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Payments on account

Payments on account
Thursday, December 21, 2017

Payments on account with HMRC on the submission of your Self Assessment form confuses a lot of taxpayers. It’s not the simplest system and it’s something we’re asked about a lot.


In this article, Panthera looks at the current system to see how it affects you.


Two payments on account


With the payments on account system, you make two payments of your tax to HMRC in one year.


The first half of your bill you pay on the 31st January with the remainder becoming due on the 31st July.


How much do you pay?


Your bill is worked out on how much tax you’ve paid in the previous tax year.


Let’s look at Jill - a client in her third year with us and her 2015/2016 tax bill came out at a regular £40,000.


Jill will pay £20,000 in tax on 31st January 2017 and £20,000 on 31st July 2017.


What happens if your tax bill goes up in one year?


Jill had an even better year in 2016/2017 and her tax bill was £50,000.


As you know, Jill’s instalments are calculated on her previous year where she paid £40,000. She’s paid her £20,000 on 31st January 2017 and her £20,000 on 31st July 2017.


You can see that HMRC are going to be £10,000 down in tax.


This additional £10,000 will need to be paid by 31st January 2018. This is something that HMRC call a “balancing payment”.


How balancing payments affect you


As we mentioned, Jill paid her £20,000 on 31st January 2017 and her £20,000 on 31st July 2017.


However, the situation changes in 2018. Jill’s 31st January payment will be the £10,000 balancing payment plus £25,000 (half of her tax bill in 2016/2017). Her 31st July payment will be £25,000, the remaining half of her 2016/2017 tax bill.


If Jill’s 2017/2018 tax bill stays at £50,000, then she’ll pay £25,000 on 31st January 2019 and £25,000 on 31st July 2019.


Notes on payments on account


If your Self Assessment bills is £1,000 or less, you don’t have to make two payments in a year. However, you need to be prepared because if in 2017/2018 your tax bill was £900 and 2018/2019 saw your tax bill rise to £1,500, the balancing payments system would see you have to pay £2,250 on 31st January 2020.


You also don’t have to make two payments in a year if you have paid more than 80% of the tax you owe.


You can vary your payments if your tax bill goes down from year to year.


Ask us to apply to HMRC for you to have your payment on account reduced. This may buy you the extra time you need to bring your turnover and profitability back to its historic levels and, more importantly, levels that you feel comfortable with as a business owner.


This is something we’ll examine in depth with you though because business is not predictable and the recovery you’re hoping for may not come as fast as you want it. In that case, the underpayments that you make will begin to mount up and this will, at the time they need to be settled with HMRC, create a whole other headache you can do without.


What happens in the first year of payments on account?


This is news that you’re not going to like.


Let’s say you complete the 2017/2018 tax year and you owe £20,000 in tax. HMRC are going to want all of that by 31st January 2019.


And they’re going to want 50% more. Your bill will actually be £30,000. The additional £10,000 is your advanced payment on account for your 31st January 2020 payment.


That’s not all. They’re going to want another £10,000 on 31st January 2019. By the time you’ve made both of these payments, you’ll have contributed £20,000 towards your 2018/2019 tax bill. It might be great for HMRC but those are big chunks of money to come out of a business less than 3 years old.


If you overpay on your payments on account, you will be refunded. Any underpayment will be collected using the balancing payment system




Payment on account is complicated and throws a lot of businesspeople, especially in their early years. To talk to us about it, please speak to your accountant at Panthera on 01235 768 561 or email the team at


Oh, and from all the team here at Panthera, Merry Christmas and all the best to you and yours.

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