Let’s all raise our glasses and say a big thank you to HMRC for creating the 31st January deadline for submission of our self-assessment tax returns. Hip hip hoorah! Not.

OK, I accept the principle of self-assessment that all self-employed or taxpayers with secondary incomes are required to submit their tax returns declaring the income they have received during the previous fiscal year together with a calculation of the tax payable… wait a minute, what are HMRC doing whilst we are doing that? Well, seeing as they cleverly delegated that role to the taxpayer their job is simply to do the admin. Like issuing penalties if you don’t do it. Thanks.

This is all a bit tongue in cheek as in reality it’s quite a good system and mirrored in many other countries. But it’s the deadline that causes us the problem.

Coming up towards Christmas we all have loads of stuff to do. Firstly we have to cram four weeks work into two during December as after the 14th the World shuts down as we stumble from one hideous stand up drinks party to another in training for the really big night – New Years Eve. But it’s not just the social commitments, its all the preparations for the big day. The food, the booze, the Christmas presents, the cards, the wrapping, the tidying of the house, the DIY jobs that we could have done all year but only turn our attention to 10 minutes before the builders merchants closes. Such fun.

And if that weren’t enough I’ve got my accountant on my case asking me boring questions about P60’s or interest received from an account I’ve been meaning to close for the last 5 years. It’s only got 5 quid in it and the interest is going to be pennies, probably the same as last year for chrissake!!! Ok, Ok, I’ll get around to it. I promise. In fact it’s the first thing I will do when I get home tonight…

Really? Probably not. There’s loads of other stuff that’s a load more fun. Like emptying the dishwasher, or clearing all the old boxes out of the spare room before the mother in law turns up, or researching on the internet, looking for last minute gift ideas and cross-checking those to see if I can get them on Prime. Soo need them tomorrow. Oh look, it’s way past 10pm, way past my bedtime. I’ll just grab an hours telly, the tax stuff can wait until tomorrow. It won’t take long. 5 minutes at the most.

Wrong!

The problem is that all the little elves in the accountancy practices across the UK are facing all those issues too (the stand up drinks parties, Christmas present hunting, emptying dishwashers, and the like) but as well as that they have so many tax returns to file. Not a couple, not 10, not twenty, but across most offices into the hundreds. That puts the most colossal (and unnecessary) pressure on the guys that have to do filing. Late nights, weekends and all to save the tax payer a £100 fine. Thanks, but no thanks.

What is odd is that if we book our car in for a service and we turn up a couple of weeks late then the guy with the black trousers and white shirt with a name badge looks at us like we just turned up from outer space. He starts by looking over his shoulder and around the rest of the building just to double check that you are not talking to anyone else. Asks the question again just to make sure he is not hearing things. You confirm. So he re-frames the question ‘you want your car serviced today, but you were booked in two weeks ago? What he doesn’t say (out loud at least) is, ‘are you absolutely stark-staring mad? You are two weeks late!! Two weeks! What on earth do you expect me to do – magic a whole service centre out of the Universe!!!’

You wouldn’t do it. You simply wouldn’t.

So, it would be great if all of you promising data to your accountants put it right at the top of your ‘5 things I must do before I go to bed’ list.

Please and Thank you.