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Have you completed your tax return yet?

Our research reveals that some people spend an entire working day on their tax returns. As the 31 January deadline looms, are you turning your tax return into an unnecessary ordeal?

This year, Britons will spend an estimated 26 million hours completing their tax returns.

About three quarters of the people we surveyed do it in under three hours, but thousands of people spend more than a working day on their return, including a handful (3%) who need more than 15 hours.

The most time-consuming elements were finding receipts and records (44%), with more than a third (34%) saying they had problems understanding HMRC forms.

It pays to know about your tax return

It can be expensive to leave your return until the last minute. Late completion will land you with an automatic £100 fine, and the cost of further delays can reach thousands of pounds, depending on how late you are and the amount owed.

You might have the best intentions for submitting your tax return on time, but sometimes things get in the way. And while you can try to appeal against a late fine from HMRC, there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed.

HMRC certainly receives some strange excuses – last year’s top five included: ‘I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house.’ Another claimed: ‘My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it.’ Needless to say these didn’t wash with HMRC.

Of course, there are some reasons that will be accepted for submitting your tax return late, including the death of a partner, an unexpected hospital stay, computer failure, or a fire that prevents completion or postage. But if none of these apply, you’d better get cracking.

Making light of filling in forms

You can make life easier for yourself by getting someone else to do the dreaded forms. That’s what almost one in five (18%) of those we surveyed do, paying an average of £358 to an accountant to submit a tax return on their behalf.

But accountants aren’t the only way to get help navigating the often lengthy and confusing process. Apps, websites and calculators, such as Which?’s easy-to-use and jargon-free online tax calculator, can also make life simpler.

The tool offers personalised tax tips and helps guide you through the process. For a small fee, this system allows for returns to be submitted directly to HMRC, too.

How are you getting on with your tax return – will it be handed in on time to avoid paying any penalties or are you going to try using a crazy excuse? How long do you spend doing your tax return each year, or do you pay an accountant to do it for you?

This is an adapted version of an article by Gareth Shaw, originally published in Metro.


I finally got round to it about a fortnight ago. I always promise myself that as soon as my P60 arrives I will do my tax return, but I never do! The HMRC self assessment software seems to be pretty good nowadays, I remember in the early days of online self assessment it was quite unfriendly and buggy.