The UK’s 9-year-old Tax Advice Network has controversial advice for anyone rushing to complete self-assessment tax returns this weekend. “It’s better to file right and late than on time and wrong”. This advice follows the release of figures via an FOI request that HMRC fined almost 30,000 people for filing incorrect tax returns last year.
Chairman of the Tax Advice Network, Mark Lee, explains “As the annual self-assessment tax return filing date looms so does the pressure to file your return before the deadline. But it is rarely a good idea to rush things. If you beat the 31st January deadline and it later transpires that your tax return was wrong you could be liable to a sizeable penalty. If you file a complete and correct tax return at the start of February you will only be charged £100.”
Last year over a million tax returns were filed over the final weekend before the 31 January deadline and 8% of self-assessment tax returns were filed late.
Hundreds of accountants talk of new clients asking for help in January so that they can avoid the late filing penalty. Other accountants are doing their best to complete the tax returns for long-standing clients who leave things to the last minute.
Lee continues: “A good accountant will do their best to help you but they are not miracle workers. It takes time to collate all relevant data, check for inconsistencies, clarify issues and complete a tax return so as to keep tax bills to the legal minimum.”
If HMRC considers you were careless they will charge a penalty of upto 30% of the extra tax even when a tax return is filed ahead of the 31 January deadline . The penalty can be upto 70% of the tax at stake if HMRC determines that you have deliberately underestimated your tax. Much better therefore to pay the £100 and to take the extra time to ensure that your tax return is correct when you file it a little late.
Separate to these fines is the interest that HMRC charges on late paid tax. Lee advises: “Pay an estimate of the tax you will owe before 31st January. This will reduce the interest you will pay on any late paid tax. You can do this even if your tax return is not ready to file by the deadline”.
If you need help to prepare or finalise your tax return; or if you want advice on what you can do to reduce your tax bill, use the Tax Advice Network website to find a local tax specialist or accountant to help you. You may even find someone who will help you beat the deadline!