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  • Writer's pictureMike Evans

Break the January stress cycle

Get your tax return submitted early

January is usually a tough month for everyone so why make it harder with the stress of scrambling to complete your tax return and pay a big tax bill? Isn’t the bad weather, the New Year’s resolution to get fit, empty post-Christmas bank account and the prospect of a dry January enough? We think the stress of the January tax return deadline is completely unnecessary! We do the vast majority of our tax returns in the summer meaning our clients not only have no tax return stress in January, but they know how much tax they need to pay months in advance and can plan accordingly.

The January stress cycle is caused by people having such a torrid time trying to remember where they put that receipt from the laptop they bought 18 months ago and trying to scrape together enough cash to keep the taxman at bay that when the tax year ends 9 weeks later, the last thing they want to do is another tax return. The memory of the previous tax return is always there to ensure you don’t sit down and gather your records until the last possible moment and so you find yourself stressed out and struggling to pay the taxman once again. Fortunately, most people only need one positive tax return experience, to turn this all around and break the cycle. The steps below will help you become one of those people that have their tax return submitted by summer:

Step 1 – Make a note of what you need

If you’ve just done your tax return or you’re just about to, you should know exactly what you need to complete it but this knowledge won’t stick around long so make a quick list of all the records you needed to complete the return or ask your accountant.

Step 2 – Set a date

Depending on your circumstances, you might not get all of your information until May or even later so attempting to gather your tax records in the second week of April is probably not a good idea. If you can do it all in one short exercise, it will make your new summer tax return exercise even easier so set a realistic target of somewhere between the start of May and the end of June. Once you’ve decided on a date, set 3 reminders around that date and attach your list from Step 1.

Step 3 – Gather your records

You might receive some records by post, others by email and some you might have to log in somewhere and download them so to make everything easier, set up a folder on your computer and get everything together in one place. Scan or take a photo of anything on paper so that it’s all there and together. If there’s anything that isn’t available yet, simply push your initial reminder ahead a month and finish it then.

Step 4 – Get your tax return submitted

If you have an accountant, send all the information to them and tell them you’d like it done as soon as possible (some accountants have the same dread from last January and similarly put it off until the last minute). If your accountant won’t do it within 2 months without a good reason, find a new accountant! If you’re doing it yourself, you’ve got no lazy accountant excuse so just bite the bullet and get it done.

Step 5 – Put your feet up and relax

Once you’ve submitted your return you could set up the reminder for next year, plan how much you’ll need to put aside each month for that distant January deadline if you haven’t already and get on with whatever you do. The relief when your tax return is submitted in May will be good, but not half as good as the feeling when January finally comes around and everyone has returned to panic and stress mode. You can just casually spend 2 minutes making a bank transfer to HMRC for the tax bill that you knew about over 6 months ago and you're done.

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