Money: Countdown starts for tax

It's deadline time for your return. Anne Redston helps you to navigate the form

This is crunch weekend for millions of people who've been staring at their unopened tax returns for months. The end of September is the deadline for submitting your self-assessment tax return if you want the Inland Revenue to calculate your tax bills for you. It is also the final deadline if you have a modest tax liability of under pounds 1,000, and want it to be deducted from your salary next year under the PAYE system - otherwise you will have to pay the lot as a lump sum at the end of January 2000.

Before you start off, read the whole form thoroughly and gather together all the paperwork you will need for the form (see box). It may look daunting but as long as you have the right information it is perfectly possible to fill in the forms without calling in professional help.

Call the Revenue helpline with your queries - it's open at weekends. The operators won't fill in the form for you, but they are helpful.

In the rest of this article we'll concentrate on some of the most common pitfalls:

Don't wait for paperwork: many taxpayers still do not realise that phrases like "as per P60" are not acceptable to the Inland Revenue. At the very least you should estimate the figure on the basis of information you do have, and indicate on the return that it is provisional and will be updated when the actual figure becomes available.

The Revenue is happy to get tax returns with estimates (as long as you supply actual figures when available), so don't miss the 30 September deadline just because you are waiting for the exact amount of interest you got on a savings account. If you do use an estimate, tick box 22.3 and explain in the white space for extra information why the full information is not available, and when it's expected.

Send as much information as possible: if you are self-employed it is often worth sending accounts and computations with the return where they contain extra information the tax office may need to understand the figures. This will ensure full disclosure to the Revenue. It is still essential to complete the boxes on the return (and the supplementary pages as appropriate) with the figures from the accounts or computations.

Take care on tax overpayments: One particularly confusing section of the form is question 19 which says "do you want to claim a repayment if you have paid too much tax?"

An attractive prospect, but many people last year answered "no" as they owed tax for 1995-96 or earlier years. Unfortunately those years are handled by a different computer system, and the effect is that any overpayment will be treated as a payment of tax in advance. It may be better to tick the "yes" box and note in the "additional information" box any repayment should be set off against any earlier years' liabilities.

Check personal allowances: Another area which has caught many people out is question 16 on allowances. It refers to the additional personal allowance available in some circumstances if you have a child living with you. Many married couples with children have claimed both the married couples' allowance and the extra personal allowance for children. In fact, this is only available to one-parent families, or to a married couple where one partner is disabled. The 1998-99 return does contain an extra box (16A) to try to make this clearer, but it is still causing problems.

Most returns rejected by the Revenue are sent back for very basic reasons. Apart from simple arithmetical errors, last time many people ticked the box, indicating that a supplementary page was attached, then forgot to include it.

The most common mistake in submitting a tax form is also the one easiest to sort out - forgetting to sign or date the return before sending it off.

Inland Revenue Self-Assessment Helpline: 0645 000444. The Inland Revenue website, www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/home.htm has some useful hints, copy of the tax return and schedules to print off, as well as a self-assessment software package Tax Return Software (EVR). But you should note that the software package will only work for basic cases and cannot deal with self-employed individuals, share options, etc.

Anne Redston is a chartered tax adviser with Ernst & Young.

GET READY TO FILL IN YOUR TAX RETURN

Make sure you have the right forms to hand before you start. Sort paperwork this weekend: then you will have time to find any missing items well before 30 September deadline.

Make sure you have been sent the correct pages. As well as the main form, you may be sent supplementary pages for different areas of income (such as self-employment). Read through the notes with your return and see whether you should have been sent extra pages. Call the helpline to request extras.

Have a copy of last year's completed return: always copy each year's forms. If you haven't done it before, start now.

P60: all employees get one after the end of the tax year. It shows your pay in 1998-99.

P11D: you will have one of these forms if you get a taxable benefit from your employer, such as a car or health insurance.

Interest certificates from your bank or building society savings accounts.

You also need: share dividend vouchers; accounts (if self-employed); freelance earnings invoices; pensions books and statements; expenses records: anything you can set against earnings to cut the tax bill: include heating bills, cost of professional organisations and vocational training fees.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

JQuery Developer (JQuery, C#, front-end, JQuery, UI, Tomcat)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organ...

Linux Systems Administrator - UNIX, Linux, Shell, Bash

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Linux Systems Administrator - UNI...

UNIX Systems Administrator - Oracle DBA, UNIX, Scripting

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Systems Administrator - Orac...

Linux Systems Administrator - (Support, Linux, UNIX)

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Linux Systems Administrator - (Su...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil