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HMRC reminds contractors about tax returns

Contractors beware: the self assessment tax return deadline for the 2013/14 year is closing fast, and the taxman can’t wait to start charging fines for it.

If there’s one thing that Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs likes it’s wringing as much cash as it possibly can from taxpayers. It especially likes when self-employed Brits like freelancers and contractors drag their heels when it comes to sending in their self assessment returns, as it means that it gets to charge these tardy individuals an extra £100 for their sins.

The deadline this year is 31 October, and that means anyone missing the deadline is in for a nasty trick just in time for Halloween. You’ll be slapped with a £100 fixed penalty for missing the final date, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t even owe any tax – you’ll still have to pay the tax authority. Likewise even if you get your payment in for the right amount you’ll still be on the hook for that extra £100, so do yourself a favour and don’t dawdle – unless you enjoy paying through the nose, that is.

Think that a paltry £100 isn’t much to worry about and that you’ll just let it slide for a few months? Bad idea – you’ll see even larger penalties at the three month, six month, and 12 month thresholds. Better to just get it in so you don’t have to worry about it.

Of course HMRC would much prefer you to fill your tax return in online. There are many perks for doing so, chief amongst them being given shedloads of extra time. The deadline for online filing is 31 January 2015. Not only that but those choosing to file their SA online will see their return processed more swiftly and their tax calculated automatically. Still, not everyone is prepared to live and breathe in the 21st century which is why the tax authority still accepts paper SA returns. It’s doing you a favour by not phasing them out completely, so you should get your act together and comply with the deadlines already.

For what it’s worth, I know that nobody enjoys doing their taxes. Contractors and freelancers especially have had a hard time filing SA returns, and many have decided that the stress of figuring out an SA return themselves is too much to bear; instead these individuals reach out to a qualified contractor accountant to do the heavy lifting for them. It may cost them a few quid but the alternative – missing the deadline, or calculating your taxes incorrectly – is an even bigger pain, so using a good contractor accountant can easily pay for itself quite quickly.

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