Stress-free Self-Assessment: A guide for small businesses

By Jake Martin

3 min read

 

©iStockphoto.com/tattywelshie

Self-assessment season is upon us once again and if you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about completing and returning your Self Assessment tax return.

You’ll have to get a particular move on if you really want to file by post, rather than online, because the 31st October deadline is looming very close.

By post or online?

Over the past few years, HMRC has really put an emphasis on online assessment, and has invested heavily in making this an easier process so as to make it the preferred choice over paper returns.

At the moment, approximately three-quarters of Self-Assessment customers file their tax returns online already, and there are plenty of reasons for this including:

  • Security
  • Convenience
  • Immediate acknowledgement of safe receipts.

Even if you are more traditional and prefer to stick to paper accounting, unfortunately you may not have a choice for much longer – VAT returns and Employer Returns must now be completed online and Self Assessment may soon go the same way.

It might just be worth jumping ahead and moving all processes online to keep your Self-Assessment stress-free and save you from having to change over at a not-so-later date.

Know your deadlines: Act now

If you prefer to send a paper tax return for now, the return for the 2011/12 tax year must reach HMRC by midnight on Wednesday 31 October 2012.

If you send your tax return online, you get online help as you work through the form. Your tax will be worked out for you automatically and you get an acknowledgement when HMRC receives your return.

If you file online, you have until 31 January after the end of the tax year, instead of 31 October.

Don’t forget: You need to sign up for HMRC’s Online Services before you can send your return online, even if you use accounting software.

Don’t get fined!

If you miss the deadline for sending in your paper tax return, you should send it online instead.

If you do still send a paper tax return and it reaches HMRC after the 31 October deadline, you’ll have to pay a £100 penalty.

You must send your return online by midnight on 31 January 2013 or pay an instant fine of £100.

The longer you delay, the more you’ll have to pay and total fines could add up to a penalty of as much as £1,600, so make sure you get your tax return in on time.

Remember: If you’ve missed the paper tax return deadline, don’t send a paper tax return, send it online. If you don’t, you will have to pay a penalty.

Preparing to complete your tax return

In order to complete your tax return, whether paper or online you’ll need to gather records for the tax year (6 April to the following 5 April) such as:

  • records of your business income and expenses
  • details of any purchases or sales of assets
  • details of any other income you get
  • information about any income from savings and investments

De-stressing Self-Assessment

Getting help and support will take much of the stress out of completing your Self-Assessment return:

  • Make use of the help and guidance provided by HMRC – they have a number of guides and webinars that should help you understand what you need to do
  • Use the services of an accountant – it will probably cost less than you think to have a few burning questions answered and get peace of mind that your tax return is completed correctly.
  • Take advantage of free tools out there designed to help you, such as the Intuit MyBizTracker app. As well as recording income and expenses and tracking receipts, MyBizTracker keeps an eye on key dates for you, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting an important deadline. It’ll let you know when your Self-Assessment tax return is due and warn you if you’re approaching the VAT registration threshold.
  • Read our guide on avoiding common mistakes on Self-Assessment tax returns

 Have you organised your 2011/12 Self-Assessment return yet?

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Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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