Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Why the Revenue is keen to get off tax paper trail

This is the last time I will be writing about submitting your 2007/08 tax return on paper.

Why? Simple — because you only have about 10 days left to do it.

The reason for this is that the Revenue’s deadline for submitting an old-fashioned return on paper has been brought forward. You now must do it by October 31, 2008. So get your skates on.

If you have noticed the former newsreader Moira Stewart talking about tax, this is what she was going on about. She has replaced the guy walking around the inside of an egg-timer.

The big chiefs at the Revenue would really like everyone to file their tax returns electronically. That way there would be very little paper flying around the department and they could get rid of a few thousand staff (in addition to those already gone).

The only interaction that human staff would need to have with the public would be in the event of unpaid taxes. Sometimes no amount of machine-printed reminders will bring in the dough. It can take someone from the tax office to call to get the tax-man paid.

This may all seem very cold and sad but it’s the harsh reality of tax life these days. The Revenue is saying: ‘You can, if you really insist, still file a tax return on paper, but you will have less time to do it.’

You may have a number of problems which so far have stopped you filling in your paper return. These could include:

  • The return for 2006/07 was submitted electronically and the tax office has not sent you a paper return.
  • You suffer from chronic procrastination
  • Some relevant papers are lost.

Let’s deal with each of these problems and see if we can find a way around them.

You may not have a paper return in front of you because last year’s was sent in electronically. Perhaps by you or by an accountant.

If you want to send in a paper return for 2007/08 then you can download the return and additional pages at http://tinyurl.com/3p3lo9

Tinyurl is simply a way to show you a very long web address in a shorter format.

If you prefer you can access the same page via www.hmrc.gov.uk and then typing SA100 into the search box at the top. SA100 is the core tax return which everyone gets.

Below that form are guidance notes on filling it in. Further down the page are additional pages which may apply to use — ones for employees, self-employed people, those with capital gains to declare etc.

I doubt that there is time for the Revenue to post you out blank forms and for you to submit them by October 31, but if you like the exciting life you could try ringing up for paper forms.

Now for the harder problem — chronic procrastination. Often this means you may be a lost cause, so I’ll just throw out a few carrots and sticks in case they may help you get yourself in gear.

Carrots — do the return now and it’s off your mind; file early and get early warning about what tax to pay in January; filling in a paper return is probably easier than all the registration for filing online after October.

Now for some sticks — miss October and you are forced to file online; filing yourself will mean registering online, waiting for a code then doing the return electronically; if you can’t face electronic then you will end up paying someone like me to file electronically for you.

If these don’t motivate you then you can look forward to a miserable and stressful January.

The final problem I raised was that of some papers being missing. This is not at all unusual since not everyone is organised and puts all their tax-related papers in one place as soon as they arrive.

If your P60 is lost your payroll people can either supply a duplicate or a letter showing the pay and tax for the year.

This will allow you to fill in the employment pages of your return.

If you need the interest on savings accounts you can either add up the separate credits from the statements or ask the bank for a duplicate certificate of interest. (This may take a few days so move quickly.)

If you are missing business records then you must either estimate the missing information or start making some strenuous efforts to obtain copies from banks, suppliers etc.

Good luck with sending back your paper tax return for October 31.

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

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