7 common self-assessment mistakes and how to avoid them

Whether you’re self-employed, own a small business or fit into one of these other categories, completing a Self-Assessment Tax Return can be a daunting prospect.

Preparing a tax return with a pen and calculator

But the good news is we’re here to help, and to remind you that it doesn’t have to be as stressful as many people make out. Here we will outline seven common pitfalls of filling in your SATR and then we will show you how to neatly sidestep them all.

1. Not allowing yourself time

It sounds obvious, but let’s break it down into the basic steps so we can see the wood for the trees.

Before diving in head first, put the deadlines in perspective. The tax year 2016-2017 started on April 6 2016 and ended on April 5 2017. For that tax year, the deadline for filing your tax return online is January 31 2018.

This may seem like a long time, but it’s important to remember that you’ll be busy conducting your business for the current tax year too. The truth is, it can be difficult to balance sorting out your accounts for the last tax year on the one hand, and looking ahead and keeping afloat for the year to follow on the other.

Ultimately, this means that the sooner you start dealing with it the better, but also, it’s important to have perspective and to understand the balance between last year’s taxes and this year’s business. So, with that in mind…

2. Not timetabling

Consciously dedicate time to your tax return. Even if the deadline is still far away, even with an accountant, this is still advisable. Make sure everything you need is filed properly. Timetable it into your schedule, write it in bold in your diary, let your friends and colleagues know that that is what you’re doing, and let nothing disturb you.

3. Counting on yourself and no one else

Hire an accountant. If you haven’t considered this before, seriously, if you’re trying to do a complex tax return all by yourself with no one to check all your calculations, it could be worth it. Consider how much your time is worth to your own business.

Checking a tax return on a laptop

If that’s not enough, consider that you might be able to save some money somewhere that you hadn’t realised. This step helps enormously with Step 2.

4. Not checking and re-checking

It is crucial that everything you put down is correct. Again, chartered accountants can make sure of this for you, but you should do it too. Really check everything, lots and lots of times. Simple typos are actually the most common mistake people make.

The last thing you want is incorrect data leading to penalties.

5. Not declaring everything

This is important because this is the mistake where you could potentially be prosecuted. The best thing to do here is to simply list everything you need to declare:

  • Expense records
  • P60, P45 and P11D
  • Sales/takings records
  • Bank statements
  • Property income
  • Capital gains
  • Benefits
  • Pension Records
  • Foreign income
  • Dividends
  • Interest from savings
  • Student loan payments
  • Employee share schemes
  • Invoices
  • Receipts
  • Mileage records
  • Cashbooks

Lists like this are everywhere and can be daunting, but remember Step 2 from earlier. Just go through it slowly and methodically, marking off what you’ve done as you go. Again, accountants do help.

6. Forgetting to tick boxes and press ‘submit’

For online tax returns this is that little tricky extra bit. Tick boxes on online forms can be sneaky and they can hide in plain sight. Everyone goes a bit tick-box-blind from time to time. Online form submission can even seem counterintuitive to those who are less familiar with the technology.

If you’re unsure, call the helpline. Finally, after you’ve finished entering all your details, don’t forget to click the ‘Submit’ button. It’s not submitted until you hit ‘Submit’!

7. Not actually paying your tax return

If you’ve followed these steps and you’ve submitted your tax return already, well done. However, don’t celebrate just yet. There’s one more step and you’d be surprised how many of us forget it: now actually pay HMRC. We really can’t stress that enough.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that completing a Self Assessment Tax Return is a big piece of work, but ‘big’ doesn’t have to mean ‘stressful’. Just allow yourself time, put it in the diary, take it step by step and remember that help is out there.

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