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Self assessment – the hot topics this week

As we head for the end of January, editor Rebecca Benneyworth presents a roundup of the Self Assessment topics and issues that members have found a challenge this week.

File only and the question of 64-8’s seems to crop up every day. HMRC’s staff often seem to be unaware of this facility, and indeed some software company helplines also seem less than helpful on the subject. If you are registered with the Gateway as an agent you can file tax returns for any taxpayer, irrespective of whether the taxpayer is registered to you or not. The authentication process no longer checks your client list when you submit as an agent, and accepts any valid return from your user ID. You will need third party software to do this, but it is simple and speedy solution to clients arriving this late in the day (if you want to service the business!)

There was a flurry of debate on the subject of extended deadlines this week, but HMRC press office kindly logged on to our site to tell members that this was not the case. The deadline for returns filed online remains 31 January. If returns are filed online after midnight on 31 January they will be logged as late. However, penalties for late filing will not be issued under the practice established by the Steeden v Carver case. This case prevents a late filing penalty from applying until the return has been late for a complete day. So returns filed online up to midnight on Sunday 1 February are still late but will not attract a penalty. Returns filed later than this attract a penalty, but for individual returns ONLY (i.e. not trust or partnership returns) the penalty is capped at the tax outstanding on 31 January, so you can limit the penalty to zero by advising the client to pay his tax due.

Another question cropping up with amazing regularity is whether directors need to complete a tax return if they have not been issued with one and have no income other than interest taxed at source and their PAYE salary. The answer is no, but I couldn’t put it any better than Martin who answered Chris Prescott’s query.

The Tax Faculty of the ICAEW has reported a problem with the online account display of amount due as at 31 January 2009, and member John Bland has also commented on this. The Online accounts show the second payment on account for 2008-09 which is actually due on 31 July 2009 as part of the amount due on 31 January 2009. It is not until you "drill down" the amount shown as due on 31 January that you find that it includes both payments on account. The obvious warning is to make sure that you check through the amounts showed as owing and compare to the result produced by your software before advising clients about payment.

Finally, reduction of payments on account. HMRC has a problem with the IT for this to be done through the online system. If you need to reduce payments on account – which many will this year given the economic conditions – you will need to do so either on the tax return, by paper SA303, or by phone. The online facility for doing this is not working correctly at the moment, and although HMRC have their IT partners working on it, this would seem a somewhat intractable problem.

For more help and resources see Self assessment – the only resource you will ever need.

If you have been affected by any technical problems - or want to record that the filing mechanism has been working well for you - please take a couple of seconds to complete our weekly SA Online poll

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