Here are our Top 10 tips to keep you on the happy side of Self Assessment.
10. Paperwork: keep it neat!
Avoid the last minute stress of digging through bags of random receipts, by storing them in some semblance of order. A simple and easy way to do this is getting a cheap exercise book and pasting your receipts in order as you go. If you keep electronic copies of invoices, use a consistent file-naming system and keep them in one place on your PC (and don't forget to back up!).
If you're self-employed, make and maintain a simple spreadsheet. We promise you life will be a lot easier come Self Assessment time. It doesn't have to be flash, just one page for income and one for your expenses. If your paperwork is nice and tidy, then it should only take a few minutes every couple of weeks to keep your spreadsheet up to date. You'll thank yourself come tax return time!
An obvious one, we know. But so much stress could be saved if you stick to your saving plan. As a rule of thumb, it's recommended you put aside a third of your income. This covers all eventualities, and it's unlikely you'll have to use it all. Which means a little bit left over for the nicer things in life!
If you're new to all this, did you know that HMRC require you to pay an amount of tax in advance twice a year? The amount, called your 'payment on account', is calculated using your tax bill from the previous year. The first half is due in January with your previous year's tax bill, and the second half is due at the end of July.
Make sure you know what you can claim, and how to claim it. You may have office costs like stationery and phone bills you can take off your taxable income, as well as travel costs, clothing expenses and staff costs. Equipment, machinery and business vehicles can be claimed as capital allowances and if you work from home, some of your household running costs can be claimed, too!
Before you can submit your Self Assessment online, you'll need to register in advance and have your identity verified by a trusted certified company (that's us!). Once you've registered with CitizenSafe (it only takes around 15 minutes), logging into GOV.UK to complete your Self Assessment is a breeze. You'll be able to log in as many times as you want, and use other online government services, too.
That means your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and your National Insurance Number (NI). Your UTR will be issued to you when you register for Self Assessment. It's made up of 10 numbers and can be found on letters and documents from HMRC. You can find your NI on a previous payslip, tax return or P60.
If you're employed, you'll need your P60 or your P11D (if you have one) handy. If you're self-employed, get those wonderfully well-organised accounts and records of expenses ready. And if you have savings, you'll need records of any interest received.
Did you know that HMRC received 980,000 online Self Assessments on the last two days before the deadline? That's close to a million tax returns squeezing their way through HMRC's servers at a rate of up to 830 per minute. Don't get caught in the bottleneck, or risk missing your deadline. Get your Self Assessment done well in advance so you can breathe easy well before the deadline.
If you've left plenty of time before the deadline, there's no need to rush. Double check all the information you've entered and don't guess any of the answers. If you're unsure about a question, check the notes. And once you're done filling in the form, check it over again. Once you're 100% satisfied that all the information is correct, you're ready to submit your tax return, and celebrate a...
(Now don't forget to pay!)
We know that tax can be complicated, so to make your life a little simpler, we created the CitizenTax app. You can use this app to work out if you need to complete a Self Assessment, or calculate Inheritance Tax or your Net Salary. CitizenTax is available through iTunes and GooglePlay.
Through GOV.UK Verify, you'll be able to access a whole host of government services. These include checking your State Pension, Income Tax and Company Car Tax, and viewing and changing your Driving Licence details.
Stay tuned to the CitizenSafe blog for up-to-date information about other government services going live, or visit GOV.UK.