Do I have to complete a paper tax return?
If HMRC sends you a tax return to complete, or your circumstances change so that you need to submit one, you have the choice to do this online, or using a paper tax return.
You have to complete a paper tax return by 31 October every year. If you miss this deadline, then you can avoid a fine by submitting an online tax return by 31 January instead.
This guide will talk you through the different sections of the main tax return, supplementary pages, how to find help filling out the tax return, and a handy paper tax return checklist.
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)
- The first page of your return includes a reminder of the submission deadlines for both the paper and online returns.
- You are then asked to enter your personal details, including date of birth and telephone number.
- The next section is a summary of your types of income for the year. You don’t need to fill in amounts on this page – you only need to tick the box for types of income that fit your circumstances.
- If you tick a box, check that there is a section on your return for this type of income. If there isn’t, you may have to complete supplementary pages, which are available upon request from HMRC.
- The next sections are for income, including savings and investment income, plus income from benefits, pensions and other miscellaneous sources.
- The following page covers the most common forms of tax relief that may be available to you. These include married couples' allowance, Gift Aid and payments into registered pension schemes.
The final pages of the paper tax return are more administrative. These sections deal with:
- Any tax already repaid to you by HMRC or Jobcentre Plus
- The bank account into which any further repayments should be made by HMRC
- How you would like to pay any tax owing (eg through PAYE)
- Contact details for your tax adviser (if you have one)
- Any other information
- Signing the tax return.
Paper tax return – supplementary pages
Some people are sent supplementary pages automatically, but you may need to request them from HMRC in order to make a full return. You can do this by telephoning 0845 900 0404, or you can download the pages you need from the HMRC website.
Supplementary pages include:
How to get help filling in your paper tax return
The tax-return guidance notes (SA150) issued by HMRC consist of 28 pages of notes. HMRC also issues 32 pages of 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.
They also cover tax relief, age-related married couples' allowance, tax losses, pension schemes and recognised tax-avoidance schemes.
A number of working sheets are also included, which allow you to show how the taxable amounts you enter on the main return have been calculated.
If you’re a paper filer 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 under £73,000 are sent a four-page simplified short tax return (SA200). You can’t ‘self-select’ for this – HMRC decides who gets it. You also can’t fill in the short return online, though you can choose to complete the full online return instead.
If your circumstances have changed since last year or you think you should fill out the full tax return, it is up to you to decide if you are still eligible to fill in the short return. If in doubt, contact HMRC.
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 first. Consult this checklist first, and completing your return should be a breeze.