By Chas Roy-Chowdhury
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
This year there are some fairly fundamental changes to the self-assessment tax return filing deadlines.
The main reason for the changes is a desire by the government to push as many taxpayers as possible into filing their returns over the internet.
This would save labour costs associated with inputting from the manual returns in to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) computer system.
The taxpayer filing online also means the data reaches the Revenue IT systems free from any inputting errors.
Paper or internet?
So what does all this mean for you?
First off, we need to be clear that self-assessment operates through a dual set of deadlines.
There is one set of deadlines for the tax payment and another for the filing of the tax return.
What we are discussing here is the tax return and the deadline associated with filing it.
For tax years ending 6 April 2008 and onwards the one and only filing deadline for paper returns is now 31 October.
There is no more 30 September or 31 January deadline to consider for filing of the paper tax return.
The single deadline is good news and bad news.
For those who always filed in the past by 30 September this is good news as they now have an additional month to file their paper returns and still be assured that HMRC will be obliged to calculate the tax for them.
But it is bad news for those who always filed near the final deadline of 31 January.
If they would like to carry on paper filing then the deadline is now three months earlier.
If you consider that you are likely to be late in filing then you should consider the internet filing option.
Bits of paper
Even though the paper filing deadline has changed, the requirements when completing the tax return are still the same.
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Therefore, before you start, you should make sure that you have all the bits of paperwork you need, which provide you with information about your tax affairs handy.
This means, if you are an employee, your P11D, P60 and any P45.
Also, all your details of bank and building society interest, details of dividends, and records of any assets you have sold that are subject to capital gains tax.
Even if you do not receive a tax return, it is up to you to contact HMRC and request a return if you need one.
Do they mean you?
Who are the people who need to complete a tax return?
As a rule of thumb, if you receive untaxed income, or income where more than the tax already withheld is due, then you may need to complete a return.
What does this rule mean in more detail?
It applies to you if you are:
- self-employed, either as a sole trader or in a partnership
- a company director
- receive other untaxed income
- get income from a trust or settlement
- or any income from the estate of a deceased person on which further tax may be due
- or have taxable foreign income, even if you are not normally resident in the UK
One more thing
I want to digress at this point and give a quick health warning.
There is still a 30 September filing deadline for one type of "tax return" although it is not actually called a return.
For the hundreds of thousands who are 40% tax payers but whose tax affairs are considered simple and their track record on tax good, they have essentially been taken out of the requirement to complete a full length or shortened tax return.
But they may either request or be sent by HMRC a one page tax review form known as a P810(T).
Take care as this should have been completed by 30 September.
If you are reading this and have that form lying about your house then get your skates on and get it in otherwise you might end up being sent tax returns again.
Anyway, let's be positive.
The general trend in self-assessment is to try to get the tax payer to do more and more of the work.
But at least under the new 31 October deadline you get a month longer to file than the September deadline and still end up having your tax worked out for you by HMRC.
A case of the glass looking half full rather than half empty I would say. Cheers!
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by the BBC unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.