit easier this year.

Get everything you need in one place

If you hunt down all of your documents before you start, you won't have to interrupt the process of filling out your tax return every time you need to check a number or code.

What you'll need depends on your circumstances, but as a starting point, you'll definitely need your National Insurance number and your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number.

Then, you'll likely need documents such as bank statements, invoices, receipts, your 2020-21 P60, any P45s you have for the tax year, student loan statement, pension statements, and tenancy agreements.

Set aside some distraction-free time

It's important to get yourself some time when you can concentrate on your tax return, as you need to make sure that all of the information you submit is correct.

We've previously reported that the largest proportion of underpaid tax is due to careless human error, meaning that you could end up having to pay more tax than you thought - plus, HMRC may charge fines if it believes someone has not taken 'reasonable care' to submit an accurate tax return.

Estimate any missing figures

If you find that some figures you need for your tax return are missing, don't run the risk of filing late to wait for them.

Instead, you can submit estimated or provisional figures, and update your return when you receive the accurate information - but you should indicate to HMRC if you are doing this.

The figures you submit should be your best estimate, as HMRC may charge fines if it believes your figures are deliberately misleading.

Don't leave it to the last minute

While HMRC's final deadline to receive your return is midnight on 31 January 2022, note that the tax you owe for the 2020-21 tax year will also be due at the same time.

If you don't submit your return until the very last minute, your tax payment might be late - particularly if you choose a payment method that takes several days to reach HMRC.

To avoid any chance of being issued with a late fine, or interest on the tax you owe, avoid waiting until 31 January to act.

If you're unable to pay your tax bill

The tax due for 2020-21 should be paid to HMRC by midnight on 31 January 2022. However, if you know you're not going to be able to cover what you owe, you may be able to set up a Time to Pay arrangement online.

To be eligible, you must:

  • have already filed your 2020-21 tax return
  • owe less than £30,000 in tax
  • be within 60 days of the 31 January payment deadline
  • plan to pay off the tax debt in the next 12 months or less.

You'll need your government gateway login details and can set this arrangement up online.

If you owe more than £30,000, or need longer to pay, contact the self-assessment payment helpline on 0300 200 3822.

Complete your 2020-21 return with the Which? tax calculator

Which?'s online tax calculator tool offers a quick and easy way to find out how much tax you owe.

After inputting your income and outgoings, it can suggest expenses and allowances you might have forgotten - plus, when you're finished, you can also submit your return directly to HMRC.

Try it for yourself at which.co.uk/taxcalculator.