The tax deadline is almost upon us, but don't panic if you have yet to file your return online

Just over a fortnight is left before the self-assessment deadline when all online tax returns must be filed along with any money owed. Taxpayers must return their forms by 31 January to avoid contributing to the estimated £503m in fines for late returns and errors set to be handed to the taxman this year, according to professional advice website

If you are new to filing online, you'll have even less time to file your return as you must first register on the HMRC website for self-assessment online. This is so that a personal identification number can be sent to you in the post, but it can take up to seven days to arrive so you must register as soon as possible to give you enough time to collect your PIN and file your return on time. Failing to return your form by the deadline will incur an initial charge of £100, but if you still haven't returned the form by 31 July, another £100 penalty will be slapped on, after which HMRC is able to apply a fee of as much as £60 a day.

Self-assessment forms are renowned for being complicated so what help is there out there for taxpayers?

Tools and calculators

For those with relatively straightforward tax affairs, HMRC's own online tax return service should suffice and won't cost a penny. There is plenty of helpful advice and as well as comprehensive guides on both the HMRC's website ( and Direct Gov (

"For the majority of relatively straightforward tax affairs, they should be able to do it themselves. The HMRC software is absolutely fine; it's easy to use with lots of links to help sheets," says Anita Monteith, a tax spokeswoman for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

For anyone struggling to cope with the number crunching, free tools and calculators are available online. At, for example, there is a tax code checker, a VAT calculator and a pension relief calculator. Which? also has its own tax calculator (

If you're part of the iPhone clan, useful applications, such as the income tax and self-assessment calculator from nXtreme (59p), allow you to enter your salary, dividend, bank savings interest and any other income for a clear and fast tax calculation, with a detailed breakdown of that calculation to help with the self-assessment forms.

Computer software

Beyond the free HMRC software and various tools and calculators, commercial software packages are available too, from the likes of TaxCalc, Sage Taxation and Ftax. Basic packages cost from about £25 and are designed to make light work of completing the self-assessment tax return. However, be warned that if your tax affairs are more complex, you may need a more comprehensive package.

"Self-employed people or those with small businesses are likely to have more complex affairs and also have more allowances available to them, so they need to ensure they are using a more elaborate package to cover all of this," says Helen Lacey from Which?, the consumer organisation.

TaxCalc is one of the UK's most popular software applications and has a range of products for individuals, partnerships, trusts and companies. TaxCalc actually offers a wider range of forms than the HMRC online service and, as well as more general taxation advice with each box. It also allows you to import data from previous years, assuming you used TaxCalc software before, to avoid having to repeat static information such as your contact details. The TaxCalc 2009 Personal 6 costs £29.99.

Visit the HMRC website for a list of commercial software suppliers that are compatible with its online service.


Business owners and anyone earning their income from various sources such as shares or property are more likely to need a helping hand from a professional. A qualified tax adviser is better equipped to spot mistakes and make the most of your allowances by getting as many tax deductions as possible for your tax expenses. Accountant costs can vary widely but is likely to set you back at least £100 an hour.

Look for an accountant who has been accredited by a professional body such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Make sure you get a quote first as most accountants will be able to have a quick look at your books and know roughly how long it will take them to complete your self-assessment.

"When tax affairs start getting more complicated you will usually find that accountants quickly earn their fees and save you the money that they charge," says Ms Monteith.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer the industry can continue to flesh out an existence
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Arts and Entertainment
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Jemma Gent: Project Coordinator

    £12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Jemma Gent: In this role you will report to the Head of...

    Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable