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The guide to Self Assessment

27th Jan 2010
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Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile. Tax Editor Rebecca Benneyworth brings together advice on self assessment filing together with links to the resources provided by HMRC and others that may help you resolve issues during January. There are also links to some of the Any Answers topics you may find useful, and we'll be updating this article throughout the month to highlight developing issues.

BREAKING NEWS : on Thursday 28th the HMRC website shows that returns are unlikely to show on the SA system as received for around 72 hours due to the high volume of traffic, but the Gateway seems to be bearing up OK. Friday was peak day last year (4pm to 5pm peak hour) so try to file outside this time for quicker response. No time outs reported at present.


   Due date
  Penalties: late returns
  Penalties: Steeden v Carver
  Penalties: failure to notify
  Penalties: inaccuracies on the return
  Excluded cases and workarounds
  Service issues

  Computer output

  Online facility
  File only

  Paper 64-8 procedure and turnaround times (January 2010)

  Clients without a UTR
  Partners without a UTR

  Agent copy statements
  Blank online statements
  Payment methods
  HMRC bank changes
  Credit card payment facility
  Business Payment Support Scheme

  HMRC online resources
  Commercial developers' sites

Online filing

Due date

Returns are due by 31 January 2010 if the return was requested from the taxpayer by 31 October 2009. If the return was issued more recently than that, there are three months allowed for filing the return (on paper or online) but a penalty may be due in respect of late notification of liability (see below).

Extreme weather conditions will almost certainly not lead to an extension of the filing deadline as this is set by legislation, but may in some cases provide a reasonable excuse for late filing.

HMRC's normal practice is to accept that returns which are in the postbox when it is opened on the morning of 1 February (a Monday this year) were filed before midnight on 31 January. Clearly, returns filed online have no such arrangements, as the date of filing is electronically recorded.

Penalties : late returns

The initial penalty for a late individual return is £100, but this is capped at the amount of tax outstanding at 31 January. This capping process does not apply to partnership returns which must be filed online to avoid the penalty of £100 per partner.

HMRC manuals conveniently deal with both fixed penalties of £100 and the capping process, under which the penalty is capped at the tax outstanding on the same page - here. It is worth reminding clients that this capping process is abolished by Finance Act 2009, so will not protect them from their tardiness in future (probably from January 2011).

Steeden v Carver

If filed after midnight on 31 January but by midnight on 1 February the return is late, but there will be no penalty for late filing following the decision of the Special Commissioners in the Steeden v Carver case. This old HMRC Tax Bulletin article explains the case decision - although marked out of date, the analysis of the case is a good clear summary for those who want to know. The rules are also described in the Enquiry Manual at EM4563. General guidance on reasonable excuse is here.

Penalties : failure to notify

You may also have clients who failed to notify HMRC that they are liable to tax on a source of income. The requirement is to notify HMRC by 5 October 2009 in respect of 2008-09. The penalty for this is tax geared, so paying the tax by 31 January can stop the penalty running. This penalty applies irrespective of whether a tax return is issued or not. The structure of this penalty is also changing from April 2010. Typically, these clients do not have a UTR as they have not yet notified HMRC that they are liable to self assessment (see below - issue of UTR's).

Penalties : Inaccuracies on the return

The new penalties for inaccuracies in Finance Act 2007 will apply to any errors on the 2009 returns which lead to an underpayment of tax. You should be aware of the impact of this change on your arrangements for approval of returns and warn clients submitting their records very late that they need to take more care in future. This topic was dealt with in more detail here - including a simple tax return approval form for you to download and use.

Excluded cases and workarounds

Cases where online filing is not possible and the return must be filed on paper include returns where one of the following supplementary pages is required:

  • SA102 MP - Members of Parliament
  • SA102MLA - Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly Member
  • SA102MSP - Member of Scottish Parliament
  • SA102WAM - Member of National Assembly for Wales

There is also a list of excluded cases relating to individual entries on the return as for previous years; you should check this list if you are experiencing unexpected rejections.

A list of exclusions and special cases for partnership returns (SA 800) is also provided.

Exclusions and special cases for trust returns (SA900) are listed here - check the service issues page item regarding special issues for online trust returns.

In all of these cases, you should file the return on paper with a reasonable excuse form to prevent a penalty notice being raised erroneously. Do read HMRC's guidance on reasonable excuse in relation to online filing carefully if affected by any of the above exclusions - this is new for 2008-09.

You will need to purchase third party software to file returns for partnerships or trusts and for some special cases of individual returns such as non resident taxpayers. The list of approved providers shows website details but no prices, and also lists the supplementary pages that HMRC does provide on the free software. Our article on Budget software for low volume partnership returns may be of some help.

Service issues

If you are having problems filing returns, check the service availability page, and the register of current online issues before going any further to see whether it is a known problem. HMRC will post to this page regualrly in January if there are service problems.

Online services helpdesk number : 0845 60 55 999
Or email at [email protected]

Online Services Helpdesk news : the help desk will provide a full service between 8 am and 4.30pm on Saturday 30 January, and between 8am and 8pm on Sunday 31 January. Outside of these hours, client specific help will not be available, but general online support will. Full details in our new article

Security Online

HMRC tips on online security were published in the summer of 2009 following breaches of security in the SA online systems. The index page is here - link to the various pages from this menu.

Details of the current "phishing" emails and advice on what to do are shown here. As a general point you should ensure that you have advised your clients that HMRC will never contact them by email and they should not respond to any contact of this nature purporting to be from the tax authority. The current round of emails do not request bank details, but request taxpayers to log onto their HMRC online account - thus capturing valuable log on details.

Paper returns

Paper returns may be filed for cases where it is not possible to file online. This includes the 'excluded cases' and other taxpayers unable to file online, such as those without a UTR. For excluded cases, no penalty will apply. For other taxpayers you will need to ensure that the tax is paid by 31 January to cap the penalty at nil.

Computer output
If you wish to file computer-generated output this is permissable, but you will need to check that your software provider produces identical output. You should print the return in 'greyscale' and not black and white. The HMRC guidance for agents on printed returns from computers is here.

Agent authorisation

See HMRC's general guidance on agent authorisation. Working Together issue 38 included some details about the latest developments with agent authorisation.

Online facility

The online authorisation service should be the quickest way to get registered to act for a client, although turn around times for paper 64-8's have been very quick in the last few months of 2009 (details below). The linked page includes some background to this service. To access it just log on as agent and select 'Authorise Client' from the menu. You will need a UTR for the client before you can use the online service.

File only

If you are using third party software you can "File only", without a 64-8 being completed. However, this will not give you access to your new client's files or previous tax information held by HMRC.

Paper 64-8 procedure and turnaround times (January 2010)

Paper 64-8 as PDF form (cannot be saved) is here. You must show at least one of the UTR and NI number, as without either, HMRC will not process the return. The reasons are given in this article dated December 2009. You should also quote your agent code on the 64-8 - this system is now run centrally at CAAT by the Agent Maintainer - this HMRC article describes the system.

The current HMRC service message regarding paper 64-8 is as follows : "The Central Agent Authorisation Team (CAAT) aim to deal with paper forms 64-8 for Self Assessment authorisations within 24 hours of receipt in CAAT (Monday to Friday). This means you can call the Agent Dedicated Line as soon as CAAT have updated the Self Assessment record. Updating HMRC’s electronic systems can take a bit longer and full online functionality will be enabled within three working days. CAAT aim to process other authorisations within seven working days of receipt."

Working Together issue 33 (published in November 2008) covered some '64-8 Myths and legends' which may resolve some issues. This includes general advice about where to send the forms etc.

Unique Taxpayer Reference numbers (UTR's)

Clients without a UTR

We have added a more detailed separate article on all of the issues you need to consider when a client does not have a UTR, including issues relating to partnerships and non UK resident individuals.

Clients without a UTR but who need to file a return are very likely to have a failure to notify issue and consequent penalties (see above). You will not be able to file their return online, and will need to make a return on paper. Follow the guidance above regarding payment of tax by 31 January to limit penalties to zero. Taxpayers with self employment income in 2008-09 should notifty liability on form CWF1, and those with tax due under self assessment but no self employment should use form SA1. In both cases, the forms are now submitted to HMRC processing centre at CAAT Longbenton. Partnership registration and new partners joining existing firms should also notify Longbenton. If you do not have a UTR for a client you must quote their NI number on form 64-8 as without either, HMRC will not process applications.

Partners without a UTR

Where one or more partners do not have a UTR the partnership return will be rejected. Follow the advice above regarding obtaining a UTR. The partnership return may have been issued to the remaining partners in time, so a late filing penalty may be due in this situation as the return will have to be filed on paper if no UTR is received in time.

Statements and Payment issues

Agent Copy statements

Strictly called client information sheets (SA 327), the agent copies of the client statements have not been issued again this year, as following a security reveiw in 2008 it was decided that the method used to print and send out the statements was not sufficiently secure. Working Together is still examining whether this facility should be reinstated or not.  

Working Together Bulletin 33 has a little more information on this. It is the last item under National Working Together.

Blank online statements

Some agents are still having problems viewing online statements. This is related to settings within your browser, and with the proliferation of browsers available could be an issue for some. However, HMRC has provided an online help page to resolve this problem. If this doesn't resolve it phone the online help desk (see above).


The downloadable payslip (SA 361) is still available on HMRC's website, although it indicates it is for use until 31 January 2009. Payslips are only really required for payment by post, which is discouraged these days - electronic payment is much preferred, but you can download the payslip and complete for printing (but not save it).

Payment methods

There is a range of ways to pay, including debit card and HMRC are encouraging payment by electronic methods.

HMRC bank changes

Don't forget that HMRC's bank details have changed during the year, so clients may find that automated payments they have set up in the past need editing before they make payment. Full details of new bank account details are here.

Credit card payment facility

HMRC also provides an online credit card payment facility. This accepts credit cards, with the exception of Diners Club and American Express. There is a charge for paying tax by credit card, which is added to the amount charged to your card. The charge is calculated at 1.25% of the amount paid. More details are available here.

Business Payment Support Scheme

The special support scheme for businesses unable to make tax payments as a result of the recession continues, although clients who used the service last year are in some cases reporting resistance from HMRC to further help. We are following these reports up to check whether this is a policy change. Meanwhile, you can contact BPSS on 0845 302 1435 and should do so before the tax falls due to make a time to pay arrangement. This page provides more details about the service.

SA Online software and resources

HMRC Resources
HMRC's Online services Q&A for agents - compiled from 2008 & 2009 roadshow queries
Tax agents and advisers page
Exclusions for online filing SA100 - 2008/09 (879k PDF)
HMRC service availability page - Self Assessment
What’s New page – general news and links to a variety of other pages.

Software providers

BTC SA Solution & SA Solution Express
Private user area
FAQ page
How to survive tax returns season - Free downloadable guide

Aside from a technical blog, there’s not a lot online for non-users. But CCH Online holds a treasure trove of content and reference material – as long as you’re prepared to pay for it (£1,145 for single user British Tax Library Online licence)

Personal tax support page includes:
Capital Allowances fact sheet (PDF download)
Online filing known issues & workarounds 2008-09 (PDF factsheet)

Customer support page with hot topics news
Searchable Knowledge Base

Mainly product information, with a private area for users; What’s new page contains some useful technical detail.

IRIS Resource centre (for registered users only) contains tax news & briefs.

Keytime's new support portal includes news and links to an interactive forum - accompanied by an introductory blog post. If you miss it, the old support page is still availalble here.

Online filing guide (& PDF tip sheet)
News & FAQs covers issues around Individual, Partnership and Trust returns, plus details of issue where self employment details in 2007/08 returns are not correctly transferring forward into the program's 2008/09 return.

QMS SA2000
General FAQ page - not many specifics about 2008-09 filing issues

Sage Personal Tax
Sage Taxation Resources includes Sage specific information plus generic advice and Q&As. 
Sage-sponsored online SA surgery with Rebecca Benneyworth caters for more difficult technical questions.

2009 FAQ page


Replies (8)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By wbs
11th Jan 2010 13:43

Brilliant and concise as ever

Thanks Rebecca - great to have it all in one place when you are frantic and running out of time!

Thanks (0)
By Nick E Morgan
11th Jan 2010 20:51


Great piece.

Cheers, Nick

Thanks (0)
By jimwmackenzie
21st Jan 2010 15:04

Keytime support website

We stealth-launched a new support portal for Keytime late last year, which can be found at  I've also written a little explanation about the new site, including how to give us feedback on improving this new approach here:

Rest assured, we aren't satisfied with having just a basic support site, with blog or otherwise!  I'd appreciate it if the article could be updated, but there are definitely more pressing concerns at this time of year!

Thanks (0)
By zlss116
25th Jan 2010 12:38


Hello Accounting web - happy January

I have just been told by SA helpdesk that the processing of SA1 forms is behind ...already (they are only required since 1 Dec ) at present they are still working on forms received in December, and anything since then , the UTR won't be issued until its too late to meet 31 Jan.  I know that if the client has paid the tax by 31 Jan then any late notification penalties are nullified - but here we are again, and HMRC hasn't properly allocated resources to meet the last minute pressure. anyway - at least online filing has been alot easier, so far....

I am also far from convinced that 64-8s are being processed meaningfully within the promised 24 hours .  I have been able to speak to hmrc about new registrations - but HMRC haven't attached the 64-8 to available paye records so it seems to me that they haven't exactly  processed the things properly. MEE-ow.

Thanks (0)
John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
25th Jan 2010 13:46

Thanks for the update, Jim

We have updated the links in the article. The new portal is looking good - and we'll be keeping an eye on the user forums, which look to be a useful addition.

Sorry about the "fairly basic" comment - we didn't mean to hurt any feelings!

Thanks (0)
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01st Jan 2011 10:42


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By chaster
31st Jan 2011 19:20

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