Celebrating a traditional British Christmas during a global pandemic was always going to be a challenge. We’re all having to learn a lot about staying connected when we’re miles, or even just 2 metres, apart. While you’re planning out your socially distanced family Christmas this year, don’t forget about your Self Assessment tax return paperwork. The taxman’s very short on festive spirit, and it’s all too easy to find yourself getting Scrooged.

Why should I do my Self-Assessment Tax Return before Christmas?

We know, tax returns are probably the furthest thing from your mind right now. After all, the deadline’s months away on the 31st of January 2021, isn’t it? Keep in mind that that’s a double-deadline, though. Not only are you expected to get your return filed by then, but you’ll also have to hand over what you owe in tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

Letting the clock tick over into the first minute of February could easily see you lumped with worse than coal in your stocking. We’re talking about an automatic £100 fine just for starters. Wind up on the taxman’s Naughty List and the penalties will just keep ramping up – especially if he gets the idea you’re dragging your heels on purpose.

Getting your Self Assessment homework submitted well ahead of the cut-off date is your best bet for a stress-free start to 2021.

Will the pandemic cause Self-Assement delays at HMRC?

It’s worth remembering that HMRC’s gears grind a little more slowly this time of year. Even without the added strains of the pandemic, you’d probably have been looking at long phone queues on the taxman’s helplines. Add COVID-19 into the mix and you’re only stocking up trouble for yourself by leaving your tax return to the last minute.

You might be banking on HMRC being a little more lenient in their list of “acceptable excuses” right now, but never underestimate how strongly the taxman prefers to get his cash and paperwork on time. The closer we get to the 31st of January, the more overworked and less understanding he’s likely to become. On top of that, putting it off means you’re slashing the amount of time you’ve got to solve any problems and fix any mistakes.

If submitting your Self Assessment return feels like a hill to climb, just remember that it’ll still be a lot easier to reach the top without the taxman on your back. The ideal approach is to get organised well in advance, with all your paperwork, invoices and receipts ready. As always, keeping solid records, and knowing where to lay your hands on them, are the key to making the most of Self Assessment. Bad bookkeeping is the slippery slope toward paying too much tax with no way to fix it.

How to get help with your Self Assessment Tax Return

As always, the first item on your Self Assessment Christmas list should be talking to RIFT. Tax returns can be complicated, and it takes real expertise to reap the benefits while avoiding the pitfalls. A lot of the people getting caught out by the system each year never even realised they were supposed to file a tax return in the first place!

Remember, it’s not just the self-employed who have to use Self Assessment. If you get an unexpected demand for a tax return in the post from HMRC, never ignore it. Even if it’s a genuine mistake, it’s not the kind that disappears on its own. Get in touch with RIFT and we’ll sort it out for you. If there’s a problem, we’ll fix it. If you do need to file a tax return, we’ll handle that too. Either way, we’ll steer you clear of trouble and make sure you only ever pay what you owe.

Don’t wait until you hear the sound of reindeer on your rooftop before getting your Self Assessment turkeys in a row. Get in touch with RIFT to have your tax return handled the right way. The earlier you do it, the quicker you’ll have our Personal Tax Specialists on the case – and the sooner you can get back to wrapping presents.

RIFT have been in the business of claiming tax rebates and filing self assessment tax returns since 1999, making us the UK's leading experts.