Self Assessment: don't leave it all to the wire

If you’re relying on your accountant to help you with your self-assessment tax returns, the earlier you’re able to get organised the better, suggests TRACY HENSON of Barnett & Turner. As accountants, we always like to be proactive and remind clients of the need to get their records, receipts and other relevant information ready as far as possible in advance of their filing deadlines. Inevitably though, pressures of business and life can get in the way and the records only arrive as January 31st looms.

Of course, any professional accountancy firm will do their best to turn things around speedily, but it’s not an ideal scenario from anyone’s point of view for things to be done last minute. I have had clients in tears for instance, when they realise that cashflow isn’t good enough to cope with the imminent tax demand and there is no time left to budget for the liability.

If you’re able to get ahead of the game, you’ll not only avoid last-minute panics and the danger of possible surcharges and interest for late payment of tax, but you may well have the opportunity to spend some time discussing tax planning options with your accountant too.

Another issue is that a last-minute rush may mean your accountant can’t always plan resources effectively. If your tax affairs aren’t that complex, it might be that a relatively junior member of staff can happily take on the work but if they’re already allocated to other projects, a more senior accountant may be needed. Many firms like Barnett & Turner will do their best to avoid penalising clients financially and even discount senior rates but you want to be certain about the fee level you’re going to pay and help yourself avoid any nasty surprises.

So the message is to think ahead and give your accountant a call. See if you can get your adviser the information they need early enough to recalculate any payment on account you have to make in the summer. It may well be that reducing your July payment is worth considering, especially if your income is down on the previous year and accounts have been prepared early which confirm this. For employees who file self-assessment returns, your reminder to take action could be as soon as you have received your P60.

We can then consider the tax that will be due the following January and you can start to budget based on your cash-flow projections. It’s a common sense approach, which will allow both you and your accountant to sleep that little bit easier each New Year.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at