On-line or on paper?

Help with your Tax Return guide


Income Tax returns may be filed on-line or on paper. There are significant differences between paper and on-line filing. Key issues are:

  1. You must register in advance to use the on-line system. You will be sent an activation code through the post, so allow for possible delays. You can register for on-line filing on the HMRC website at https://online.hmrc.gov.uk/registration/ . You will need your 10 digit Unique Tax Reference Number (UTR) and your National Insurance Number or Post Code
  2. You can file your return later if you file on-line. Paper returns must be in by 31 October following the end of the tax year. On-line returns may be submitted three months later – by 31 January. Eg the tax return to 5 April 2017 is due by 31 October 2017 on paper, and by 31 January 2018 if submitted on-line
  3. The on-line system gives an immediate acknowledgement that the tax return has been received by HMRC, and you should receive an email as proof that the return has been submitted. There is no confirmation given  for paper returns. You can send the return recorded delivery or obtain proof of posting so that if it is lost by HMRC you can prove that you submitted it
  4. Late filing penalties run from the filing date, so penalties kick in faster for paper returns. Penalties for paper returns run from 1 November after the end of the tax year, but for on-line returns the penalties won’t start until the 1 February following. Eg. For 2016-17 paper returns, penalties run from 1 November 2017. But for 2016-17 on-line returns, penalties start from 1 February 2018.

Once you are registered for self-assessment on line, you can:

You will have your tax calculated automatically and will receive repayments faster than if you submit a paper return.