Self-assessment season – or how to throw away your money in one easy lesson.

Yay, it’s self-assessment tax season, is everyone looking forward to it? Actually, since the advent of on-line entry it’s more or less always self-assessment season I suppose because, potentially at least, you can send your return in as soon as you are ready. In theory, if the friendly HMRC advertisements and information are to be believed, you can casually gather the information, input it at your leisure and take your time finishing your tax return, perhaps whilst sipping a cocktail on a sunny beach somewhere. In theory at least…

Unfortunately the truth is often different.

For some of you it will probably mean hours of sifting through your returns, estimating the depreciation on your equipment, working out how much of that shoot in Australia was work and trying to find that receipt for the replacement microphone you had to buy. You will sweat at this for hours because you are determined to get the whole process done in one sitting. You will start by carefully inputting things for an hour or so before realising that you have put a lot of entries in the wrong section, trying to fix it, forgetting where you were up to and then taking a wild guess at your total tax and pressing return. Then comes the wait and the nightmares where the Inland Revenue haunt your dreams demanding that you prove you own a biro you claimed for in 2011.

OK I exaggerate (slightly) in both cases, and HMRC are really very helpful these days but you are probably familiar with the general concept. The truth is that doing your own self-assessment is fine if you have a simple income/outgoings kind of financial profile. Unfortunately we don’t work in a simple structure industry and if you don’t know what it is you can and can’t claim or what it is the HMRC want to see on your return, self-assessment can be a costly business.

When pressing that return button you need to be certain that you have claimed back everything that is due to you and that you are certain of the information you put in. If you don’t then you are potentially opening yourself up to a compliance check. While this is not as Orwellian as it sounds (often it will be a re-assessment) it is still better avoided as it can be costly. Not only is a compliance check possibly going to result in a higher bill, it will almost certainly result on you losing further working time checking and potentially objecting to the result.

The other possible outcome of producing an inaccurate return is even worse because if you don’t know what constitutes legitimate relief, you could pay a lot more than you need to.

Either way if your ends of year accounts are not simple in and out style records then you are probably better to check with us before you hit return. We could save you a lot of money and potentially a lot of wasted time.

Read (and see) more about how we can help with your accounts here.

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