There is just over a month left to file your 2019/20 tax return with HMRC, or risk being slapped with a £100 fine.
Around 11.5m people in the UK must complete a tax return for the last tax year which finished on 5 April 2020. The deadline to submit returns is 31 January 2021. Last year, around 960,000 people missed the deadline.
Many people will face a bigger tax bill this January than usual as anyone struggling financially due to coronavirus was offered the option to defer their second payment on account for July (you normally pay tax in two instalments, one on 31 January and one on 1 July.) This deferred payment must be paid in full by 31 January 2021, along with any 2019 to 2020 balancing charge, plus your first 2020 to 2021 payment on account.
Here, we explain who needs to complete a return, how you might be missing out on valuable pension tax relief if you don’t fill one in, what sort of information you’ll need to gather together, and where to go for more help.
Who needs to complete a self-assessment tax return?
You must submit a tax return by 31 January if in the 2019/20 tax year you were:
- Self-employed as a sole trader and you earned more than £1,000
- A partner in a business partnership
- Earning more than £100,000
You may need to send in a tax return if you have any other untaxed income such as:
- money from renting out a property, or from tips or commission
- income from savings, investments and dividends that aren’t held in an ISA.
If the untaxed income you receive is less than £2,500, you might not have to complete a tax return but you will still need to contact HMRC on 0300 200 3300 to report it.
If you’ve made a capital gain in the past tax year which is more than the annual exemption for 2019/20 of £12,000, you may also need to submit a tax return. You’ll have a capital gain if you sell, give away, exchange or otherwise dispose of an asset and make a profit or ‘gain’ on what you paid for it.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether you need to submit a tax return or not. If you’re not sure, it’s always worth checking to avoid any potential fines later down the line. You can check on the Gov.uk website or call the HMRC Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310. The staff are usually very helpful, but since January is their busiest month due to the tax return deadline, be prepared to wait a while to speak to an advisor. Remember too that if you’ve never sent a return before, you’ll need to allow 10 working days to register, so it’s a good idea not to leave things to the last minute. There are different ways to register depending on whether you’re a sole trader, not self-employed or are registering a partner or partnership. You can find information on how to register along with the required links to enable you to do so here.
Make sure you claim any additional tax relief you are entitled to
Even if none of these apply to you, you can still choose to fill in a tax return to claim certain income tax reliefs, such as tax relief on pension contributions, charity donations, or on work or business expenses. In some cases, you may not even need to fill in a tax return to claim these reliefs. If you do not otherwise need to fill in a Self Assessment Tax return, you can sometimes make a claim simply by calling HMRC’s Income Tax helpline on 0300 200 3300 with your National Insurance number and details of your pension contributions or Charitable payments to hand. HMRC may be able to process these over the phone, but will tell you what you need to do if they are unable to in your specific circumstances.
These reliefs can be very valuable if you are a higher rate tax payer. For example, if you contribute to a personal pension that uses the ‘relief at source’ methodology (as opposed to a ‘net pay arrangement’), your pension provider will usually claim back income tax at 20% and add it to your pension savings, so that for every £80 you contribute, you end up with £100 in your pension. If you pay income tax at the 40% rate however, you’re eligible to claim back an extra 20% (or £20 in the above example) on all your pension contributions – but you will need to claim this back through your tax return or by calling HMRC on 0300 200 3300.
Similarly, if you’ve made a donation to charity, an additional 20% in tax relief can go automatically to the charity as long as you completed a Gift Aid declaration when you make the donation. If you’re a higher or additional rate taxpayer, you can then claim back an extra 20% or 25% in tax relief via your tax return or by calling HMRC.
Information you’ll need to complete your return
Gathering all the paperwork you’ll need to complete your return in advance can make the whole process much easier.
If you’re self-employed, you’ll need:
- Your accounts for the year, plus invoices and receipts showing any expenses you’ve incurred.
If you’re employed, you’ll need:
- A P60 form showing your earnings for the year and a P11D form showing any company benefits (such as medical insurance or a car allowance) you received in the year, both of which should have been given to you by your employer. You’ll also need payslips and details of any share options you might have.
If you received any income from savings or investments, you’ll need:
- Any dividend vouchers, as well as interest certificates from banks or building societies. Remember you don’t have to declare any interest from money held in an ISA.
If you’re a landlord, you’ll need:
- Rent records and details of any allowable expenses, which are things you need to spend money on when running the property, such as buildings and contents insurance, and maintenance and repairs to the property.
If the thought of completing a tax return makes you want to weep, it might be worth hiring a chartered accountant to fill it in on your behalf, and if it avoids a potential fine then it might prove more cost effective than you think! You can find a qualified chartered accountant in your local area using the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ (ICAEW) directory of chartered accountants.
What happens if you don’t get your tax return in on time
If you’re required to submit a tax return and miss the 31 January deadline, HMRC will automatically issue you with a £100 fine. You’ll be charged this even if you don’t owe any tax.
If your return is three months late, you’ll be charged a daily penalty of £10 per day for up to 90 days (up to a maximum of £900) and if it is six months late, you’ll have to pay a further £300 or 5% of the tax you owe, whichever is greater. The penalties continue to mount up after this, so try to get your return in as soon as you possibly can.
If you miss the deadline and are hit with a penalty, it may be cancelled or reduced if you have a reasonable excuse, for example you had an unexpected stay in hospital that stopped you sorting out your tax affairs, or a fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return.
You can download help sheets and guidance to help you complete your tax return here. You can also call HMRC’s self-assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310 if you need advice or help on any sections. Remember, if you’re not sure whether you need to complete one or not, you can check online, or it may be worth calling HMRC to check ahead of the deadline – it will hopefully help avoid any potential fines, and give you peace of mind….
Have you ever missed the 31 January tax deadline, or are you worried about how you’ll pay your tax bill this year? You can join the Money conversation on our Community forum or leave a comment below.