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PKF's tips on meeting the self-assessment deadline

When it comes to the taxman there's no point burying your head in the sand, says a tax expert at Accountants & business advisers PKF East Anglia, in the run up to the deadline for self-assessment tax returns.

Failure to hit the deadline at the end of the month could result in a £100 penalty from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and that's just for starters as interest begins to accrue the longer you delay.

Peter Harrup, a partner with PKF East Anglia, which has offices in Ipswich, Norwich and Great Yarmouth, says the key is not to panic. "If you haven't yet filed your self-assessment return then start work on it now. The process of picking up the pen and starting to complete the form will help dispel the fear and phobia you associate with the task."

He has the following advice for a stress-free tax return:

** Be organised and before you start pull together all the papers you need - receipts, bank statements, invoices. If you cannot find your return you can download a copy and notes to help you complete it from www.hmrc.gov.uk

** If you discover gaps in your paperwork, perhaps from a less-than-perfect filing system, then don't delay sending in your return but provide estimates where necessary to help you calculate your tax bill. After submitting your return you will then need to back up these estimates with evidence.

** Similarly, if you don't have the money to pay your tax bill submit your tax return anyway as delaying it could mean a £100 penalty for late filing. You could ask HMRC to confirm how much you owe - in case you have made a mistake in your calculations. It is possible to pay in instalments but interest will be charged.

** Ignorance of the self-assessment deadline will not be accepted by HMRC as a reason for late return and you will still incur a penalty. However, if late receipt of your tax return is through no fault of your own, for example industrial action, then the HMRC will take this into account.

** Avoid the tax return headache altogether by engaging an accountant to file your return. Using a specialist means you get the benefit of their years of wisdom in the subject and they are more likely to know exactly what you can and cannot claim against your tax liability. For example, part of your accountancy costs can be offset against your business income if you are self employed.

** If you're having small, last minute problems completing your tax return, contact HMRC's Self Assessment helpline on 0845 900 0444.

Article by BDO LLP

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