Left your tax return to the last minute? Don’t panic – there’s still time, just!

Shocked panic Caucasian girl dressed in stylish clothing holding hands on head and screaming in despair and frustration while being late for plane, her eyes full of terror, mouth dropped open

Whether you’re new to the field of self-employment or an old hand, you probably had every intention of getting your tax return in early this year. But now that Christmas is behind us, plenty of people are feeling that all-too-familiar dread of having left things to the last minute. Fortunately, though, there’s good news for those of you who have yet to file your self-assessment returns: it’s not too late to dot all the ‘i’s, cross all the ‘t’s, and avoid any late-submission penalties or fines.


First, it might help to know that you’re not alone. In fact, recent research suggests that more than 5% of individuals complete their self-assessment in the final 24 hours before the January 31st deadline – with millions more submitting their returns over the previous few days. And even though experts advise making an early start on your tax return, it’s still possible to get things in order at the last minute.


That said, the fact that there are plenty of people who rush to get their tax returns submitted as the deadline approaches isn’t an excuse to leave things to the 11th hour. And if you haven’t started yet, we recommend not wasting any more time. After all, the closer we get to January 31st, the more overwhelmed the system becomes, making it harder and harder to address any last-minute concerns. So while there’s no need to panic just yet, reading this blog should be your wake-up call to get things in motion.


According to experts, you should start by gathering all the documentation that you need to complete your tax return. If you haven’t yet registered to complete a self-assessment return online, you’ll want to do that straight away, as it can take up to 10 days for your Unique Taxpayer Reference, or UTR, to arrive. Once you have that, you’ll also need any wage slips or employment information applicable to the last tax year, along with your National Insurance Number and figures relating to your income. You’ll also need to have information regarding your expenses to hand, which is where many latecomers often start to break out in a sweat!


The good news is, though, that you don’t actually need to have a physical receipt for each business transaction – a bank statement or emailed receipt will often suffice. And if you’re really struggling to pull things together at the last minute, you might not even need to complete individual expenses at all. By choosing the Flat Rate or Simplified Expenses option, you can claim tax relief on an agreed fixed amount, eliminating the need for complicated submissions with multiple receipts.


If you are claiming expenses, you’ll want to make sure that everything is straightforward, as any queries from HMRC could delay your return and result in a hefty fine. One good tip is to ensure that anything you are claiming for is used exclusively for your business – for example, costs such as a television license or a passport are very unlikely to be approved. Of course, there are exceptions such as personal vehicles and mobile phones, but ensuring that you get your expenses right is key to a hassle-free last-minute tax return.


Feeling confused and overwhelmed by everything that’s required? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 60% of self-assessment returns in the UK are filed by an accountant, meaning that most people hand the task over to a professional. But if you’ve left things a little late, you might be feeling a bit embarrassed about seeking assistance. Fortunately, it’s nothing that the UK’s accountants and business advisors haven’t seen before.


Despite what you might believe, it’s not too late to contact a professional for help with your tax return. Whether you’re a total novice or an established company wanting a streamlined tax strategy for your business, companies such as Red76 have a range of services designed to help you navigate the self-assessment process – even this late in the day. And even if you don’t typically employ a professional to help with your tax return, it might be worth considering making the leap. After all, last-minute panic is one of the key factors that can lead to individuals making mistakes on their returns, resulting in expensive fines.


Whether you decide to employ an accountant or go it alone, the key to successfully completing your tax return is to keep calm. As long as you enter all the correct information, take care over your expenses, and check carefully for any mistakes, there’s still time to submit everything by January 31st. And if that seems like a struggle, don’t be embarrassed to reach out to a professional for help.