Filing a tax return ‘like fighting a moray eel’

UK taxpayers have compared the stress of filing a tax return to undergoing a dental procedure or fighting an eel, research shows.

Financial planning November 6, 2019 by Nina Kelly

There can be few things more stressful than fighting a slippery, snake-like fish with sharp teeth, but filing a tax return is right up there, according to a survey of 1,300 UK taxpayers.

More than a third of respondents (38%) reported being worried about making a mistake and the consequences of any faux pas, in the survey, which was conducted by YouGov for TaxScouts, a company offering help with self-assessment forms.

- Self-assessment: these common mistakes could cost you dear

Respondents compared the stress to undergoing a medical or dental procedure (16.3%), sitting an exam (12.2%) and filling out laborious applications for mortgages and bank loans (15.2%).

Indeed, one participant in the survey who offered a stress comparison likened the process to fighting a moray eel.

The example highlights many Britons’ feelings about the process, with almost a fifth of respondents stressed because they weren’t sure they were doing the right thing, 9% saying that they could not understand the jargon, and 9% admitting to finding the whole process too complicated to do themselves.

What can you do to make filing the return less taxing?

Today is National Stress Awareness day, so what steps can you take to ease the worry of filing your tax return?

It may seem obvious, but to mitigate some of the stress, aim to tackle it well ahead of the 31 January deadline.

According to HMRC, in January this year, 700,000 people submitted their 2017/18 tax return late. The fine for filing late starts at £100 and rises with time. This suggests HMRC received at least an additional £70 million in late fees alone.

Remember you only need to fill in the sections relevant to you.

The tax support organisation Taxaid offers the following guide to completing your tax return:

  • If you use a paper return, check you have all the pages you need. If not, ask HMRC for the pages or download them
  • Collect the information you need for each different type of income or gain – if you do this throughout the year it can save you a lot of time
  • Decide whether you want to complete the paper tax return, or file online
  • Fill in the sections on the form relevant to you
  • If you are unsure about how to treat any item, it is best to get advice (if you are not eligible for TaxAid’s service you should contact HMRC or use a financial adviser)
  • When you have completed the return, sign it and send it to HMRC, or file it online
  • Pay the tax due, as calculated on your tax return (including any ‘payments on account’ for the next tax year).

If you are feeling stressed, the mental health charity Mind has advice on coping.

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