Self-assessment disaster relief

As usual the online self-assessment UK tax return deadline is 31 January, which means you have three whole days to get your stuff together and file a return. Impossible? No way!

Quick note: Self-assessment is for those of you who were doing freelance jobs 2013/2014, so you can work out your tax and national insurance payments. If you are an employee, you pay tax directly from your paycheque and don’t need to worry about this.

Here, we provide solace for those of you who have left it till the last minute to deal with your taxes.

Disclaimer: this is just guidance – to be sure that you have the correct information, always consult a professional accountant or the HMRC (contact details below).

I can’t deal with this! I feel overwhelmed!
Most of the people at the tax office seem to have had training in being incredibly calm and kind. Just take a few deep breaths and call them. They have literally heard everything. Whatever problem you are having, someone else has probably had it before. The number is 0300 200 3600 or if you are not in the UK, call +44 1355 359 022. If you hate talking on the phone, there is a wealth of help and information online: https://www.gov.uk/browse/tax/self-assessment

But I haven’t even registered as self-employed!
OK, you can do that here: https://www.gov.uk/register-for-self-assessment
You are too late to file your return by the deadline, as it takes up to 10 days to get the activation code. Filing a return late costs £100, but you can avoid the fine by estimating your taxes and paying them now. Call the number I mentioned above to work out how to do this.

A fine?!
A fun fact is that if your annual income comes to less than £9440 for the year 2013/14, you won’t have to pay any tax or any of the associated fines. If you do owe taxes (i.e. you made more than £9440), then you will be liable for the fine, but as I said, just call and see if you can work something out.

I can’t remember my login information!
If you remember some details but not all, you can get an email sent out with all the necessary information by filling in a form online. Go here and scroll down to “problems logging in”: https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return

There is some other crazy reason I can’t get this done in the next two days!
If you don’t have time to file the return now, you can still meet the tax payment deadline. Call 0300 200 3600 to work out a way to approximately estimate the tax you owe and pay it now, or else just pay the £100 fine.

I’ve lost all my receipts!
It’s really good to keep all your receipts carefully and deduct expenses, but if you didn’t manage to get organized, you can just file the return with only basic deductions (keep reading for more on this). If you have lost your records in a way that really wasn’t your fault, you can make an approximate estimate and let the tax office know what disaster befell you. It really has to be something like a house fire, rather than just being disorganized, as you are legally obliged to keep receipts. Again, try calling to tell them what’s going on with this. In general you have to have proof of purchase to deduct expenses (like buying a laptop for freelance work), but there are other things that are generally deductible that you probably have records of even if you are terrible at keeping records. For example if you work from home, you can deduct a portion of your rent. There’s more information here: https://www.gov.uk/expenses-if-youre-self-employed/overview

I wish I had an accountant!
It’s too late this year, but that’s a great plan. Accountants work at all financial levels and charge as little as £200, plus they can make you a lot of savings by calculating all your deductible expenses for you. And it means you don’t have to think about it as much. Ask other self-employed friends which accountant they use – word-of-mouth recommendations are usually best. But don’t think about that now – for now, just focus on getting last year’s return done.