People confused about tax return expenses claims, Which? finds

Nearly a third of people who do their own tax return could be paying more than they need to or risking a fine because they do not know what can be claimed, according to Which?

The consumer group surveyed nearly 1,300 members in November 2019 about their experiences of submitting tax returns.

When presented with a list of potential items, 31% said they did not know which ones could be claimed for in a tax return.

People submitting a tax return who do not include expenses as a result of not knowing what they can claim for risk overpaying their tax bill.

Which? said trying to claim for expenses that are not eligible for tax relief could potentially result in a fine from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The penalty is based on the amount of tax owed, and the severity of the charge depends on whether HMRC believes the person submitting the return has just been careless, or if they have intentionally tried to claim for tax relief they are not entitled to.

It released the findings ahead of the self-assessment deadline on January 31.

More than nine in 10 (93%) of those surveyed said HMRC had never asked for additional information regarding their expenses claims.

However, Which? is reminding people to keep a record of all their receipts and expenses in case they are asked for proof, with one person telling Which? that HMRC requested all income and expenses details for seven years, and another saying they were asked for a complete review, which took months to finish.

Which? Money editor Jenny Ross said: “Few people enjoy the annual ordeal of submitting a tax return, but getting to grips with the rules will help you to avoid paying too much, or being hit with a hefty fine.

“Get organised by keeping hold of all your receipts and reading up on what HMRC considers as reasonable expenses, and think about using an online calculator to simplify the process of submitting your tax return.”

Angela MacDonald, HMRC director general of customer services, said: “We appreciate the self-assessment tax return process can be difficult for some customers, especially to those doing it for the first time.

“That’s why we offer a wide range of support and guidance at every stage.

“Taxpayers can use our online services, webinars and videos, the customer service helpline, webchat or our social media channels.

“We are always on-hand to offer support and expert advice to help customers complete their tax returns.

“If customers think they might not be able to complete their tax returns by January 31, they should get in touch with us as soon as possible, so we can provide practical help and support.”

HMRC has a video aimed at customers completing a tax return for the first time at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QzNuPkf9Iw.

– Which? has a tax calculator on its website at www.which.co.uk/money/tax-calculator

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