How to find last minute tax return help
The 2018/19 tax return online filing deadline is 31st January 2020. If you have a tax return to complete, but simply don’t know where to start – help is available, even at this late stage. Here we offer some tips on finding last minute tax return help, in the hope of encouraging people to deal with their tax returns rather than leaving them to fester!
If you don’t think you need to complete the tax return
The first thing to say is that if you have a 2018/19 tax return that you actually don’t think you need to complete (for example, because you used to be self-employed, but now are not), then you should see if you can get HMRC to cancel the requirement for you to file the tax return, rather than complete it.
The Self Assessment tax return ‘criteria’ are discussed on our website.
Note that it can be particularly confusing to work out whether you need to complete a Self Assessment tax return if you have property income (assuming you don’t need to file a tax return for any other reason). The position is as follows:
- Gross income less than or equal to £1,000 – exempt under the property allowance so no need for tax return
- Gross income more than £1,000 but net income of less than £2,500 - phone HMRC (because they may be able to collect the tax via PAYE)
- Net income of £2,500 or more (or gross income of £10,000 or more) – required to file a tax return.
If you have your figures ready, but just don’t know where to put them
Completing the tax return online form itself can be daunting, particularly if it is your first time.
If you have your figures ready, but just don’t know where to put them in the system, your best bet is to ask HMRC. Their Self Assessment helpline phone number is 0300 200 3310. We look at the other ways of contacting them about Self Assessment (including via a new online forum) in our recent news article.
If you need extra support from HMRC (for example because you are disabled, or are vulnerable in some way), and it is just a case of plugging numbers into the correct boxes, then HMRC themselves have a special team that can actually assist you with doing this – for example by inputting your data into the online system on your behalf.
If you have everything ready, but just can’t get into the online system, then we tell you what to do here.
If you need help arriving at your figures
We have lots of information on our website that may help you understand what you need to report (rather than simply where to report it), for example:
If you are on a low income, you could ask TaxAid or Tax Help for Older People for assistance with calculations. They can also help if you have missing records or you have more than one outstanding tax return.
It is unlikely that they will be able to give you an appointment now in time for the 31st January deadline, but they should be able to help you get your 2018/19 tax return in as soon as possible thereafter, and can help you appeal the automatic £100 late filing penalty, if possible.
If your situation is complex and/or you fall outside of the remit of the tax charities – there can often be no substitute for obtaining a tax professional’s advice and assistance, even if it means having to pay. More on this below.
Finding professional help
Professional help with completing and filing a tax return is available – and it may not be as difficult to find or as costly as you think.
A specialist tax adviser like a Chartered Tax Adviser or a Taxation Technician or a qualified general accountant will be able to help with the vast majority of Self Assessment tax returns.
There may be a perception that accountants or tax advisers are intimidating and are only interested in providing ‘business’ services or clever tax planning. But this is not true – many, particularly sole practitioners, are friendly and approachable and are very happy to undertake basic compliance work for individuals – even if it is a one-off.
As a first step, you should ask your friends/family for local recommendations. If this doesn’t work – look on the internet. Many accountants or tax advisers in practice on their own have websites – you should check that any adviser is a member of a professional tax or accountancy body (they may have a ‘badge’ on display).
You are cutting it quite fine in terms of finding a professional to take you on as a brand new client and get your tax return prepared by 31st January but you may get lucky (particularly if you were able to tell them that your records/paperwork are in good shape and/or you were willing to pay a little extra because of the urgent deadline).
You could also look in your high street for chains of tax accountants (many of the individual offices are run by members of professional bodies) with ‘shopfronts’ where you can simply pop in and have a chat about your requirements. Do not be put off if their signage indicates that they help solely businesses because many help individuals, too. Again, you should check that they are a member of a relevant professional tax or accountancy body.
For more information on finding a paid adviser, see our website.