The two things in life that are absolute certainties are death and taxes, so the saying goes. You can’t do anything to stave off your own mortality, but you can take control of your taxation obligations with a little bit of knowhow, a healthy amount of common sense and a bit of help from some good quality accounting software. So if you’re facing the challenge of filling in your own tax returns for the first time this year, what should you be aware of?
#1 – Know your dates – The end of January is the big one for self-assessment, as forms need to be submitted by 14th and the first payment needs to be registered by the 31st if you are to avoid fines for late payments. The 31st is also the last day to file your 2012 Tax Return online without incurring penalties.
Throughout the year there are key dates that should be marked in your tax calendar. The best thing to do to make sure you’re complying with all legislation and that your returns are handed in on time is to check out the HMRC website, where you’ll find a complete list of important UK tax dates.
#2 – Set up an email alarm system – to make doubly sure you’re doing everything on time, why not set up an email alarm system to notify you when you need to be aware of an upcoming important tax date? Good quality account software can help you do this by linking up with your email account and sending you notifications when necessary.
#3 – Don’t leave it all to the last minute! – By doing your accounts ‘little and often’ throughout the year, you don’t end up with a pile of receipts, some scribbled notes on your monthly income and a headache to wade through two days before your tax return is due! Invest in some good quality account software to take the pressure off, and do your books on a weekly basis to keep everything up to date.
#4 – Don’t be afraid to talk to the taxman – first time self-assessors have a morbid fear of making direct contact with ‘The Taxman’. In fact, the Inland Revenue is there to help you, especially if you are struggling to understand tax law for the first time. So if you have a question don’t be afraid to call your local tax office and talk to one of their advisers, who will go through the process with you and answer any queries you might have. It’s better to get it right first time than end up being penalised for a mistake that could have been avoided with a phone call and a bit of simple advice from HMRC.
#5 – Get a good accountant – Doing your own tax return can be a daunting prospect, especially if it’s your first time. So if you really can’t make head or tail of your returns and are worried about getting it wrong, hand everything over to an accountant. Ask friends who are self-employed if they can recommend a good accountant, and look at the money you spend employing their services as an investment in your business, rather than an expense!