I am now in year three of doing my self assessment for HMRC – having never done this before in my life, I liken my capabilities to that of a Year 3 school child, but one that needs extra coaching at every turn.
When I decided to quit my job, rent out my flat, become and au pair and write a book, I didn't envisage that the most stressful thing in all that would be filing my yearly tax return. Oof, the paperwork, oof the maths, oof the organisation of keeping everything in a folder so that you don't drop any figures, receipts, numbers or important details that might risk one of those very stressful letters from the HMRC saying they're investigating your self assessment.
Year one of my self assessment was a complete success. Why? Because I discovered – via one of my amazing Twitter pals – that you can email HMRC and organise a face-to-face appointment with them at a nearby location to your home address.
So this was what I did – read all about that here. And a patient man talked me through all those boxes I needed to fill in, all the things I needed to say yes or no to and then explained why I wailed at him, why I had to put MORE money on account after having just paid my tax bill.
Last year I thought, hey, I got this so didn't bother to organise a one-to-one and tried to answer all my own questions myself, which obviously was never going to go well seeing as those little question mark blobs on the self assessment form are about as much use as a chocolate teapot – only less edible.
I filled in everything and hit send. And I got a tax rebate. Marvellous eh?
Until three weeks ago when one of those very unmarvellous letters turned up saying my tax return had rung alarm bells and they thought I owed them quite a bit of money complete with interest and a rather nice fine for my stupidity.
And it turns out that the tax man is rarely (most likely never) wrong.
So after parting with ALL my money – bye bye summer holiday – I fired of an email to the peeps at HMRC to request a meeting regarding this year's tax return and also so I could ask them just how I stuffed up so incredibly on last years. And also to ask whether they would consider waving the fine – I figured the last one couldn't hurt right?
Within 20 minutes I had a reply. Within one hour, I had an appointment confirmed for just five days later. And yesterday, I made the short 15 minute journey to the serviced office where the HMRC man awaited me... and my file of paperwork, and my slight hysteria over self assessment.
He was brilliant. He checked my file and confirmed that my prompt payment of my outstanding balance meant that my additional fine had been waived! HURRAH! He talked me through just what I'd done wrong. He went through all my many printouts and details and answered all my questions far more efficiently than those little clickable question marks and I left with a near complete tax return and the reassurance that there was NO black mark against my name for last year's stuff up.
And so today, I filed my self assessment for 2015/2016 and parted with yet more money. But hopefully with the confidence that I will not have to part with any more money after this or get one of those letters again.
I can't recommend this service enough. It doesn't take the place of an accountant if you have a complicated self assessment set up. It doesn't take the place of learning how to do it yourself. But what it does do is provide the same support that you'd get at the end of the phone if you were a hearing person. But without the tinny hold music and endless wait to speak to someone, which I think means that deaf peeps have a better access option than hearing peeps don't they?
Happy Wednesday peeps
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