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Tax Tips: Are you filing to HMRC over the Christmas period?

It’s likely that you’ll have something festive lined up over the Christmas period, but in case not - here are a few tax facts.

Last Christmas some 31,400 people - including some landlords - completed tax returns between December 24 and December 26.

That included 20,200 on Christmas Eve and 2,700 on Christmas Day; the peak time for completing tax returns on Christmas Day was between 2pm and 3pm when over 200 people filed.


More than 10.7m people filed by January 31 this year, and for the remaining 1.8m HMRC extended the deadline to the end of February.

Some 123,000 used self-serve Time to Pay to spread the cost of their 2019/20 tax bills.

These facts have been gathered by business consultancy Hargreaves Lansdown, which has now produced five top tips for any landlord or other taxpayer considering filing over the long holiday period.

Check you can get into the system in advance - Before you do anything else, sign into the Government Gateway. If you’re doing it online for the first time, you’ll need to sign up, and wait up to seven days for your code to arrive. If you’ve used the system before, sign in now and check you haven’t forgotten your log in details.

Spend some time on your preparations first - If you’re not great at filing, don’t try to do everything at once: day one should be about tracking down paperwork, and ordering copies of anything you can’t find. This includes details of interest on savings accounts and dividends on shares outside an ISA, pension statements, plus proof of any employment income and benefits. If you work for yourself, you’ll want bank statements, sales invoices, receipts for expenses and paying-in books. With regard to  income from letting property, you need letting agreements, and bills for expenses and management fees.

Make sure you’re claiming for everything you can - Check you’re claiming for all the reliefs and exemptions available to you. This includes pension tax relief and gift aid for higher rate taxpayers. If it seems like a lot of bother to claim for something, check if there’s a simpler option. If, for example, you are self-employed and work from home, you can do the calculations and count some of your household bills as expenses. Alternatively you can just use the flat rate of £10 a month for 25-50 hours a month, £18 for 51-100 hours, and £26 for 101 hours or more.

If in doubt, get help - There’s information on the HMRC website, which has improved in recent years. You can find the answer to almost any question that’s likely to crop up. There are also plenty of guides and videos offering tips to save you time and money. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/help-and-support-for-self-assessment

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then you can phone the self-assessment helpline. Unfortunately, the closer you get to the January 31 deadline the busier the helplines get.

Finally, if you’re going to need an accountant, get a move on - If you already know that nothing will persuade you to touch your tax return over Christmas, be honest with yourself about whether you’re going to need an accountant to sort it for you, and contact them before the break. Don’t leave it until January, when accountants are snowed under, and many won’t have the time to take new clients on.

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