Claims to reduce payments on account

Self-Assessment taxpayers are usually required to pay their Income Tax liabilities in three instalments each year. The first two payments are due on 31 January during the tax year and 31 July following the tax year.

These payments on account are based on 50% each of the previous year’s net Income Tax liability. In addition, the third (or only) payment of tax will be due on 31 January following the end of the tax year. If you think that your income for the next tax year will be lower than the previous tax year, you can apply to have your payment on account reduced. This can be done using HMRC’s online service or by completing form SA303.

It is important to note that you do not need to make any payments on account where the net Income Tax liability for the previous tax year is less than £1,000 or if more than 80% of that year’s tax liability has been collected at source.

There are no restrictions on the number of claims to adjust payments on account a taxpayer or agent can make. The payments are based on 50% of your previous year’s net Income Tax liability. If your liability for 2020-21 is lower than 2019-20 you can ask HMRC to reduce your payment on account. The deadline for making a claim to reduce your payments on account for 2020-21 is 31 January 2022.

If taxable profits have increased there is no requirement to notify HMRC although the final balancing payment will be higher.

5% late penalties apply from 1 April 2021

Self-Assessment taxpayers that failed to pay their outstanding tax liabilities or set up a payment plan by midnight on 1 April 2021 will be charged a 5% late payment penalty charge.

Under the normal rules a 5% late payment penalty would have been charged if tax remained outstanding or a payment plan has not been set up before 3 March 2021. This extension was put in place due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and gave taxpayers an extra 4 weeks to sort out their affairs before the 5% late payment penalty was levied.

Interest will also have been applied to any balance that was outstanding from 1 February 2021. The only way to stop further interest amassing is to pay any tax due in full. The current rate of late payment interest is 2.6%

If you are unable to pay your tax bill, then there are a number of options for you to defer the payment that was due on 31 January 2021. This includes an option to set up an online time to pay payment plan to spread the cost of tax due in monthly instalments until January 2022. This option is available for debts up to £30,000. If you owe Self-Assessment tax payments of over £30,000 or need longer than 12 months to pay in full, you can still apply to set up a time to pay arrangement with HMRC, but this cannot be done using the online service.

Further late payment penalties will apply if tax remains outstanding (and no payment plan has been set up) for more than 6 months after the 31 January filing deadline. From 1 August 2021 you will be charged a penalty of the greater of £300 or 5% of the tax due. If your return remains outstanding one year after the filing deadline, then further penalties will be charged from 1 February 2022.

You can appeal against any penalties that have been issued. However, you need to act fast, and the excuse must be genuine and HMRC can of course ask for evidence to support any claim. An appeal must usually be made within 30 days of receipt of the penalty.

Updating Self-Assessment tax returns

There are special rules to follow if you have submitted a Self-Assessment return and subsequently realise you need to change it. This can happen if for example you made a mistake like entering a number incorrectly or missing information from the return.

If you filed your return online, you could amend your return online as follows:

  1. Sign into your personal tax account using your User ID and password.
  2. From ‘Your tax account’, choose ’Self-Assessment account’ (if you do not see this, skip this step).
  3. Choose ‘More Self-Assessment details'.
  4. Choose ‘At a glance’ from the left-hand menu.
  5. Choose ‘Tax Return options’.
  6. Choose the tax year for the year you want to amend.
  7. Go into the tax return, make the corrections and file it again.

If you opted to file your return on paper, you will need to download a new return and fill in the pages that you wish to change and write ‘amendment’ on each page. You must also include your name and Unique Taxpayer Reference on each page and then send the corrected pages to the address where you sent your original return.

If you used commercial software to submit your Self-Assessment return, then you should contact your software provider in the first instance. If your software provider cannot help, then you should contact HMRC.

The deadline for making changes for the 2019-20 tax year using any of the methods outlined above is 31 January 2022.

If you have missed the deadline, you will need to write to HMRC instead. For example, if you found a mistake in your 2018-19 return after 31 January 2021. In the letter, you will need to say which tax year you are correcting, why you think you have paid too much or too little tax and by how much. You can claim a refund up to 4 years after the end of the tax year it relates to.

Tax-free property and trading income

Two separate £1,000 tax allowances for property and trading income were introduced in April 2017. If you have both or either type of income highlighted below then you can claim a £1,000 allowance for each.

The £1,000 exemptions from tax apply to:

  • If you make up to £1,000 from self-employment, casual services (such as babysitting or gardening) or hiring personal equipment (such as power tools). This is known as the trading allowance.
  • If your annual gross property income is £1,000 or less, from one or more property businesses you will not have to tell HMRC or declare this income on a tax return. For example, from renting a driveway. This is known as the property allowance.

Where each respective allowance covers all the individual’s relevant income (before expenses) the income is tax-free and does not have to be declared. Taxpayers with higher amounts of income will have the choice when calculating their taxable profits, of deducting the allowance from their receipts, instead of deducting the actual allowable expenses. 

You cannot use the allowances in a tax year, if you have any trade or property income from:

  • a company you or someone connected to you owns or controls
  • a partnership where you or someone connected to you are partners
  • your employer or the employer of your spouse or civil partner

You cannot use the property allowance if you:

  • claim the tax relief for finance costs such as mortgage interest for a residential property
  • deduct expenses from income letting a room in your own home instead of using the rent-a-room scheme

Rent-a-room relief

The rent-a-room scheme is a set of special rules designed to help homeowners who rent-a-room in their home. The current tax-free threshold of £7,500 per year has been in place since 6 April 2016. If you are using this scheme you should ensure that rents received from lodgers during the current tax year do no exceed £7,500. The tax exemption is automatic if you earn less than £7,500 and there are no specific tax reporting requirements.

The relief applies to the letting of furnished accommodation and can be used when a bedroom is rented out to a lodger by homeowners in their home. The relief also simplifies the tax and administrative burden for those with rent-a-room income up to £7,500. The limit is reduced by half if the income from letting accommodation in the same property is shared by a joint owner of the property.

The rent-a-room limit includes any amounts received for meals, goods and services provided, such as cleaning or laundry. If gross receipts are more than the limit, taxpayers can choose between paying tax on the actual profit (gross rents minus actual expenses and capital allowances) or the gross receipts (and any balancing charges) minus the allowance – with no deduction for expenses or capital allowances.

Reminder, what are badges of trade

The 'badges of trade' tests whilst not conclusive are used by HMRC to help determine whether an activity is a proper economic trade / business activity or merely a money-making by-product of a hobby.

They are useful when careful consideration needs to be given to deciding whether a hobby has become a taxable activity. The approach by the courts in using the badges of trade has been to decide questions of trade on the basis of the overall impression gained from a review of all the badges.

HMRC will consider the following nine badges of trade as part of their overall investigation as to whether a hobby is actually a trade:

  • Profit-seeking motive
  • The number of transactions
  • The nature of the asset
  • Existence of similar trading transactions or interests
  • Changes to the asset
  • The way the sale was carried out
  • The source of finance
  • Interval of time between purchase and sale
  • Method of acquisition

Even if HMRC consider that the activities in question are a trade, taxpayers can make up to £1,000 per year from their hobby using the trading allowance that was introduced in 2017.

Spring Budget 2021 – Income Tax Rates & Allowances

It has been confirmed as part of the Budget announcements that the 2021-22 personal allowance will increase to £12,570 (2020-21: £12,500) and the basic rate limit to £37,700 (2020-21: £37,500). As a result, the higher rate threshold will increase to £50,270 (2020-21: £50,000) from 6 April 2021.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak revealed that these rates will be frozen until April 2026. This freeze is part of the Chancellor’s approach to improve public finances. This means that the allowances will not increase in line with inflation creating a stealth increase in the limits.

The basic rate limit currently applies to non-savings and non-dividend income in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and to savings and dividend income across the UK. The Scottish Parliament sets the basic rate and higher rate thresholds for non-savings and non-dividend income in Scotland. Changes to the Scottish bands were announced on 28 January 2021 as part of the Scottish Budget measures.

For high earning taxpayers the personal allowance is gradually withdrawn by £1 for every £2 of adjusted net income over £100,000 irrespective of age. Adjusted net income is total taxable income before any personal allowances, less certain tax reliefs such as trading losses and certain charitable donations and pension contributions. Any taxpayers with an adjusted net income of between £100,000 and £125,140 in 2021-22 will pay an effective marginal rate of tax of around 60% as the tax-free personal allowance is gradually withdrawn.

Marriage Allowance tax break

If you are entitled to the marriage allowance and have not yet applied, then you could receive a payment of up to £1,188 from HMRC. HMRC used the occasion of Valentine’s Day to remind couples to make a claim.

The marriage allowance is available to qualifying married couples and those in a civil partnership where a spouse or civil partner is a non-taxpayer i.e., has an income below their personal allowance (currently £12,500). The allowance permits the lower earning partner to transfer up to £1,250 of their personal tax-free allowance to their spouse or civil partner. The marriage allowance can only be used when the recipient of the transfer (the higher earning partner) does not pay more than the basic 20% rate of Income Tax. This would usually mean that their income is between £12,500 to £50,000 for 2020-21. The limits are somewhat different if you live in Scotland.

If you meet the eligibility requirements and have not yet claimed the allowance, then you can backdate your claim. If you claim now you can backdate your claim for up to four years as well as claim for the current tax year. This could result in a total tax break of up to £1,188 for 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20 as well as the current 2020-21 tax year. The deadline for backdating an eligible claim to 2016-17 is 5 April 2021.

Keeping pay and tax records

Following the 31 January 2021 deadline for submission of Self-Assessment tax returns for 2019-20, it can be a useful exercise to review the rules for keeping your pay and tax records. There are no set rules for how to keep your records, but you must usually hold them on paper, digitally or as part of a software program.

If you are keeping records used to complete a personal (non-business) Self-Assessment tax return, you must keep records for 22 months from the end of the tax year to which they relate. This means that you should keep all records for the tax year ended 5th April 2020 until at least the end of January 2022. If you file a late Self-Assessment return then you will need to keep your records for at least 15 months after the date you filed the tax return. 

The types of records you should keep include those relating to:

  • Income from employment e.g., P60, P45 or form P11D forms.
  • Expense records if you’ve had to pay for things like tools, travel or specialist clothing for work.
  • Income from employee share schemes or share-related benefits.
  • Savings, investments and pensions e.g., statements of interest and income from your savings and investments.
  • Pension income e.g., details of pensions (including State Pension) and any tax deductions.
  • Rental income e.g., rent received and details of allowable expenses.
  • Any income which is open to Capital Gains Tax.
  • Foreign income.
  • State benefits.

Please note, this is not a complete list and you should retain any other important records that were used in preparing your Self-Assessment return. 

If you need to keep records for other reasons, there are different time limits for retaining them. For example, self-employed individuals must keep business records for at least 5 years from the 31 January submission deadline for the relevant tax year. This means that for the 2019-20 tax year where online filing was due by 31 January 2021 you must keep your records until at least the end of January 2026. There are penalties for failing to keep proper records or for keeping inaccurate records. 

Did you miss the Self-Assessment deadline?

HMRC has announced that more than 10.7 million people submitted their 2019-20 Self-Assessment tax returns by the 31 January deadline. This leaves over 1.8 million taxpayers that have missed the deadline and are yet to file. Are you among those that missed the 31 January 2021 filing deadline for your 2019-20 Self-Assessment returns?

HMRC had announced that due to the coronavirus pandemic, fines for taxpayers that file their Self-Assessment returns late will be waived until 28 February 2021. However, interest will be applied to any outstanding balance from 1 February 2021 so you should try and pay your tax bill as soon as possible. If you are unable to pay your tax bill, then there are a number of options for you to defer the payment that was due on 31 January 2021.

This includes an option to set up an online time to pay payment plan to spread the cost tax due on 31 January 2021 for up to 12 months. This option is available for debts up to £30,000 and the payment plan needs to be set up no later than 60 days after the due date of a debt. This should be done sooner rather than later as a 5% late payment penalty will be charged if tax remains outstanding, and a payment plan has not been set up, before 3 March 2021.

If you owe Self-Assessment tax payments of over £30,000 or need longer than 12 months to pay in full, you can still apply to set up a time to pay arrangement with HMRC, but this cannot be done using the online service.