Technology, life, programming, travel and money.

Self Assessment and clever PDFs

For 05-06 I was able to use the HMRC free online self-assessment tax form which proved to be very easy to fill in and which did most of the tax calculations automatically. This year I wasn’t able to do this as I needed to fill in the Capital Gains Tax supplement. This supplement isn’t included in the sections available on the HMRC free online tax software.

There were therefore two option:

  1. Fill in the paper forms. Complicated, not fun, and easy to screw up.
  2. Investigate some 3rd party software to fill in the tax return.

The Inland Revenue has a list of approved software listed on their website. The software from ftax looked the best to me – they have a demo on their site if you want to see. The look and feel is identical to the paper forms. It allows you to fill in the main form and all the supplemental sections.

I purchased the software and downloaded it to my desktop. I went to my desktop and was expecting to find an exe or a zip file. I could find anything that looked like an installable application so I went back to the ftax site and downloaded it again.

Once more I could see nothing that looked like an install file for this software. I did however spot a PDF called SA2007. I was puzzled as I was expecting some software to be downloaded, not a PDF.

I opened the PDF and it became clear. This is no static, dumb PDF. This is the King of PDFs. You can fill in fields, save the data and press buttons to calculate your tax figures, and to submit your final return. It really is an amazing use of the PDF file format, I never realised PDFs could do this kind of thing. Many of the tax calculations are automatically done for you which makes it really easy to fill in. There is a lot of field validation in there as well, so you don’t mess up the form as you can easily do with the paper version.

The official (and free) HMRC software also does automatic calculations and validation, but if you need to fill in any supplemental pages that aren’t covered by the free software then I can definitely recommend a package like this. I haven’t yet submitted my return so I won’t be fully convinced until I have my submission receipt from HMRC but it is looking good so far.

Update 2010: The online self assessment tax forms from the HMRC do now allow you to declare capital gains.


Leave a Reply

Do NOT fill this !