In mid-May, not many are thinking about their tax returns. But for some, ‘brown envelope anxiety’ is a crippling fear that doesn’t always go away just because there are no close deadlines to meet. This week, for Mental Health Awareness week, specialists business and taxation solicitors, DPP Business & Tax, are aiming to raise awareness of a condition that’s not so commonly recognised; but that is all too real.
Fearing an envelope through the door is not uncommon, in 2017 the Guardian ran an investigation into the colloquially known ‘brown envelope anxiety’ and spoke to individuals who suffered from it. For most, it’s not so much the brown envelope they fear but rather what its contents might hold. It may be a bill, or information regarding paying tax – which can trigger anxiety symptoms.
Though it’s a real condition, it’s not commonly spoken about. So for Mental Health Awareness week, that takes place from the 13th May to the 19th May this year, Shahid Miah, director of DPP Business & Tax has provided a handful of legal tips and guidance for dealing with ‘brown envelope anxiety’ to raise awareness of the condition and help those who suffer quell it.
“Submitting your tax return can be one of the most anxiety-inducing processes.” Shahid explains. “Especially if you’re self-employed and are filing your taxes independently. Many tend to leave taxes to late in the year and close to the deadline, but you can keep on top of them all year round. Use softwares to log your expenses and your details as you go – and submit your self-assessment in plenty of time to avoid that last-minute scramble that can trigger panic symptoms.”
“Another anxiety-inducing factor can be opening an envelope and not being able to do anything about it” Mr Miah contends. “For example, over a bank holiday weekend – you won’t be able to phone anybody in response to your letter until they reopen. I would suggest keeping letters in a safe place until you know you can action them right away. Set a reminder to yourself so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to open them.”
“If dealing with taxes is something that you know triggers panic and concern, then there’s no shame in asking for a helping hand. Getting an accountant to file your tax return, or using some of the softwares available can reduce your chance of error and also mean that you don’t end up inundated with information and stress that could have been prevented.”
“If tax returns don’t sit well with you, it’s worth it to seek assistance” Shahid adds.
“If you receive a brown envelope on a day where you might be able to action its contents, such as a weekday, then I would suggest giving it notice sooner rather than later.” Mr Miah explains. “Some might prepare to open the envelope, or might put it off in fear of what’s inside, but doing this may only prolong your apprehension.”
“That being said” Shahid adds, “you shouldn’t force yourself to open the envelope right away, make sure it’s when you’re ready.”
“One reason that HMRC might need to contact you, is if your P60 details aren’t correct.” Shahid explains. “Like my earlier point, one way to reduce trepidation in the days that get closer to your tax return, is to iron out any issues as early as possible. You could even start now for the next tax year!”
“Check everything is in order throughout the year, with a focus on your P60, and submitting your tax return come April next year should be much easier, and with less risk of HMRC needing to contact you. The key things you should check to ensure your P60 is in order include: