In case you aren't aware, Christmas is nearly upon us – just over a week in fact from the time of writing. All that merriment and good cheer to look forward to. Laughing children frolicking in the snow whilst the turkey cooks alongside crispy roast potatoes. That all sounds amazing but let's be honest, Christmas isn't at all like that unless you live in sugar coated, unicorn roaming Fairy Land – and I certainly haven't seen any unicorns lately.
Christmas is actually kids throwing wrapping paper everywhere and then crying as they've broken their brand new toys; your brother in law passing wind at the dinner table and blaming it on the sprouts; watching Star Wars or Bond movies and complaining that the new ones just aren't as good as the old ones; ungrateful family members that look at the present you just gave them without even hiding their disappointment; Die Hard (yes, it's a Christmas movie!); eaten half your body weight in Quality Street… hang on? Tax returns?
Yep, tax returns. After all the turkey and horrible dried fruit desserts, while granny dozes in your favourite arm chair (it is Christmas after all), you find yourself squashed up on the sofa with 4 other members of your family watching festive re-runs on TV (probably stuffing more chocolates into your face too) and HMRC's advert comes on telling you that there are 5 weeks, roughly, to get your return to them by 31 January or face penalties. The sudden realisation that your own tax return is outstanding kicks in which prompts an undignified exit from the mass on the sofa.
You spend the next couple of hours searching for bits of paper which you "put in a safe place" and now can't remember where that is – the 3 glasses of wine at dinner probably don't help. Once you do find everything you need you package it up in a brown envelope, mark it for the attention of your accountant and pop it on the side ready for posting when you can buy some stamps. A satisfied smile on your face, you wedge yourself back onto the sofa, stopping only to grab some more chocolates on the way.
The next few days pass by in a blur as you move onto the Matchmakers and more re-runs. New Year comes and goes. Then, around the 5th of January you discover a brown envelope addressed to your accountant… Not to worry, a flying visit the next morning to drop off the papers and you'll still have plenty of time for the return to be prepared and submitted by the 31st January deadline. You'll deal with it tomorrow and it'll be fine.
A week passes and you discover a brown envelope addressed to your accountant… Hmmm, de ja vu. Definitely tomorrow. You'll drop it off in the morning and it'll be fine.
January the 20th rolls round and you discover a brown envelope addressed to your accountant… You admit defeat, grab the envelope and drive round to your accountant's office and deliver the package at 10pm through their letter box.
7:30 the next morning and your brown envelope, addressed to your accountant, is passed to its intended destination; alongside 35 other brown envelopes all addressed to the same accountant. Your accountant opens all the envelopes addressed to them, wipes away a tear and makes a start on the tax returns…
Whilst this may seem a little Dickensian it is actually the fate of many a tax practitioner over Christmas and January. Whilst this is sad I don't want you to feel sorry for your accountant, we all know the rules of the game when we play. All I'd ask is that you'd raise a sprout to your accountant and buy some stamps before Christmas…..
If you're concerned about filing your tax return before the 31st January deadline, or have any tax questions you wish to discuss, please feel free to contact Marc Dorsett on 01245 228146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.