In January 2019, 735,258 people left their tax returns until the day of the self-assessment deadline, and a further 731,186 missed the deadline altogether, according to HMRC data.

If you’ve been in that position before, you’ll know how stressful it is to file your return at the last minute. 

The self-assessment form isn’t easy to understand and fill out under pressure, even without the threat of immediate penalties if you don’t manage to complete it on time.

The deadline for tax returns relating to the 2018/19 tax year is midnight on 31 January 2020, but here’s why we think you shouldn’t wait until January to complete yours.

1. Know your liabilities sooner

Rather than waiting until January to find out what you owe and having to pay it almost immediately afterwards on the 31st, filing your return early means you’ll have your tax bill a good few months before it’s due.

That gives you time to save up if you need to, and it puts you in a better position to plan for the year ahead.

2. Prepare your records

To complete your return, you’ll need paperwork from various sources to hand, with information on your income, expenses, benefits and more.

Filing early should mean you have time to collect everything together, rather than panicking at the last minute over that one letter or receipt you can’t seem to dig up.

3. Lower the risk of mistakes

Leaving self-assessment to the last minute means you’re more likely to be rushing, and that increases the risk of mistakes. 

Those errors can be time-consuming to resolve, and in some cases they could result in penalties from HMRC.

Giving yourself more time means you’ll be able to read through each question properly and double-check your numbers, without the pressure of an imminent deadline.

4. Enjoy a stress-free Christmas

It’s hard to relax with the thought of self-assessment at the back of your mind, especially when you’re already busy with work and social events towards the end of the year.

Getting your tax return finished earlier in the year means you won’t have an impending deadline hanging over you all the way until January, leaving you to spend Christmas and the New Year free of tax return stress.

5. Avoid long waiting times

If it turns out that you need help from HMRC with your return, you’ll be in a much better position to get through to an adviser now than at the end of the year, when tax helplines are at their busiest.

In January 2019, 1,084,677 people attempted to get through to the self-assessment helpline, compared to an average of around 379,000 in the rest of the tax year.

Trying to get through to an adviser in December is also difficult, with average wait times jumping up to 7 minutes 30 seconds compared to HMRC’s target of 5 minutes.

6. Prevent extra costs

Self-assessment season is a busy time for us, too, and unfortunately that extra pressure on our staff means we may have to increase the costs of tax returns handled close to the deadline.

If you file early, you can access our self-assessment service at its standard cost, so you don’t have to pay any additional fees.

We can help

We can offer advice and guidance on completing your self-assessment return, or take the task off your hands altogether.

We’ll also help you to set up your financial management and bookkeeping systems, and identify ways to minimise your tax liability.

Contact us about completing self-assessment.