It may be long on detail and short on fun, but filling in your tax return and getting it back to the Inland Revenue by the end of September will almost certainly save you time and effort in the long run.
Around one in three taxpayers, nearly 10 million people, must complete a self- assessment form for the 2002-03 tax year. And if you have become a higher-rate taxpayer between 6 April 2002 and 5 April 2003, embarked on self-employment, invested money to earn interest or have a new source of untaxed income, you will be among their number. Each year, several thousand people join the ranks of those obliged to file a self-assessment return.
There are huge benefits to submitting your form to the taxman on or before Tuesday 30 September. The Inland Revenue promises to calculate your tax, to tell you what to pay by 31 January 2004, and to collect underpaid tax of up to £2,000 through your tax code number if you are employed or have a pension with tax deducted under a Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme.
Before starting on your return, gather up all the relevant paperwork. This could include information sent to you by your employer, such as a P60 or P11D, as well as details of investments and self-employment earnings.
Take care to complete the form fully and correctly. Every year, the taxman rejects returns because of simple errors such as forgetting to sign the form, or ticking boxes only to omit the relevant information.
If your return is submitted by 30 September but subsequently rejected, the Revenue can't guarantee it will be able to calculate your tax in time for you to make any necessary payments. So double-check everything before sending in the form.
The Revenue confirms tax calculations on form SA302, so take a copy of your return and use it to check the figures.
Any tax owed will be shown on a piece of paper called the Statement of Account which is issued in mid December. This comes with a payslip for you to make any required payment by 31 January 2004. On the other hand, if the Revenue owes you money and you have ticked the box on the return asking for a refund, this will be settled accor-ding to the method you have indicated.
If you can't meet the dead- line but have internet access, you can file the return online and this automatically calculates your tax bill. Go to www.inland-revenue.gov.uk and follow the links; a user identity number will be sent to you with your chosen password.
The absolute cut-off date for filing is 31 January 2004, by which time you must have sent your return, worked out your bill and paid any tax.
If you have not received a return but think you may need to pay tax, tell the Revenue by 5 October 2003. It will send out a form and if you submit this within 30 days of the date of issue, it will still calculate your bill.
Stephanie Scholey is associate director at the professional and financial services group Smith & WilliamsonReuse content