Landlords grappling with tax returns have been given some advice - file them sooner, rather than later.
Data analysed by business consultancy Hargreaves Lansdown shows that almost 250,000 people filed a self-assessment tax return in the first week of the tax year - up by 100,000 since 2018 - and some 77,500 people filed their self-assessment tax return on April 6, the first possible date this tax year.
That’s doubled since 2018, but is still some way off the 96,519 people who did it on April 6 in 2020 when most of the country was in lockdown. It’s also way behind the 861,085 who filed on January 31 2023 – the last possible day.
Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “Your chance to be an early bird has flown, but if you get stuck into your tax return now, you can still swoop in and snap up some key early bird benefits – and preen yourself for being ahead of the 861,085 people winging it at the last possible second.”
She has given seven tips for those wanting to crack on now.
- You can set up a budget payment plan
This lets you set up regular weekly or monthly payments, so you don’t have to face the bill in one horrible lump sum. You can also pause these payments for up to six months, if you run into cash flow headaches.
- You can plan ahead for the payment
You should be setting aside money to cover your tax bill as you go along, but things don’t always go to plan, so by getting on top of this now you have a few extra months to put cash aside to cover a shortfall.
- If it turns out you don’t actually need to file, you can withdraw
If your circumstances have changed and you don’t need to file a tax return, you need to act now and let HMRC know, so they can have time to issue a withdrawal notice before the end of January. If you leave it to the deadline, you’ll need to do a tax return anyway in order to avoid a fine.
- You may get a speedy tax refund
Payments don’t have to be in until January, but if HMRC owes you money, your refund will be processed straight away. And because HMRC isn’t as busy at this time of year, it should be fairly speedy.
- You can do some tax planning before you file
Most of what you do now will only affect your tax bill for the current tax year, but there are a handful of ‘carry back’ opportunities to cut your bill for the year you’re filing a return for. If you give money to charity using gift aid, the charity will reclaim basic rate tax, but higher and additional rate taxpayers need to claim the difference through their tax return: you can carry back this claim. It means you can make a donation now, and include it in the tax return you’re filing. This is particularly useful if your income is going to fall below a tax threshold this year, because you can claim gift aid in a year when you were paying a higher rate of tax.
Another carry back rule applies if you’ve invested in an Enterprise Investment Scheme in the current tax year, and you want to carry back income tax relief of 30 per cent to the previous year. You can’t claim back more relief than the tax you have paid, so this is particularly useful if you won’t earn enough to offset the tax relief this year.
- You have longer to correct mistakes on previous tax returns
If completing your tax return makes you realise you’ve made a mistake on the previous year’s return, then you have until 31 January to submit an amendment. If you leave it all to the last minute, it’s easy to be so busy with your tax return that there’s no time to amend the previous one.
- If the whole thing feels like too much admin, you can get help
This isn’t a bad time to find an accountant to complete a tax return for you, because it’s a relatively quiet period. If you leave it to the last minute, you may struggle to find someone with availability.”
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