How to submit a paper tax return
Deadline: 31 October 2021
As of this year, HMRC will no longer automatically send out paper tax returns. From April 2020, anyone who has filed a paper tax return in the past will instead receive a short notice to file - this will tell taxpayers that HMRC intends to communicate with them digitally.
Where HMRC has identified those who can't file online, it will still send out paper tax returns.
If you opt for a paper tax return, you must send it to HMRC by 31 October every year - so your 2020-21 return would be due by 31 October 2021.
Your circumstances will determine which sections of the paper forms you need to fill out.
- Use the Which? online tax calculator: our easy-to-use and jargon-free tax calculator offers personalised tax tips, and you can submit the form directly to HMRC.
Sections of the main tax return (SA100)
Being confronted with a tax return form can be a bit overwhelming. Here's what you need to provide on each page.
- Page 1: Enter your personal details, including date of birth and telephone number.
- Page 2: This is a summary of your types of income for the year. You don’t need to fill in amounts – just tick the box that fit your circumstances. Read the instructions to find out which supplementary pages you need to fill in.
- Page 3: You can list your other sources of income, including savings and investment income, plus income from benefits, pensions and other miscellaneous sources.
- Page 4-5: This page lists common forms of tax relief that may be available to you, including marriage allowance, Gift Aid and payments into registered pension schemes. If you claim child benefit, you may also need to fill in the section on the High Income Benefit Charge.
- Page 6: Record any tax that has previously been refunded to you. HMRC will ask whether you refuse to have underpaid tax collected from your wages or pensions. You should also nominate a bank account for any tax refunds.
- Page 7: Share the details of your tax adviser, if you have one, and any other important information.
- Page 8: Sign your tax return, and flag whether the figures are provisional, and whether you're enclosing supplementary pages.
Paper tax return supplementary pages
In some cases, you may need to provide supplementary pages - for example, if you made capital gains, earned untaxed income or are self-employed.
Some people are sent supplementary pages automatically, but you may need to request or download them yourself. You can download the pages you need from the HMRC website or request them by telephoning HMRC on 0845 900 0404.
The supplementary pages include:
Additional information (SA101)
These are for less common types of income, deductions and tax reliefs, such as gilt-edged securities, life insurance gains and married couple’s allowance.
This is necessary if you:
- work for an employer who deducts tax through PAYE;
- received income as a company director;
- hold an office such as chairperson or treasurer and receive income;
- work for one person through another company or partnership;
- received foreign income from a job, directorship or office.
You need to fill in a separate ‘Employment’ page for each job.
Self-employment (SA103S or SA103F)
You need this supplement if you’re self-employed. Those with a turnover of less than £85,000 with no complications can fill out the short form; otherwise, you need the full form.
Partnership (SA104S or SA104F)
Suitable for those in a business partnership – see HMRC’s notes to gauge whether you need the short or full form, and which boxes you need to fill in or leave out.
UK property (SA105)
You’ll need to fill these out if you receive:
Foreign income (SA106)
Trusts etc (SA107)
Suitable if you were a beneficiary and received, or were entitled to, income from a trust or settlement (don’t include bare trusts); were a settlor and have put money or assets into a trust or settlement; received income from the estate of a person who has died.
Capital gains (SA108)
HMRC suggest getting professional advice in more complex cases, but the basic rules are to fill out these forms if:
- you sold or disposed of chargeable assets worth more than £46,800;
- your chargeable gains before losses were more than £12,300 in 2021-22, the same as in 2020-21;
- you have gains in an earlier year taxable in this period;
- you want to claim an allowable capital loss or make a capital gains claim or election for the year;
- you were not living in the UK and are claiming to pay tax on your foreign gains on the remittance basis;
- your chargeable on the remittance basis and have remitted foreign chargeable gains of an earlier year;
- you disposed of the whole or part of an interest in a UK residential property – either when you were a non-UK resident, or you were a UK resident and the disposal was in the overseas part of a split year.
Find out more: Capital gains tax allowances and rates
Minister of Religion (SA102M)
These pages are for anyone who is a minister of religion of any faith, religion or denomination, or an employee acting as a minister of religion.
Lloyd's underwriters (SA103L)
Only suitable if you were trading as an underwriting member of Lloyd’s (or a Name) and received a form CTA 1 and CTA 2 from Lloyd’s. Only include income from your personal funds held at Lloyd’s.
Paper tax return checklist
Before you start filling out your tax return, it's a good idea to make sure you have everything you need to hand.
Consult this checklist, and completing your return should be a breeze.
Getting help with paper tax returns
Tax return guidance notes - form SA150
The tax return guidance notes (SA150) issued by HMRC consist of 28 pages of guidance, explaining what kinds of income you need to declare.
HMRC also issues additional information notes (SA101 Notes), which help people with complex tax affairs to declare income from other sources - for example, life insurance gains, stock dividends, plus income from securities and share schemes.
A number of working sheets are included, which allow you to show how the taxable amounts you enter on the main return have been calculated.
If you’re file on a paper return and want to calculate your own tax, you need to ask for the tax calculation summary pages, as these won’t automatically be supplied. These pages also allow you to make a claim to reduce your payments on account (alternatively use form SA303).
Short tax returns
Some employees, pensioners and self-employed people with turnover less than £85,000 are sent a four-page simplified short tax return (SA200). You can’t ‘self-select’ for this – HMRC decides who gets it.
If your circumstances have changed since last year, it is up to you to decide if you are still eligible to fill in the short return. If in doubt, contact HMRC.
How to avoid a late fee
If you miss the paper tax return deadline of 31 October - or think you're going to miss it - do not send the forms off late, or you'll incur a penalty.
Instead, you can complete your return online using the unique taxpayer reference (UTR) number that HMRC gives you when you register. By filing online, you'll have until the later deadline of midnight on 31 January the following year.
If your paper tax return arrives after the deadline, you can't make up for it by also sending an online return on time. HMRC will fine you for a late tax return according to the one it receives first.
There are additional fines if you're late paying your tax bill. We explain possible fines in our guide to late tax returns.
Video: submit your 2020-21 tax return with Which?
If you miss the paper tax return deadline, you still have three months to file online.
You can submit your tax return direct to HMRC with the jargon-free Which? tax calculator - our short video below shows you how to use it. Tot up your tax bill and get tips on where to save with Which?.