By Marcus Leach

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is reminding first-time Self Assessment filers that they need to register for online filing by the end of this week, or they may not be able to send their tax return on time.

Tax returns for 2010/11 must be sent online to HMRC by 31 January but, if you’re filing online for the first time, you need to register by Saturday 21 January, to allow enough time for an account Activation Code to be posted to you.

It’s important to register in time. If you send HMRC an online return after 31 January, you will receive a £100 penalty — even if you have no tax to pay.

The longer you delay, the more you'll have to pay. If your tax return is three months late, you'll have to pay a penalty for each additional day it is late. If it's six months late, you'll have to pay a further penalty and another, final penalty if it's 12 months late. Together these could add up to a penalty of £1,600 or more.

Registering is simple — visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/online and follow the instructions. Once you’ve received your Activation Code, you can activate your account and complete your tax return online.

For help and advice on completing an online return, visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/sa/file-online.htm or call the Self Assessment helpline on 0845 9000 444.

And don’t forget, 31 January 2012 is also the deadline for paying any tax you owe for the 2010/11 tax year.

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