Preparing for the second payment on account – and what happens when you can’t pay?

If you are a Self-Assessment taxpayer, it is almost time to make your second ‘payment on account’ – advance payments towards your tax bill.

Those who submit a Self-Assessment tax return and owe £1,000 or more will be required to make their second payment on account by midnight on 31 July 2024.

How do payments on account work?

‘Payments on account’ are a way of paying Income Tax for Self-Assessment (ITSA) for business owners, sole traders and other taxpayers that spread out the expected cost of an upcoming tax bill.

There are two payments on account each year – one payable on 31 January and the other on 31 July during the tax year.

Each payment is typically half of the previous year’s tax bill, including Class 4 National Insurance Contributions.

The expectation is that, when you file ITSA, you will not need to have a major cash reserve to pay your entire bill at once.

What if my income is lower this year?

Payments on account work for many taxpayers because they assume that they will owe a similar amount or more tax than in a previous year.

If you expect your income to be substantially lower this year than in the previous year, you can apply to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to reduce the payments on your account.

When you submit your tax return, if it turns out that you have overpaid, this will be refunded or offset against future tax liabilities.

What happens if I can’t pay?

If you cannot pay your upcoming payment on account, it is important to contact HMRC as soon as possible.

Missing the deadline without explanation can mean that interest will be charged to your account, and you could end up owing much more than your original bill.

You may be able to set up a ‘Time to Pay’ agreement with HMRC, which is a formal payment plan. If you:

  • Have filed your latest tax return
  • Owe £30,000 or less
  • Are within 60 days of the payment deadline
  • Do not have any other payment plans or debts with HMRC

You can set up a Time to Pay agreement online through your account with HMRC.

For support with compliance and managing the cost of your tax bill, contact us.