Yesterday was the final day for getting UK tax returns into HM Revenue & Customs. You’ve seen the ad with the message ‘Tax doesn’t have to be taxing’. That’s a lie I’m afraid because it is more difficult than quantum physics. I used to get a local firm to do it for me – and that’s when I was on PAYE. It used to cost around £150 and it was worth it not to have to complete that dreadful, complicated form. But they wanted £2k to do it now that I have my own company. I felt sure I could do it myself….
I was hoping to do it all online. I started the process, late granted, but I embarked on registering for the online facility only to get half way through and then find out that to proceed through to the form completion stage I need a secure PIN which HMRC will post to me in 7 days which will take me beyond the end-date. Why didn’t they give that info on the TV ad? It is however possible to download the forms and complete in paper format and post in. But yesterday the HMRC’s computer sytems failed causing online chaos. However I did manage to print off what I thought I needed but it looks even more complicated than I remembered.
I needed a bit of advice and eventually found details of our local tax office (it’s in Edinburgh!) and called them. I got through after a while. I explained my particular situation – worked in BT for just one month in the 06-07 tax year before leaving the company. Paid my tax via PAYE of course. We’d already moved to Italy and spent the next few months getting the house out there in order (ie not earning) before setting up my own company later in the year servicing clients in the UK, through my UK -registered consultancy. I was advised to speak to one of their technical advisors because my situation was complex but I just couldn’t get through to one, even trying up to 8pm last night. They were of course very busy yesterday. But the basic advice I got was that I actually need to complete 4 forms: the basic tax return, the employment form, the self-employment form and the non-residence form. To accompany these there are seemingly dozens of guidance notes, some of which I could access. Oh Lord.
Now if you think the forms are complex, the guidance notes are completely mis-titled. I could just about handle the first two forms and complete them but I defy anybody but a corporate finance expert or accountant or tax specialist or somebody who’s run his own company for many years, to understand the self-employment form. Do you appreciate the difference between a basis period, an accounting period and a tax year – that’s item 1. The residency form invites me to say whether I reside in the UK or abroad, ordinarily reside here or abroad, have dual residency, domiciled here or abroad, the duration of each of those occurences in the fiscal period (187 days is a critical figure but so is 90 days) and intentions over 3 years. Oh and there’s a split year criteria as well. Eh?
I have to admit I just cannot fathom it all. I’m going to try and call them today again to try and make more sense of it and I hear they’ve extended the online deadline by a day (not that it helps me without my PIN) because of the chaos yesterday. I’m facing penalties now. Doing things at the last minute is my own fault I concede. But there must be a simpler system than this, surely. Is it just me or is anybody else out there struggling? Is there anybody out there who can offer advice? Help!