Filing your self-assessment tax return via the internet has a number of advantages. Firstly, you benefit from a later deadline – January 31 for electronic filing as opposed to the previous October 31 for paper returns.
Filling out your self-assessment form online means also that you will be given an instant figure for how much tax you owe (or how much you are due as a refund).
The electronic form automatically highlights any sections you have failed to fill in, while any mistakes you have made should be easier to identify.
What’s more, if you have missed the paper deadline, you can avoid a £100 fine by choosing instead to submit your return via the HM Revenue & Customs website.
Act early to avoid disappointment
One important factor to bear in mind is that registration for online self-assessment can take a few weeks if you haven’t used the service before, so you need to kick the process off as soon as you can and certainly well in advance of the January 31 deadline.
Step 1: Register for self-assessment
You are supposed to register for self-assessment by October 5 following the end of the tax year you want to file a return for. So if you need to submit a 2017-18 return, you should have registered by October 5, 2018 – if you haven’t, do it as soon as you can.
Visit this government web page and scroll down to “If you’re not registered”. This gives you the option to register for the self-assessment system in general (not just the online filing part).
When you have registered, you should be sent a 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), a code that you need to sign up for self-assessment online: but bear in mind this can take weeks to receive (it is supposed to take no more than 10 working days).
You may already have a UTR if HMRC already knows you are part of the self-assessment system.
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Step 2: Register to use government services
Once you have a UTR, return to the link given above. Before you can register for self-assessment, you’ll need to register generally to use government services. This can be using a Government Gateway ID or through a new service called GOV.UK Verify – the link gives both options.
If you sign up for a Government Gateway account, you can use it to access other government services such as driving-licence renewals. GOV.UK Verify is a new scheme that involves companies such as the Post Office checking your identity online – you might need a copy of your passport or driving licence – before allowing you to use government services.
Step 3: Sign in for self-assessment
Now you can sign in for self-assessment on the same link. If you haven’t used the service before, you will be sent an activation code in the post – again this can take up to 10 working days. Once you have it, you can use the code to start filling out your self-assessment form online.
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