How did you spend Christmas Day?

You may be surprised to learn that 2,616 people chose Christmas Day to file their annual tax return (and a further 8,463 chose Boxing Day).

At the end of the first week of January, however, more than five million people – that is over half of those who need to file a tax return by the end of the month – had yet to do so.

While dealing with your tax return is a chore, it is also an opportunity to think about whether you could save some tax.

It may be that there is nothing you can do, but if you are married, in a civil partnership, have substantial assets or are involved in a business for example, there may well be ways to mitigate your tax bill.

Let’s start with a last-minute opportunity: if you haven’t yet filed your tax return but know that you will have a substantial liability, you could consider making a payment to a charity under gift aid and backdating it to the 2017/18 tax year.

If you have filed your return then it is now too late to do this, but you could still reduce next year’s tax bill.

If you are married or a civil partner and your spouse or partner is a non-taxpayer or is subject to a different rate of tax, you may be able to reallocate income producing assets to take advantage of unused allowances or different tax rates.

You may also have scope to reduce exposure to capital gains tax.

If you have substantial income or assets there may again be action you can take, through tax-efficient investments, through pension planning and through inheritance tax planning.

Businesses and business owners have even more possibilities to consider. It is worth reviewing your business structure periodically, as changes in tax law can have a significant effect on the tax effectiveness of a particular structure over time.

The way profit is extracted can also affect the tax burden.

Timing can sometimes have a huge effect: even a day, or the order in which two transactions are carried out can be critical.

Often, there is little that can be done once a transaction has taken place, so it is generally wise to take advice before acquiring or selling an asset.

So, my advice is simple: don’t just focus on getting the tax return in by the deadline, seek advice on how you may be able to reduce the bill.

Paul Aplin is a tax partner with A C Mole & Sons and President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; you can follow him on Twitter at @PaulAplinOnTax or email him at