5 tips for filling out your paper tax returnSelf-assessment form must reach HMRC by 31 October

24 October 2016

tax return

The paper tax return deadline is three months earlier than the online deadline. 

The deadline for paper tax returns is 31 October 2016. If self-assessment taxpayers miss this they face a £100 fine. Alternatively, they can file online and gain an extra three months.

Self-assessment tax returns 2016

If you need to make a self-assessment tax return this year, for income received between 6 April 2015 and 5 April 2016, you face a choice. You can fill in a traditional paper form or make an online return by logging on to the HMRC website.

Paper tax returns: 5 top tips

1. If you send a paper tax return, it must reach HMRC by 31 October 2016. If you leave things to the last moment, be sure to get proof of postage in case your return arrives late. Late returns trigger an automatic £100 fine. 

2. Don't delay sending your return for the sake of one late figure. It is acceptable to enter an estimate.

3. Don't forget to sign your tax return. Failing to do so will invalidate your form.

4. If you find you've made a mistake after posting off a paper return, you can send HMRC the right figures by downloading a new tax return and printing this off. Fill in the new version and write ‘amendment’ on each page. Be sure to include your name and Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). You can find this on previous tax returns or letters from HMRC.

5. If you miss the October deadline, don't post a late paper return to HMRC. Instead, you can register to file online and submit your figures before the online deadline of 31 January 2017.  

Online tax returns

Making an online tax return gives you an extra three months, with a deadline of 31 January 2017. It also offers the comfort of an instant acknowledgement from HMRC that your return has been received.

To make an online tax return, you need to be set up in advance. Details of how to do this are on the HMRC website. Click on the ‘Self assessment’ option under the 'do it online’ heading. 

If you’re a new user, click on the ‘Register’ button, then select ‘Individual’, followed by ‘Self Assessment (SA)’.

You need to set up a user ID and password and then wait for an activation code, which allows you to file online. The code is sent by post and can take up to seven days to arrive. Make sure you register well in advance of the 31 January deadline.

Useful tool: Which? tax calculator - independent tailored help with your income tax bill 

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