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7 tips to get your Self Assessment tax return right

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Make sure you submit your self-assessment tax return by the 31 January deadline

If you haven’t submitted your Self Assessment tax return to HMRC yet, don’t panic. There’s still time to file your tax return for the 2019/20 tax year, which ended on 5 April 2020.

While the deadline to submit your tax return via paper has passed (this was 31 October 2020), you have until midnight on 31 January 2021 to file your Self Assessment tax return online.

However, as a one-off measure for the 2019/20 tax year, you can submit your Self Assessment tax return as late as midnight on 28 February 2021 without incurring a penalty.

To help you get this done on time, and so you avoid a penalty, Jonathan Wingfield of Ensors Chartered Accountants shares seven pieces of advice for self-employed business owners.

1. Get into good habits early on

As soon as you start your business, keep accurate, up-to-date records of your income and expenditure as you move through the year.

Using accounting software to automate your record keeping can make life much easier, especially when it’s time to complete your Self Assessment tax return.

2. Carry out a monthly reconciliation

Compare your income and expenditure with business bank statements to ensure your records are correct. In other words, make sure your bank balance as per your records tallies with the actual bank statement.

This will ensure any human errors are easily and quickly identified and you can be sure at year-end all the figures you send to HMRC are correct and complete.

3. Complete your tax return as soon as you can

If you realise you are missing some information that is needed to complete your Self Assessment tax return, you’ll be able to save the work you’ve done and come back to completing your return online once you’ve collected the information you need.

And completing your tax return in good time will also mean you’ll know how much tax you owe early enough.

Read more about Self Assessment

4. Don’t be late

Make sure you submit your Self Assessment tax return before the deadline.

Any late submissions are likely to result in an immediate £100 penalty and this increases after three months.

You’re also liable for interest on outstanding sums, so it’s better to pay your Self Assessment tax bill on time.

5. Claim all expenses to which you’re entitled

These will be ‘offered’ as you move through the form online but it’s wise to know what expenses you can claim for when you’re self-employed before you start filling in the form, especially if it’s your first time.

6. Avoid mistakes and inaccuracies

Don’t try to claim expenses to which you are not entitled, whether deliberately or not. The penalties for false claims can be severe, as can failure to declare income (which can lead to prosecution).

Using accurate records that are up to date usually ensures the accuracy of your self-assessment tax return and bill. Take your time when inputting figures and double-check them.

If you make a mistake on your return, you normally get 12 months from 31 January after the end of the tax year to correct it (called ‘an amendment’).

7. Get an accountant to do it for you

I would say that – wouldn’t I? However, an experienced accountant will make sure things are done correctly, promptly and with far less hassle for you.

In addition, they’ll ensure you claim for everything you’re entitled to claim for, which will help to minimise your tax bill.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in January 2019 and has been updated for relevance.

Boss your tax returns with our Self Assessment guide

Is filing your Self Assessment tax return a struggle or is it the first time you're doing it? Check out our step-by-step guide, which covers what you need to know.

Download your free guide

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