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January tax filing blues – a guide

By Adrian Huston

UK Self Assessment Tax Returns need to be filed by 31 October if you want to use a paper Return. File a paper Return after that and you will be hit with a £100 penalty.

By online filing you are given a longer time to comply. The online Return has to be submitted by 31 January. (So 2009/10 Tax Returns need to be filed by 31 January 2011.)

The problem for many folk is that if they have never filed online before they need to take action by mid-January. This is because you need to set up your first online account with HMRC, and this includes them posting something to you.

Here are a few pointers to filing your Tax Return online for the first time:

1. Get ready to register online with HMRC and note down the User ID you will be given and the password you chose.

2. To register you must have to hand your National Insurance Number (or postcode), an email address and your special Self Assessment reference. It is called a UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference). You will find it on your Tax Return or on Self Assessment payslips (in the payslip at the bottom.) The UTR always consists of ten numbers, no letters. On payslips there is sometimes a K at the end of the ten numbers.

3. Once you know you have the above then fire up the Quattro - sorry, the computer.

4. Go to moving though menus by selecting ‘Self Assessment’ or save a few steps and go to If unfamiliar with this is simply a great way anyone can shorten a long weblink in order to save others typing time. The above link goes straight to the HMRC site.

5. Once you put in your details you will be asked to input a password – for future visits. Make sure you have a way of recalling your password.

6. The website will then show you your User ID which you should write down and/or print out.

7. The next stage is HMRC posts you out an activation code - which could take a week to arrive. They will not email this to you, only snail mail.

8. Once you get the activation then you must log in again to the HMRC site and type in the code. This must be done within 28 days or the code expires.

9. Having put in your activation code then you are permanently registered for online Tax Return filing. The same log-in will show you how much tax HMRC is expecting from you at any time.

10. Now you are ready to start filling in your Tax Return online. The system asks for the same information which the paper form collects. A useful feature is that you can fill in part of the form and save it, returning another time. This is useful since sometimes there is a piece of information missing, so that needn’t stop you making progress with the form.

11. While you are waiting for the post to deliver your Activation Code, use the time wisely. Check that you have, or have ordered, the information you will need to file your Tax Return.

Here’s a list of what you may need to pull together:

  • P60 for any jobs you had. Payroll can supply a copy.
  • P45 for any jobs you left in the year.
  • P11D for any car, medical or other benefits-in-kind from your work
  • Bank interest received figures (you don’t need a certificate, but you can ask for one)
  • Dividends from shares you hold
  • Gift Aid payments to church and charities
  • Self-employed business income and tax-allowable expenses
  • Rental income and allowable expenses (like loan interest, but not repayments)
  • Capital gains information for sale of properties, shares etc.
  • Anything else you usually declare on your Return

12. Once you have your information together, then ensure you file the Tax Return online by 31 January. Miss the date and a £100 penalty will follow.

13. I also recommend you try to avoid filing on 31 January if you can, as sometimes the system crashes under the weight. Set yourself a target of Friday 28 January instead.

14. Finally, once the Return’s filed - make a mental note...get your act together earlier next year, and save yourself a heap of stress

Adrian Huston, a former tax inspector, is a director of Belfast tax and accountancy firm Huston & Co – or 028 9080 6080.

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