THE countdown has begun to the January 31 Self Assessment deadline, with just days left for anyone with an outstanding 2011-12 tax return to send it online to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

If anyone sends their return late, they will receive a £100 penalty, even if they have no tax to pay or pay their tax on time. The longer they delay, the more they will have to pay, as further late-filing penalties kick in after three, six and 12 months.

If anyone has not sent a tax return online before, they will need to sign up for HMRC’s online service by Monday, January 21. That is because it can take up to seven working days to complete the process, as an Activation Code has to be posted to the tax payer. People who have filed online before but have lost their password or user ID and need a replacement, should also contact HMRC by that date.

To register visit and follow the instructions. The tax payer will immediately get a User ID and once they have received the Activation Code in the post can activate their account. They can then complete their tax return online.

With the clock ticking, small businesses that have to complete a return, such as sole traders and partnerships, are being offered the chance to participate in one of three HMRC interactive webinars on “How to complete your Self Assessment return online”.

Participants will be able to see a live presentation and ask questions online.

Webinars will take place today at 2pm to 3pm and Wednesday, January 30 from 8am until 9am. To register for the free events, visit

The end of January is also the deadline for paying any tax owed for the 2011-12 tax year.

Further information on completing a tax return is available by visiting or calling the Self Assessment helpline on 0845 9000 444.