Q. How do I know the VAT number on my suppliers invoice is genuine?

A. It’s a good idea to check any VAT number you have doubts about, as you can’t reclaim the VAT charged if the VAT registration is invalid. The quickest way to do this is to ring the VAT helpline on 0845 010 9000. The VAT officer will tell you if the VAT number and address details you read out match theirs. If they don’t match, they won’t tell you the details they have on file, but then you know you have a problem, so go back to your supplier.

Q. What will I gain by sending in my monthly CIS return online?

A. Your CIS return needs to be with the Taxman by 19th of every month, even if you have no payments to report. If you submit the return online you don’t have to allow for the time a letter takes in the post. The online service is available 24 hours a day, so you can do your return at any time it suits you. You gain peace of mind knowing your return has arrived safely as you get an instant acknowledgement with an online return. As long as you receive this acknowledgement by midnight on 19th of the month you can also be sure you won’t get fined for submitting a late return.

Q. I’m going to be a bit short of money for the self-assessment payment due on 31st January and was wondering what the Taxman would do if I paid another creditor I have instead of the Taxman?

A. If you don’t pay your income tax bill by 31 January 2008 you will have to pay interest at 8.5% on the unpaid balance. Also if you delay paying beyond 28 February 2008 you will have to pay a surcharge of 5% on the outstanding tax due for 2006/07, which will also carry interest at 8.5%. What’s more the Taxman marks late payers as high risk cases. A high risk marker means you are more likely to get investigated and end up paying penalties for any tax errors you have made in the last six years. If you are really going to struggle to pay it is sensible to talk to them to arrange a payment plan.