Christmas is rapidly approaching which means that the 31 January personal tax return deadline is not far behind…
If you are one of the many people who usually leave your tax return to the last minute (over 30,000 people submitted their self-assessment return within the final hour last year, according to HMRC), then here are a few pointers to help you prepare early and avoid mistakes in your 2018/19 submission:
1. Make sure your tax code is right
The wrong tax code used against your income can lead to you paying an incorrect amount of tax (either overpaying or underpaying).
Before you submit your personal tax return, don’t forget to cross-check your tax code against the one on your payslip. Correcting an incorrect tax code can sometimes even lead to surprise tax refunds later in the year!
2. Keep an eye on your income
If your income falls around one of the income thresholds where you start to lose child benefit or personal tax allowances, or you may slip into a higher rate of tax at some point in the year, making a Gift Aid donation now (before you submit your self-assessment tax return) and setting it back to the 2018/19 tax year can be a very cost effective way to make a charitable donation and also help your tax position.
Whilst you are thinking about that, you should think ahead to the current tax year and work out if you are likely to exceed any key income thresholds. If you are, then a pre-6 April personal pension contribution might be highly beneficial. Consider speaking to one of PM+M’s financial advisers for further guidance on this.
3. Understand your income and how to report it
With banks, building societies, peer-to-peer funding platforms and investment providers paying income in many different formats, it’s very easy to get confused as to which methods of income build interest that needs to be reported on your self-assessment tax return, what can be classed as tax-free interest that doesn’t need reporting (e.g. interest from ISA savings) and what classes as another form of income that needs declaring in a different part of your personal tax return.
You might also have had some one-off receipts (e.g. PPI compensation) which can lead to further confusion. The key is to make sure you understand what your income actually is and how this needs to be reported on your tax return. Mistakes and omissions can lead to HMRC enquiries and penalties if you’re not careful.
4. Consider your pension contributions
Throughout the year, you might make personal pension contributions and / or have pension contributions paid by your employer.
Make sure you understand whether these are classed as employer contributions (which don’t need to be reported on your self-assessment tax return) or employee contributions being deducted from your salary and paid on your behalf – these should have the right amount of tax relief being applied and not need to go on your personal tax return, but it’s worth checking to ensure no errors have been made.
In relation to contributions which are paid personally, higher rate tax payers should be able to claim additional tax relief via their self-assessment tax return.
5. Don’t miss the deadline
Leaving your tax return to the last minute could not only lead to mistakes but missing the deadline altogether – for this reason, early preparation is key.
Make sure you are registered on the government gateway well in advance of the deadline and you have your log-in details to hand – you don’t want to be trying to log-in on 31 January and realising you can’t do it! Automatic penalties of £100 apply for late submissions of tax returns and these can increase the longer you leave it.
In summary, some careful thinking and forward planning when completing your personal tax return can have huge benefits in helping you not only minimise your tax liabilities but also reduce the risks of an HMRC enquiry. For further advice or help with completing your 2018/19 self-assessment tax return, please contact Wendy Anderson using the button below.