Don't forget to file your tax return!

tax letterIt can't have escaped your notice that interminable January is, in fact, about to terminate. Good news for many, but the 31 January also happens to be the last date for filing your 2014/15 Self Assessment tax return, or face a £100 penalty.

If you have been issued with a tax return, you will automatically receive a penalty notice, but if you haven't received a return but you have untaxed income (eg jobs on the side) or chargeable gains (eg from selling investments), it's actually still your responsibility to file a return on time. No getting off the hook that way.

So if you do find yourself on 28 January with no completed tax return and only one working day left, what can you do? Well the deadline for filing in paper form is long past, so you have to do it online. If you previously registered to use Self-Assessment online, this registration will still work, and you just need to log in and complete the form using the Revenue's online software. Alternatively you might be able to find a friendly accountant to do it for you, but at this late stage, you will pay premium rates. If not, you can register to use the online services, but to get all the log in details will take some time, and you won't be able to file your return on time.

But don't give up. If you ought to be completing a return and you know you will have tax to pay, it might be worth paying an estimated amount. In times gone by, if you paid your liability on time you could avoid a penalty, but this is no longer the case. However, HMRC will apply interest to overdue sums from 1 February. Note that daily penalties of £10 per day (up to £900) can be levied from the date your return is 3 months late, and 6 and 12 months penalties of £300 (or 5% of the tax due if lower) can be weighed on top, so even if you're currently facing £100, you do need to get it sorted. Sticking your head in the sand is not a viable option.

And while hundreds of thousands of penalties are issued every year- last year almost 900,000 £100 penalty notices were issued- and although some people will always try to get out of a penalty with the stupidest of excuses, there are very few acceptable reasons why your return is late. However, if you do think you have a valid excuse, this is the form you need to complete. However, a drop of good news for those affected by the December floods- HMRC have specifically agreed not to penalise those who have lost paperwork (along with everything else)- although they will have to email [email protected] with the email subject heading "Severe weather - SA peak" and explain what has happened and when you will be able to file.

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