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There is a lot to be said about the benefits of filing your tax return online. However, it isn’t for everyone. If you prefer paper you are not alone. Recent research by the International Longevity Centre-UK shows that only 28% of those aged 75 and over have internet access in their home. Balance that with data from the Office for National Statistics showing that 7.1 million adults (14%) in the UK have never used the internet and statistics from GoOnUK revealing that 16 million people in the UK aged 15 and over still do not have basic internet skills. It will be a while before the phrase ‘digitally excluded’ is obsolete in the English language.

So, what is all this leading to? Well, If you want to remain with paper it’s time to file your tax return. Failure to file your 2012/13 paper return by the 31st October 2013 will mean you must file online to avoid the £100 late filing penalty. A further concern, and one not to be ignored, is that if you are also late filing online, £10 daily penalties will start on the 1st February running for 90 days. If you still haven’t filed at the end of the 90 days you will find yourself with another £300 (or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher) bringing the total to a staggering £1,200 in just 6 months! Not the best way to start the summer.  Appealing against a penalty is possible, but it is better not to get one in the first place. HMRC take a firm line and very good reasons are required to appeal successfully.

Once registered for online filing also means that if you want to file on paper in future years you will have to contact HMRC and tell them.

Tax returns can look daunting but, in general, most of us only have to complete a few of the sections.

Start by:-

~ collating  your end of year information from employers and pension providers (P60’s or P45’s) and end of year statements from banks and building societies (cert 975’s), dividend tax vouchers and any foreign income

~ if you are self employed finalising your yearly accounts

~ if you have rental income, finalising the accounts

~  thinking about anything else you may need to declare. For example: you may have undertaken some casual work, cashed in a small pension or have a ‘chargeable event’ from a life insurance policy.

Then:-

~ check if you have the right pages; if not ring HMRC on 0300 200 3310 and ask for them. You will need the employment pages if employed, the self employment pages if self employed, the property pages if you have rental income and the foreign pages if you have any foreign income and don’t forget if you want to claim married couples allowance you will need the additional pages too. If time is tight ask a friend to download the pages from HMRC’s website www.hmrc.gov.uk

~ complete, sign, take a copy and send to HMRC. If you are close to the deadline and unsure of some figures, use your best estimates and tick the box on page six. You have until 31st January 2014 to amend your 2012/13 return.

If in doubt, always ask. If you cannot afford an accountant you can contact Tax Help (number below) or HMRC (number above) for advice.

This article is by Tax Help for Older People registered charity no 1102276, offering free tax advice to older people on incomes below £17,000 a year. The Helpline number is 0845 601 3321 or geographical 01308 488066.