How to deal with HMRC when it comes to your tax return

Notice the timing of this blog post. Not in January. And early enough in October that you have plenty of time if you want to file a paper tax return.

Every year, I’m astounded by the number of people that leave it to the last minute, and have this mad panic on self-assessment deadline day.

There is SO much time to file a tax return, you really don’t need to leave it to the last minute.
So here’s the thing. I’m writing it now to try and give those of you that are 31 January panickers a kick and say, ‘you know what? How about doing it now? Take your time over it, ensure you’ve included everything you need to, and then file it, and forget about it’.

I get why some people do put it off, it can seem like such a daunting task to do. And it doesn’t help that HMRC aren’t the easiest people to deal with, although I have to admit there are more online resources than ever to help you – webinars, You Tube videos, guides and other informative FAQs etc. so there is a wealth of information to help you through the process.

I would also advise using these first before you try and jump on the self-assessment helpline – it can be a good long wait before you speak to them (and it’ll only get longer the closer to the deadline you get) so it really can be a huge chunk of time out of your day, and not good for your blood pressure either!

So here’s what to do. Check you are registered with HMRC to file an online tax return (if you want to do it that way, or will end up filing it past 31 October). If you have already done it this way once, you don’t need to register again. But if you haven’t, then you need to register. This takes time, so DO IT NOW! You’ll need your 10 digit UTR code which you received when you first registered for self-assessment. Once you’ve filled in the form, you’ll need to wait for an activation code to arrive in the post, which could take 7 days. So don’t hang about.

Knowing what HMRC need from you means you can start collecting all the information together, and tracking down anything you might be missing.

So gather together, all your invoices, your accounts for the year (cash flow document etc), receipts and list of all expenses.
If you are employed but receiving other income, you’ll also need your P60, P11D, payslips and other details such as share options
If you own a property and are renting it out, you’ll also need details of the rent received, receipts for costs you’ve paid out for repairs, furniture etc as well as details of the mortgage, insurance etc.

If you receive income from investments too, then you’ll also need details of this to hand.

So you can see it’s not going to be a quick 5 minute job!

Once you have all that together, then it comes to filling the actual form out. In theory, this should be straight forward, but it can be difficult to know which figures go where!

Of course, my advice is going to be to seek an accountant to do this for you, you’ll still have to gather together all the information, but seriously, we’ve filled out more self-assessment forms than we’ve had hot dinners, so we could save you HOURS all for a nominal fee. It really is worth doing.

Overall the advice for dealing with HMRC is to keep records of everything, if it’s not needed, then that’s ok, but if it is, and you haven’t got it? Then you are in trouble.

And then for next year? Start as you mean to go one. Get spreadsheets set up, download an app for your phone so you can scan receipts in, keep up to date on a weekly basis, and then you won’t ever be daunted by a tax return ever again!