Guest column: Bite the bullet and get your tax sorted early

Andrew Cowe, senior tax manager at Brearley & Co accountants in Dinnington
Andrew Cowe, senior tax manager at Brearley & Co accountants in Dinnington

It’s never fun to sit down and deal with your tax affairs, but getting your self-assessment return out of the way now is advisable.

Whether you are filing the form yourself, or simply putting together the financial information for your accountant, no-one wants to spend an evening or weekend dealing thinking about tax, but there are compelling reasons for biting the bullet and getting the form in now.

Previously it was understandable that people left it late, because HMRC had until one year after the filing deadline to issue an enquiry, giving them up to 22 months to look into an early filer’s return, compared with 12 months for those who filed on deadline day.

Now, however, the ‘enquiry period’ is one year from the date of filing, so there is no advantage to leaving it late.

It may be disadvantageous to wait until the last minute for a number of reasons.

People fall ill more frequently in winter, therefore you or your accountant are more likely to be delayed by an unexpected ailment.

Equally, if you find that a vital document is missing, there is virtually no chance of procuring it in time.

There is a £100 penalty for missing the deadline, and whilst you can appeal if there is a ‘reasonable excuse’, you are likely to elicit much less sympathy if you have left it late.

Put simply, they may say that the possibility of being waylaid by circumstances in January is precisely why you should look at things earlier.

In addition, doing things when rushed increases the possibility of making a mistake. HMRC know this as well as anyone, and are more likely to enquire into a return which has been left until the last minute, the perception being that the taxpayer is generally disorganised.

That may be unfair, but why suffer an enquiry in order to prove it?

Our advice is always to get things done smartly, establish how much tax you owe in good time, then relax over Christmas safe in the knowledge that you don’t have your self-assessment return to add to the January slog.