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11 Oct 2018

Could filing your tax return early help you get a mortgage?

Self-employed people will need an SA302 to buy a home

Self-employed people have until 31 January to submit their self-assessment tax returns to HMRC - butyou may need to file much earlier if you want to get a mortgage.

When you apply for a mortgage as a self-employed person, it can seem like there are endless hurdles to jump through, and one of the biggest is proving your income.

Which? explains how you can make the process of getting a mortgage easier and increase your chances of having your application accepted.

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Tax returns and your mortgage

When a lender receives a mortgage application from a self-employed person, they will want to see evidence that you'll be able to repay the loan. People who are employed by companies can point to employment contracts and payslips - but it's harder to make a case if you're self-employed.

One piece of evidence you'll need is proof of your earnings from HMRC - a form known as SA302. Most lenders will require self-employed applicants to have the most recent three SA302 forms, including one from the year that finished in April 2018.

Failing to provide these may derail your application or even cause you to be turned down.

In order to receive your latest SA302 from HMRC, you need to have filed your self-assessment tax return.

The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April, and the last chance to file your tax return is 31 January the following year. But waiting until this date may be too late for your mortgage application.

When can you file your tax return?

While it's possible to file your tax return any time after 6 April - so your first opportunity to file for 2017-18 was 6 April 2018 - most people wait until later in the year and many leave it until the deadline is looming.

If you're thinking of applying for a mortgage, however, it's worth filing sooner rather than later so you have the documents to hand.

There are also some hard tax return deadlines you need to meet. If you want to submit a paper application, you need to submit by 31 October. And if you submit after 31 January the following year, you may face a fine.

Once you've submitted your returns, you should be able to download your SA302 from the online portal. Alternatively, you can ask HMRC to mail you the forms, though you'll need to allow at least two weeks for that.

  • You can file your tax return online with the Which? tax calculator - tot up your bill and submit direct to HMRC.

Getting a mortgage when self-employed

As a rule of thumb, you'll usually need to provide at least two years of accounts signed off by an accountant to support your mortgage application.

Mortgage providers will generally base their decision on whether and how much to lend to you on an average of your profits for the period - and it's helpful if you can show consistent or steadily increasing takings. If your income has varied dramatically from year to year, you may be asked for further evidence of future earnings, such as new client contracts.

You may also find it easier to get a mortgage if you can provide a decent deposit. Most lenders will expect to see at least 1o% to 20% from a self-employed applicant.

  • Use our deposit calculator to work out how long it will take you to save enough to buy in your chosen area.

The way you're assessed will depend on what type of business you're in. If you're a sole trader, the lenders will look at your SA302 and personal financial circumstances.

In a partnership, the lender will consider your share of the profits. And if you have a limited company, the lender will consider the salary you pay yourself and your dividend payments, but not any retained profits.

Our video explains how to apply for a mortgage when self-employed.

Seek professional advice

When you're working for yourself, applying for a mortgage can be less straightforward than applying as an employee.

A mortgage adviser can help you navigate the process, explain the lenders most likely to lend to you, and help you apply for the best deal.