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Filing online tax returns – time is running out

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Friday January 20, 2012 at 6:55pm

We’ve all done it. That letter needs writing; those invoices need filing; that client needs calling. But then, that other thing needs doing too. You know, that really important thing. The one that can’t wait - your annual tax return.

It’s human nature. We put off anything that doesn’t need doing by yesterday. But the problem with filing your online tax return even a few minutes after the deadline, is you’ll be rewarded with an unwelcome fine of £100. This penalty is being applied much more rigorously in 2012 – there is no day’s grace and even if you owe no tax, the fine will still be payable. You will be fined £10 every day after the deadline until your return is submitted. This deadline is fast approaching so if you submit your tax returns online you must make sure this is done by midnight on 31st January.

The dangers of last minute filing online

Unless you enjoy living life on the edge, it’s not a good idea to wait until the last minute to complete your tax return online. Even if you think you have enough time, you may face unexpected problems which prevent you meeting the deadline.

  • The internet is not reliable. We all know this but sometimes we choose to forget. If your connection goes down on the 31st January or you suffer computer problems you will miss the deadline. Whilst you can appeal against your fine and cite such problems as a ‘reasonable excuse’, there is no guarantee this will be accepted. You will have to provide specific evidence and that will take time and effort. 
  • HMRC online system overload. It won’t just be you leaving it until the last minute – in fact, there are currently 3 million UK taxpayers who have not submitted their return. The HMRC site is put under great pressure up to the deadline with tens of thousands of people trying to submit returns. The system can find it difficult to cope and you may have problems logging in or the process could be slow. Again, you can appeal with this as a reasonable excuse, but do you really want to spend time dealing with that? 
  • Get organised before you start. Facts, figures, dates, evidence – there is a lot of information which needs to be to hand when you complete your tax return. If you can’t find a bank statement or a wages slip, you won’t have time to organise a duplicate if you leave it until the last minute and you could face that £100 fine. 
  • Give yourself enough time. Rushed returns are prone to errors and HMRC is intolerant of these. Enter even one digit incorrectly and you could alter the final figure for tax payable. This could leave you open to hefty penalties.

So, it’s not worth the risk. A deadline is a limit, not a target. Make the time to complete your online return before the deadline and avoid these problems. Gather all your documentation, double check your entries and send it on its way with time to spare. Then you can put your feet up and relax, knowing your tax return is out of the way for another year.

Andy Parker 

Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Planner

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Parker Chartered Accountants and Financial Advisors is the trading name for Parker Business Development Ltd (Registered No. 4116664), Parker Tax and Trust Ltd (Registered No. 06950353) and Parker Financial Planning LLP (Registered No. OC347027). Parker Financial Planning LLP is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. All companies are registered in England and Wales – registered office contact details here