If you’re like most of us, tax return time also means finalising (all right, preparing) your business accounts information to accompany the return. When you do this, you should take a look at any unpaid invoices owed to you at your year end. If they’re still outstanding, do you think they’ll ever be paid? If not, provide for them as bad and reduce your profits: no sense paying tax on income you’ll never receive.
If you have employment income and a tax liability of £3,000 or less, you can ask HMRC to collect it through your PAYE code. That’s twelve interest-free instalments between next April and the following March, instead of finding a lump sum by 31 January.
If you plan to submit your own tax return, you can file it online at any moment up to midnight on 31 January, but only if you’ve registered for self-assessment with HMRC already. This process can take weeks at the best of times, not least because you have to wait for HMRC to post you an activation code, so get started as soon as you can. Once you’ve registered the first time, you stay registered.
The HMRC tax return program can’t cope with every entry. For example, if you want to claim gift aid relief you can’t use HMRC’s free system. Instead you need to either pay someone to file your return or buy a commercial software package.
If you made charitable donations in 2014/15, you can elect to treat them as if they were made in the year before (2013/14). That will be especially handy if you were liable to higher rates of income tax in the earlier year but not in 2014/15. If you want to claim carry-back, you must include it in your return when you submit it; you can’t amend your return later to claim the carry-back.
If you’ve genuinely lost some of your records, you have a twin problem. You must flag up any estimates you rely on to give HMRC the chance to raise enquiries. If you’ve not got all the necessary records and HMRC think you’ve lost them through carelessness they may chase you for a penalty for failure to keep your records as well.
Assess how this year’s going - when you’ve completed your return and self-assessment, you’ll have a figure for your final tax payment for 2014/15. HMRC’s system will also throw up any payments on account for 2015/16, but if you are sure that this year your income (excluding dividends) will be lower, you may consider claiming to reduce your payments on account. Why pay too much too soon? The season of goodwill only stretches so far!