The January PDF edition is here.

Do your taxes - you now have until 28/02/22

THE DEADLINE to submit your self-assessment tax return online and avoid an automatic £100 fine has once again been extended at the last minute. This year the usual 31 January deadline still stands in principle, but you now have until 28 February to fill in your tax return for tax year April 2020-April 2021 before you're automatically fined.

Inland Revenue letterboxes; Image: Matt Salusbury

Letter boxes at an abandoned office of the Inland Revenue, HMRC's precursor, in Ipswich

The announcement came from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC, the tax office) on 6 January. This was just weeks away from the usual 31 January deadline for tax returns. In a repeat of what happened about this time last year, the extension was granted to reflect the difficulty the self-employed have in doing their taxes in times of covid, especially gathering all the evidence.

Be mindful that if you take advantage of this extension and don't submit your tax return until just before 28 February, you will still be liable to pay almost immediately the amount of tax that HMRC instantly calculates that you owe - that is still due on 31 January.

Depending on how much you owe HMRC, you may anyway get demands for "payments on account", with one amount (usually half of the total) due on 31 January and the balance (usually the other half) due on 30 June. This year, HMRC won't start coming after you for the part due on 31 January until 28 February.

If you cannot pay the amount HMRC calculates you owe once you've filled in your tax return, make contact now to talk about a "time to pay" arrangement. This allows you to pay off what you owe HMRC in instalments. This year you can ask for such an arrangement to avoid having to start paying HMRC until 1 April. You'll need to make contact to sort out such an arrangement well before that date.

See our guide to registering as self-employed with HMRC and getting a Unique Tax Reference number if you became self-employed in tax year 2020-21. Be prepared also for issues with access codes needed to enter the HMRC portal, which some freelances have recently reported.

We remind members on low incomes that they should apply by 31 January for reduced monthly membership contributions - if you are on a low income. The NUJ's Membership department will need to see your tax return as evidence of a low income, so it's best to fill in your tax return by that date to benefit fully from reduced contributions. For more details, see here.