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Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 17:03 GMT

Business: Your Money

Guide to your tax obligations

Tax returns due this week, or do-it-yourself

Hector the tax inspector fills many people with dread and bewilderment.

And since the advent of the self-assessment tax system in 1996, the tax obligations of many have become more complex.

However, it is worth grasping the thorny issue and getting the matter sorted out sooner rather than later.

Tardiness brought on by fear or apathy leads to missed deadlines which mean financial penalties and interest charges on overdue tax payments.

Who puts in a return?

Most employees and pensioners still do not get a tax return to fill in and have their income tax deducted by their employers or pension providers through the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system.

[ image: No penalties for errors on initial returns]
No penalties for errors on initial returns
But there are special categories of taxpayer who have to put in a tax return under the new self-assessment system, the largest single reform of British income tax since it was first introduced in 1798.

Self Assessment applies to you if you receive a tax return. The main groups which get tax returns are:

  • Self-employed
  • Company directors, employees or pensioners with more complex tax affairs (including those who pay 40% tax on any earnings)
  • Business partners
  • Trustees or personal representatives

Self-assessment shifts responsibility for providing information to the taxpayer. It does not shift the onus for calculating the tax bill as many people feared.

What is different is the tax return.

The Inland Revenue will process and check the figures and calculate how much tax is owed if the forms are returned by the end of September.

Otherwise, it is up to taxpayers to fill out their returns and submit them by the final January deadline.

Getting your act together

Here's a summary of tax deadlines and important dates for those included under the self-assessment system:

  • April - Tax returns for 1997-98 are sent out

  • July 31 - Second payment on account for 1997-98 is due

  • September 30 - Deadline for submitting 1997-98 tax return if you want your liability worked out for you by the Inland Revenue. Deadline for those who want their final bill - if less than £1000 - deducted from next year's wages via the PAYE system

  • January 31 - Deadline for filing all 1997-98 tax returns. Deadline for paying any outstanding tax for 1997-98. First payment on account for 1998-99 due.

There is an automatic penalty of £100 if a tax return has not been received by the final January deadline.

Even after the bills have been paid they are open to audit, so it is important to get things right.

Final approval

Taxpayers submitting a return by September for the final bill to be calculated by Inland Revenue will be sent the results.

Any corrections or other changes will be highlighted and taxpayers will be asked to check the calculations. Requests can be made for further amendments.

There are no penalties for taxpayers' errors in calculations at any stage up to this point.

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