Emily Coltman

About the author: Emily Coltman, FCA is the chief accountant for FreeAgent, who make online accounting software for small businesses and freelancers.

Why you should file your tax return early

Getting sorted ahead of the January deadline

It's tempting to wait until closer to the deadline to file your Self Assessment tax return, but there are lots of great reasons to get it sorted early:

You have more time to pull your information together

Rather than rushing around at the end to find receipts, you can take the time now to pull together your financial information.

You'll have plenty of time to register with HMRC

If this is your first year filing a return, you'll need to register with HMRC to file your returns online if you haven't already. HMRC will send you a PIN code, which could take seven working days to arrive - so it's worth getting that sorted now!

You have more time to budget

If your tax bill is higher than you expected, it's better to know as soon as possible so you can budget to pay your tax bill. You can file early and still pay closer to the deadline - the money just needs to be with HMRC by the 31st January deadline.

I missed the last deadline - what happens next?

Once you miss the 31st January deadline, HMRC will automatically issue you a £100 penalty, and will charge interest on any unpaid tax. You won't be arrested, or automatically face a visit from a tax inspector, just because you've missed the deadline!

The most important thing to do next is file your return as soon as you can, as the penalties get larger the longer you leave it. You can estimate any penalties using this HMRC calculator.

If you're a sole trader or director of a Limited Company, you can still complete and file your Self Assessment tax return directly from within FreeAgent even after the deadline has passed. Alternatively you can also still use HMRC's own website or specialist software such as TaxCalc to fill in your tax return.

You may also be able to ask HMRC to waive your penalty, if you have what they consider a "reasonable excuse" for not filing your return. If you meet the criteria, you can file a claim form.

Got questions? Ask Emily!