Save yourself £100- the Bitterwallet step by step guide to online registration for Self Assessment
So. It is no longer Christmas and it is not yet New Year. If you find yourself with some spare time on your hands that you'd rather not spend with your relatives, why not let your thoughts turn to your 2010/11 Self Assessment tax return. This is not as strange as it sounds- last year some 845 people filed their online tax return on Christmas Day and a further 2,408 submitted their self-assessment data on 26 December, according to official HMRC figures.
Importantly for this tax return period, any late returns will get an automatic £100 penalty. You probably know this was also the case last year, but last year, if you didn't actually owe any money, they would reduce the penalty down to nil. No such reductions will apply from now on- if you are a few seconds after the deadline you will have to pay the full amount, with no reduction at all. Ever.
But why would you want to think about it now? After all, the filing deadline isn't until 31 January 2012 which is practically months away. Well, the crucial point to note is that the paper deadline was actually 31 October 2011, so all returns filed now need be online returns. HMRC's own online tax return software is relatively simple to use and can cope with most ordinary situations. However, in order to use this online software you need to register for the online service.
The registration process is quite simple, but knowing and loving you, dear readers, as we do, we thought you might need a handy step-by-step guide. Just in case.
Step by step guide
Find an intermaweb portal and log on to www.hmrc.gov.uk and bask in Moira's stern look. Click on “Register- new users" in the Do it Online* box, top left (picture 1, for the intellectually challenged)
On the next screen, click on “Register". Just in case you weren't sure the first time.
Next, you need to select what type of user you are. There are only four choices, so we are going to assume you are an individual. Click on it.
You are then asked which service you are looking to register for. Put a tick in the Self-Assessment (SA) box and click next.
The following screen informs you that you will need your UTR, and National Insurance Number or Postcode to continue. Assuming you do not need the latter two explaining, your UTR is a ten digit number, often displayed in two groups of five numbers (12345 67890) that should be shown on Self Assessment correspondence from HMRC and certainly on your blank tax return form, or Notice to complete a tax return letter you should have received last April. If you do not have a UTR, have not completed a tax return before, or you can't find or remember it, it is better that you realise this now while there is still time to do something about it. There is a UTR help section at the bottom of this article. Cause we're nice like that.
Anyway, once you click next you will receive a dramatic warning, that we have handily de-sensationalised and added common sense:
You will get a User ID soon. Remember/print off/save the email with your User ID number and wait to get a Government Gateway letter in the post. This should take seven days. The letter will contain an activation pin. You will then need to log back into the system with the User ID you were given and the password you create (in a minute) and enter this PIN number.
Obviously this is a bit of a faff and will probably take a week or so. This is why we are telling you this now.
On the following screens you need to accept the terms and conditions, enter your full name and a valid email address, and then create a password. You will then get to the User ID page. THIS IS NOT THE END!
Remember that UTR, NI number and/or postcode you were told you would need? This is where you need them. Click next and enter your UTR, NI number and/or postcode. Click submit.
This is the crunch point. If it has worked successfully, you will see a screen informing you that registration has been successful and that your activation PIN is winging its merry way to you. Once you receive this (as above) you will be able to log in and use the HMRC Self Assessment online tax return preparation software. Job's a good'un.
If you get an error message, you will need to take further action, namely ringing the HMRC Self Assessment helpline. Before you do so, make sure you have been to the toilet, have a cup of tea and a comfy chair. You will be on the phone a long time. It takes 2 minutes 42 seconds of option selecting before you can even get to wait on hold. And you will hold for many, many minutes.
If you can't remember your UTR number, or you can't remember if you were sent a tax return to complete, you will also need to ring the HMRC hotline. They will need to send the UTR out to you by post (they will not give these details over the phone). Another reason why we are telling you this now.
If you think you need to complete a tax return but have not done so previously, you will probably need to get a UTR (because you won't already have one). This is a separate option on the myriad of repetitive menus on the automated HMRC helpline, and once requested, can take up to 28 days to arrive. In the post. This is why we are telling you now.
Note that it is entirely your responsibility to complete a tax return if you need to (ie if you know you have unpaid tax, by being self-employed or making a capital gain for example) even if HMRC are completely oblivious and have not sent you a return to complete. If they have sent you a return, you must complete it even if you do not owe any tax, or you will get the statutory £100 penalty.
Paying your tax
Any outstanding tax due at the end of the year is due on 31 January as well, and the first Payment on Account for next year's liability, if applicable, is also due on this date. Even if you cannot afford to pay your tax bill straight away, do file your return on time- as mentioned above, there are no longer mitigations of the standard penalty amount. Tax paid up to 28 days late will only be charged late interest, with no additional surcharge until 28 February 2012.
*although the Revenue website enables you to do lots of things online, it does not have a function to allow you to do that.