The deadline for completing a paper Tax Return has now passed, but don’t panic! There is still time to complete and file your Return online without suffering a late filing penalty.
Registering to file online extends your deadline until the 31st January 2016, by which time you must have registered, filed and paid any tax due if you want to avoid penalties. However, it is unwise to wait until January to register as it takes around 14 days for the required activation code to arrive; it is always wise to register sooner rather than later.
If HMRC have sent you a ‘notice to file’ or a ‘late filing penalty’ letter ignore it at your peril! Even if you feel self-assessment isn’t relevant to you, penalties and interest will continue to accrue until the return is submitted. If you feel you shouldn’t have to complete a Tax Return the most important thing is to contact HMRC as soon as possible on 0300 200 3310. They will ask you about your income and if they agree that a tax return isn’t necessary they should cancel it while you are on the phone. Remember to keep a record of the phone call including the date, time and name of the person you spoke to – if things go wrong at a later date it will be vital information allowing HMRC to check what you were told and to cancel any wrongly issued penalties.
As a guide, if you pay all of your tax under pay as you earn (PAYE), usually via your employment or your pension, you probably don’t need to complete a return. However, if your income includes a foreign pension or rental income, you have an underpayment or your income isn’t large enough to cover all the tax due, then a tax return is probably required. If you are unsure ask, but remember, if you have any income that HMRC are not aware of you have until the 5th October after the end of the tax year to inform them.
So, how do I file my tax return online?
First, register by visiting www.gov.uk and entering HMRC into the search bar. Then Click ‘HMRC services: sign in or register’ and click on the green ‘sign in’ box.
On the right hand side click ‘register’ and then ‘sign up for online services’. You will need your Unique Tax Reference number, which should be on correspondence from HMRC (this is a ten-digit number eg 12345 67890); your National Insurance Number and/or your Post Code.
Follow the prompts to create your account. You will be asked to create a password and the system will give you a user ID; note these down and keep them safe you as you will need them again. Once completed, an activation code will be sent to you; follow the instructions to activate your account. Success, you can now file your tax return online – go to ‘HMRC services: sign in or register’ as above, choose ‘sign in’ and use your User ID and password.
If you struggle to register or file your return contact HMRC and ask for assistance before penalties occur. Or, contact The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) or the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) who can guide you to qualified tax advisers in your area. If you are on a low income, you may want to consider a tax charity who will provide free tax advice. Tax Help for Older People and Tax Aid are the main ones. If debt is also a worry, consider contacting a citizens advice bureau (CAB).
This article is by Tax Help for Older People (operated by registered charity no 1102276), offering free tax advice to older people on incomes below £20,000 a year. The Helpline number is 0845 601 3321 or geographical 01308 488066