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Things You Should Know Before You Leave Home: How to Do Your Taxes

The stuff you need to know but nobody actually teaches you. Lesson 8: Taxes

Doing anything tax related is like the ultimate step into adulthood. Only grown-ups do taxes and now you're doing them so it's official. It's also bone crushingly boring but totally essential. Not doing your taxes means stress, fines and potential imprisonment. So you better get cracking.

Everything to do with doing your taxes is different depending on your job, income and country. So I can't guide you through it step by step because I don't know where you live. But I can help you with some things you will definitely need.

Do you need to file your taxes?

If you don't then great, go away and have a glass of wine. But if you do, then stop putting it off if you're self employed then you certainly do in the UK. But you need to register on the Gov.UK website and it can take up to 2 weeks to get all your paperwork and ID numbers through.

If you live somewhere other than the UK, then you need to search for your government website and you should be able to find the answer there.

If you live in the UK and you're employed by someone else, you don't normally have to file a tax return. The company you work for will usually do it for you. 

Gather all of your information.

Get all of your paperwork together before you start. You'll need your bank statements, receipts and all of your other financial documents.

Know how you're filing.

Be honest about your circumstances, write down the correct number of kids and whether you are married or not. Lying on tax documents is an offense and could land you in jail. You need to know if you are filing jointly with your husband/wife or you need to fill out separate returns. Just be aware that if you file separately, you are allowed fewer deductions.

Have accurate figures.

Wherever it's possible, you should try to use actual figures rather than estimates. This is easier for you and reduces the risk of any problems once you have filed. Exact figures show transparency and if you have the receipts to back it up, then that's even better.

Don't forget to mention any change in circumstances.

If you don't, then you could face a huge penalty. Let them know if you changed jobs, changed the nature of your business, had children or moved house or business premises. Basically, if you think it might be important, write it down.

Know what you can and can't deduct.

Again, this will depend on your country and job. But you need to research what you can deduct. An online search will give you decent results.

Ask for help if you need it.

It's stupid to sit there and struggle if you need help! I don't know about anywhere else, but HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) are really helpful and friendly when you talk to them. Yes you will have to wait ages, but someone will be able to help you with your problem. Also, calling them means there won't be any mistakes on your form. And as anyone who has ever filed a tax return wrong will know, this will cost you dearly.

Don't put it off any longer.

Putting your tax return off won't help anyone, all it will do is make you more stressed and leave you with a massive fine if it's late. So get a coffee, grab your paperwork and get it done. Look at you, adulting all over the place.

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