How to Get Help Filing Your Tax Return
If you’re having problems with your tax return it can be very stressful. Read on to learn who can help if you’re having tax return issues, what the most common tax problems are, how to appeal a tax decision and what to do if you can’t pay your tax.
Filling out a tax return and paying it on time can seem daunting but there’s lots of help out there to make it as simple and stress-free as possible.
If you work for an employer and pay taxes through the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) scheme, you won’t have to think about your tax as much, because it’s automatically deducted for you along with National Insurance contributions by your employer.
However, if you’re self-employed, or if you need to fill out a tax return for other reasons such as a second income, this means you need to give your taxes, and tax return, a little more attention.
Who can help if you’re having tax problems?
Whatever the problem you’re having with your tax return, there is help at hand so try not to think of the situation as impossible.
The best thing to do is to deal with the issue as soon as you can, and not leave it. If you pay your tax return late, for example, there will be an automatic fine of £100. But this will increase if you still can’t pay it after three months. Instead, if you speak to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) you may be able to work out a payment plan or pay your tax back through your tax code.
It’s important to contact HMRC as soon as possible as this can reduce the amount you pay. There are full details on the government website of how to get in contact with HMRC.
What are the most common tax problems?
Tax problems have been heightened for many self-employed workers because of the coronavirus. If the reason for you not being able to pay your tax is related to COVID-19 HMRC may be able to help you.
While the help you need will depend upon your circumstances, here are some of the most common tax problems:
- I don’t have enough money to pay my tax return.
- I’m not going to file my tax return on time.
- I’m confused about how to fill out my tax return.
- I can’t afford the penalty notice for a late tax return.
What to do if you’re confused about your tax return
If you get stuck while filling out your tax return, or you are missing an important code such as your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), you can call the Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310.
There are also lots of free resources you can use, ranging from guides on the government website to free help from organisations such as the charity TaxAid, which helps those on low incomes with tax problems that HMRC cannot resolve.
Organisations such as Citizens Advice may also be able to provide you with free help if you’re struggling.
How to appeal a tax decision
There are immediate penalties if you file a tax return late and you don’t pay your tax due by the 31 January deadline.
However, there are also ways to appeal these penalties if you have a valid excuse. Reasonable excuses include the death of a close family member, if you have become seriously ill or been in hospital, or if there was a computer failure when you submitted your return. The coronavirus pandemic is also now included on this list.
What to do if you can’t pay your tax bill
Things change all the time and nothing is set in stone. This applies to tax as well, so if for some reason you can’t pay your tax bill on time, there may be other options available to you.
You need to contact HMRC to discuss your situation. If it agrees that you can’t pay the tax bill in full, it may let you set up a payment plan to pay it off in instalments. However, you may still have to pay interest on this amount and you will only be eligible for a self assessment payment plan if you owe £30,000 or less.
If you don’t contact HMRC, or if it won’t let you set up a payment plan, it can start enforcement action against you.
What if I can’t pay other taxes?
You may be able to set up what’s called a ‘Time to Pay Arrangement’ with HMRC if you’re unable to pay any kind of tax. This allows you to spread the cost of your tax bill in instalments.
HMRC says that if you have received a payment demand, either a tax bill or a letter threatening you with legal action, you need to contact the office the letter is from. If not, you can contact the Payment Support Service on 0300 200 3835.
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Rebecca Goodman is a freelance journalist who has spent the past 10 years working across personal finance publications. Regularly writing for The Guardian, The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Independent. Read more