Tax returns: stop procrastinating, you have two days left

January 31. Amazing, really, how even though it comes around pretty regularly, it seems to have a real knack of sneaking up on us.

Amazing also is the way in which the temptations of desk tidying/DVD alphabetising/staring fixedly into the middle distance suddenly become oh-so alluring - but never fear, we've made things easier by putting together some tips for filling in your tax return.

  1. Last year, 14,839 people filled in their online tax returns on New Year's Eve. We're not suggesting you forsake seasonal cheer to get your finances in order - but you have two and a half days left. Put away the DVDs, stop hoovering, and start workiing on it. Now.
  2. Everything is relevant. If you're umming and ah-ing over whether to fill in a tax return over a small amount of cash, it's best to contact HMRC. If you've earned £50 in dividends, for example, or you have a bank account with mere pennies in it but don't declare it - or at least check first - HMRC could use it as evidence of 'dishonesty' and subject your business to more scrutiny. HMRC contact details are here.
  3. If you don't have your P45/P60 ready, you'll need it - so contact your employer or former employer now. If they've already sent it to you but you've lost it, get in touch with your tax office now. They'll issue you with a P46 and put you on an emergency tax code. Find your local tax office here.
  4. Have hard copies of documents to hand, and make sure they're organised and easily accessible. Technology may have made filling in your tax return easier - but rifling through a folder of well-organised receipts and papers is far simpler than scouring your computer for the correct files.
  5. Treat your tax return like an exam: take your time, make sure you  answer everything you need to, and always read the question thoroughly. If you under-pay because you filled in the wrong sections, HMRC will take a dim view and you could be subject to a fine.
  6. January 31 isn't just the deadline for your tax return - it's the deadline for your payment as well, so don't forget to pay up.

Once you've finished, let the procrastination begin - Smarta recommends first-person Tetris.

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