Making sense of your tax payments
QUESTION: I provide my accountant with all my personal financial information to allow him to prepare and file my tax return. Each year he advises me of my tax liability and the amount I need to pay on account. Can you explain how the tax payment system works?
ANSWER: If you are self-employed or have income that is not taxed before you receive it, such as rental income, you may have a tax bill to pay. The tax year runs from April 6 to the following April 5 and any tax to be paid is due by January 31 following the relevant tax year.
‘Payments on account' are advance payments towards the tax bill you will owe for the next tax year. You need to make a payment on account if your tax bill is more than £1,000, unless you have already had more than 80 per cent of it collected at source. You might have paid this through your PAYE tax code or it might have been deducted from any additional income you have, e.g. the interest on your savings.
If the payments on account you've made are higher than your tax bill, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will refund the difference. If you are required to make payments on account, budgeting for your tax bill can be even more important.
In the first year that payments on account arise, they effectively accelerate your tax payments. The result is that in your first January, you could be faced with paying 150 per cent of your tax bill; albeit that 50 per cent of it is an advance payment for next year.
Each payment on account is half of your previous year's tax bill. These payments are due on January 31 and July 31.
The system of payments on account is best suited for taxpayers who do not experience significant fluctuations in their taxable income, because they are based on your income from the previous year.
However, if your business profits or taxable income is down, you can ask HMRC to reduce your payments on account if you think your tax bill is going to be lower than last year. Be careful not to reduce them too far though – HMRC can charge you interest and penalties if you end up paying too little.
If you still have tax to pay after you've made your payments on account, this is called a balancing payment. You must pay your balance by midnight on January 31 after the end of the tax year.
As a rough guide, I would generally recommend that you put aside a quarter of your profits for your tax bill. If you're a higher rate taxpayer (your profits or income are more than £40,000), then it may be preferable to increase the amount you put aside to a third.
:: Paddy Harty (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director at PKF-FPM Accountants (www.pkffpm.com). The advice in this column is specific to the facts surrounding the question posed. Neither The Irish News nor the contributors accept any liability for any direct or indirect loss arising from any reliance placed on replies.