Top 4 things to do before 2011

Don't let deadlines pass you by - check out these four tasks that need addressing before the year is out and save some serious cash!

If, like me you constantly think of tasks you need to do and promptly forget them again, you're probably fond of good old "To do" lists. But there are always those financial jobs that catch us out - deadlines whiz past and we kick ourselves for not being more organised.

So to give you a hand, here are a few of the financial tasks I've remembered lately that need addressing soon that could reduce your tax bill, or simply save you money!

Tax return

While the date for submitting a self assessment form on paper passed on 31 October (submit now and you'll incur a £100 fine) you can still do so penalty-free, online until 31 January 2011.

And the good news is there are many advantages to filing online. Not only do you get longer to submit, but the HMRC software is pretty easy to use and the best bit is that it will calculate any tax payable for you. Alternatively, you can of course use commercial software.

If you haven't already registered you can do so here - you'll need your 10 digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), your National Insurance Number and your postcode to do so - and as this can take up to 7 days it's worth applying for as soon as possible.

All going well you could even decide to emulate the 730 people who decided to file their tax returns on Christmas Day last year!

Get spending!

For the second straight year, January will see a rise in VAT, this time all the way up to a whopping 20%.

So from the New Year, retailers will have to start charging VAT at 20% for all takings received. So if you’ve got a big year of spending ahead (and with a baby due any minute, I know I do) it pays to get your spending done before Big Ben chimes in 2011. If you plan to have a holiday, for example, be sure to get ordering before the New Year – not only do you benefit from a better deal as you’re booking up relatively early, but you’ll also sidestep an increased VAT bill.

Rachel Robson takes a look at a great way to earn cash back when shopping online

In fact, why not do next year’s Christmas shopping now? Not only will it save you the stress next year, but it will save you a few quid as well!

Get claiming

The Coalition Government has targeted great swathes of the welfare state in its efforts to deal with our various economic problems, so the benefits you qualify for may not be in place much longer.

For example, from next year if your household earns more than £40,000, your ability to claim Child Tax Credit will be at least severely reduced, while the Baby element of the Child Tax Credit will be entirely abolished. Similarly, the Health in Pregnancy Grant for expectant mothers, to help pay for healthy foods, will be abolished from 1st January, so if you are expecting and will reach the 25th week of pregnancy before the New Year, hurry up and claim before it’s too late.

Pay into your pension

For the highest earners, 2011 will see some significant changes to pensions. The maximum annual amount that you can pay in and still receive tax relief will be slashed sharply, from £255,000 to £50,000. OK, so only a tiny fraction of Brits are in the position to pay £50,000 into their pension in a single year, let alone £255,000, but it’s a big change.

So if you’re a high earner and want to make the most of the tax relief on your pension, now is the time to make the most of it as it will soon be gone!

More: 12 good, cheap Christmas gift ideas | 12 billion reasons to switch your savings account today


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