self employed woman doing paperwork


With the end of January approaching, the self-assessment tax return deadline is looming for the self-employed. Many people have to fill out and submit a tax return; for example, if they’re a sole trader, if they have other untaxed income (from investments, savings and dividends), or if they’re a buy-to-let-landlord.

January can be a stressful month for self-employed individuals because of this, especially if you’re at risk of missing the deadline. So, if you’re completing a last-minute tax return or were unable to send it before now for any reason, take a look at how you can get it filled and submitted with little to no fuss.

Submitting by 31st January

As contractor accountants, we aim to help you avoid that automatic £100 penalty you’ll incur if you miss the 31st January deadline and are up to 3 months late.

A lot of self-employed individuals will be leaving things until the last-minute, which can cause delays and even issues in the HMRC system. So, even though we’re already mid-way through the month and it seems like a lot of work to do, you’ll want to start as soon as possible to ensure you submit your return by the end of January. We have created a comprehensive guide on how to file your self-assessment tax return, however the below points show you a quick overview of what you need to focus on when time is limited:

Check If You Have Everything Ready

The last thing you want is to suddenly find out you have no access to the government’s system, so make sure you’re prepared with everything you need. This includes your Unique Taxpayer Reference number and your Gateway user ID which will allow you to access the Government Gateway.

Once you register with HMRC and your account is created, you’ll get a letter with your Unique Taxpayer Reference number within 10 days if you’re in the UK – you’ll also receive a letter with an activation code for your account.

There are many things to take into account that can delay your submission, especially if you’ve not filed a return before – so, check ahead of time if you’re able to access the system.

Calculating Expenses

When you don’t have a lot of time to submit your return, you may not get the chance to actually calculate all expenses you’ve had throughout the tax year. It takes time to go through everything so, instead, you may be able to use flat rates for everything if you’re working from home, for example.

If you’re unsure whether you can do this, don’t hesitate to contact professional self-assessment accountants who can help. At Gorilla Accounting, we’re able to offer advice and even complete your tax return for you while advising you on minimising tax liability. We can liaise with HMRC if necessary as well.

Claim Your Allowable Expenses

As a business owner, you need to keep records for, at least, 6 years, so it’s highly likely you’ll already have all the information you need for the current return. In this case, you only need to gather all existing invoices and receipts to figure out the expenses you can claim.

You can check on the HMRC’s site to confirm what you can and can’t claim, but it’s essential you do this in order to work out your taxable profit. This means you may end up paying more than you should on your return if you don’t account for your deductions.

checking receipts

Double-Check Everything

It may be tempting to send out your form as soon as it’s completed to get it out of the way. We understand that, especially because self-employed individuals can spend a lot of time on it instead of focusing on their business. However, it’s crucial that you check and re-check everything before you send it, especially when carrying out a last minute tax return.

This is because you may incur penalties for mistakes on your return. HMRC will determine if you were careless or made a mistake on purpose, for example, before deciding how much to charge you.

So, if they decide you’ve been careless, you can end up paying anything between 0% to 30% of the extra tax you owe. If you’ve made an underestimation of how much you should be paying HMRC, your penalty can be between 20% and 70%. If you underestimated the amount owed but tried to hide this, your penalty can be higher (between 30% and 100%).

You have some time to correct an issue on your returns, so write to HMRC and explain your situation to fix it as soon as you can.

Pay the Tax You Owe

It can be easy to get bogged down by all the paperwork and actually forget you have to pay HMRC the right amount of tax. Keep it in mind when you’re filling the return out and consider the payment method you’ve chosen. Typically, if you pay by debit card, the payment will go through the same day (or the day after). If you pay with direct debit, the payment can end up taking a few days.

So, make sure you have enough time to send the payment to HMRC in order to avoid late penalties.

Don’t Postpone the Return Even If You Can’t Pay the Bill

Even if you can’t pay the amount of tax you owe, it’s crucial that you complete and submit your self-assessment tax return. Having penalties to pay on top of your bill will make your situation even worse – additionally, you may be able to pay HMRC in instalments.

While this option does mean you’ll be paying interest, you have more time to settle your tax bill without worrying about HMRC knocking on your door. In order to set up a payment plan, you must owe £30,000 or less and not have any other debts or payments plans with HMRC.

It’s worth keeping in mind that, if you’re very late with your return (over 60 days past the deadline), you won’t be able to set up a plan, so don’t postpone it.

Get an Accountant to Help

Tax returns can be complex matters, especially if you don’t have much time to fill it out. A specialist accountant can help every step of the way and even complete a last minute tax return for you. This way, you can be confident that, despite submitting the return last minute, your documentation is still correct and with no errors.

calculating tax bill

As self-assessment accountants, we’ll ensure everything is submitted on time so you don’t pay penalties and fines, and all you need to do is send us copies of your records – then relax as we handle it!

We also offer 24/7 access to FreeAgent accounting software to all our clients, so that you stay organised throughout the year and, most importantly, when it’s time to fill and submit your tax return.

To learn more about our services, don’t hesitate to get in touch today on 0330 024 0406 to speak to a member of our team.