Written by Ray Coman
When to register, how to register and what to do if you are late are among the most common concerns when it comes to the self-assessment.
In response to frequently asked questions, the following guide offers a brief overview on the topic of registration for self-assessment.
Do I complete a Tax Return?
You would need to register for self-assessment, if you are self-employed; a director receiving payments from your company, you have income over £100,000; you have sold assets with gains over the exemption (of £10,600 for 2012/13), you are a landlord, if you have investment income over £10,000, or over £2,500 which is untaxed, or any trust income, or overseas income.
In addition, some people may wish to complete a tax return to make use of available allowances and reliefs, such as people over 65 with an income less than abatement threshold (of £24,400 for 2012-13), if you have made pension contributions or charitable donations and are a higher rate taxpayer or have invested in schemes which allow you tax relief.
Even the above list is not entirely exhaustive. Therefore considered in reverse, you would not be required to complete a tax return if you receive employment income or pension income all taxed at source and your income is less than £100,000. If you have no income or have benefits either below your personal allowance (of £8,105 for 2012-13) or which are not taxable then there is no reason to complete a Tax Return.
How long do I have before I need to let HMRC know that I am completing a Tax Return?
The deadline for notifying HMRC of your chargeability is six months after the end of the tax year, which is 5 April. For instance, if you started self-employment at some time between 6 April 2011 and 5 April 2012, you should notify HMRC by 5 October 2012. The deadline for the 2011-12 tax year has therefore passed.
As I am late with the last year, what is HMRC going to do?
In practice, if you pay any tax due by the payment deadline (which is usually 31 January 2013) then there will not be any penalty for being late to notify HMRC. There is more information on this in our article on late notification penalties.
As a further consideration however, you may be late in filing a tax return, and therefore be liable to a late filing penalty. The deadline for filing a Tax return online is the later of 31 January and three months after the notice to file a Tax Return.
In practice, to file a Tax Return, you need a unique taxpayer reference (UTR) number. In recent years, HMRC has taken about six weeks to issue UTRs. For the 2010-11 tax year, most taxpayers still received the UTR number in time to avoid a late filing penalty if they had registered by mid-December 2011. Unofficially, you could well avoid penalties even if you have still not registered. Moreover, the sooner you register the less likely the severity of any eventual penalties.
What are the penalties for notifying HMRC late?
The penalty would depend on the amount of tax due, when the tax was paid, whether you were deliberately late and if you took steps to hide your liability to tax, whether you disclose being late voluntarily or if you are prompted to do so, and the extent with which you co-operate with HMRC to establish the facts. Please refer to the full guide on penalties for late notification for further information. The guide covers provides an outline and indication of how any penalties can be minimised.
I have not heard from HMRC. How can I be late, in responding to HMRC?
The onus is on the taxpayer to let HMRC know that they are chargeable to tax. If you receive a notice to file a tax return, but have not notified HMRC in time, you would still be open to penalties.
For instance, HMRC may become aware that you are required to complete a Tax Return, say because a record they have received from your employer indicates that you have income over £100,000. You may receive a notice to file a Tax Return after the payment deadline, and therefore pay your tax late. In this situation, you would be liable to penalties, because you have paid ta late, and also in some cases you may also incur a penalty because you were late to notify HMRC.
I telephoned, HMRC and they said...
While HMRC are mainly well experienced and informed on self-assessment, an HMRC can provide advice which is not entirely correct. In principal, while HMRC usually provide a correct response they would not have the same time or incentive to identify opportunities tax saving as your tax adviser.
The information available on the HMRC website should be correct, and advice confirmed in writing is more reliable. In my experience, advice provided verbally is less easy to properly record and more prone to misinterpretation. Furthermore, an appeal against financial loss which results from his any incorrect advice may not be successful, or worthwhile, from the point of view of time spent.
I would appreciate your help with my taxes
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