We know – you’ve got a lot of stuff to organise. There are presents to buy, cards to write, vegan Christmas dinner options for your least favourite aunt to figure out. Things get hectic around this time of year, but you’re only Scrooging yourself if you don’t get your Self Assessment tax return sorted out before the Christmas chaos really kicks in.

Assuming you file your tax returns online, you’ve got until the 31st of January to submit your paperwork and pay up what you owe in tax and National Insurance. Miss that deadline and you’re already walloped with a £100 penalty – and believe us, things only get worse once you’re on the taxman’s Naughty List. You could be saving yourself a lot more than stress by getting your Self Assessment squared away well ahead of the cut-off date.

For one thing, the taxman’s wheels tend to grind a little slower than usual toward the Christmas rush. If you need to ring the HMRC helpline, you could find yourself stuck in a never-ending phone queue, or cut off altogether without an answer. That’s the situation facing many of the thousands of people who try to scribble their Self Assessment filing into the last slot on their Christmas lists each year. The closer we get to the 31st of January, the tougher it’ll be to get help with any unforeseen problems. Remember, there are very few “acceptable excuses” for missing a filing date in HMRC’s eyes. They get just as stressed and overworked as anyone else during the festive season, and really don’t like it if they don’t get their paperwork and cash on time.

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. Get yourself organised well in advance of the deadline, with all your paperwork, receipts and reference numbers on hand before you start. You’ll need solid records of what you’re earning and spending to get the best from the Self Assessment system, and not having those documents at your fingertips is a sure-fire way to end up paying more than you owe.

Most important of all, talk to RIFT about getting your tax returns done right. The Self Assessment system is complicated, and it takes an expert to make the most of it – or even to stay out of trouble. Many of the people getting tripped up and landing in a mess of penalties each year never even realised they had to file tax returns in the first place. Self Assessment isn’t just for the self-employed, so if you get a demand for a tax return from HMRC, don’t ignore it. Get on the phone to RIFT and we’ll show you where you stand. If it’s a mistake, we’ll set it straight. If it’s not, we can handle it all for you. Either way, we’ll steer you clear of trouble and make sure you only 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 get 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.