An Otley-based tax specialist is advising local parents to act fast to avoid fines over child benefit payments.

New rules introduced last year mean that about 1.1 million families which had one adult earning more than £50,000 during the 2012-13 tax year must repay part of their child benefit – while those earning more than £60,000 need to repay it entirely.

The benefit payments are declared by the high earner registering for self-assessment and completing a tax return.

Andrew Thornton, who runs TaxAssist Accountants in Otley, said: “For many families this will be the first time they have ever had to file tax returns and it is vital they don’t get caught out.

“They only have until January 31 to file their tax return electronically, and it could take up to ten days just to register for online access if this is their first time.

“Anyone missing the January 31 deadline will be hit with an automatic £100 fine, with further penalties reaching £1,600 for those who file more than a year late.

“You must ensure your affairs are in order otherwise you may risk losing your entitlement to state benefits later in life.”