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How long does a tax refund take to be processed?

Published on 21 October 2019

This a common question! The answer is usually somewhere between 5 days and 8 weeks, depending on a number of factors including the system involved (for example by PAYE or Self Assessment), whether you applied online or by paper; and whether HMRC make any security checks during the process. Read on to find out more.

Claiming back tax refund

For example, if you have recently submitted a Self Assessment tax return that shows a refund, then the refund should be paid (usually – but not always – in accordance with your payment instructions), once the tax return has been processed.

A tax return submitted online takes less time to process than a tax return submitted by paper. HMRC’s ‘Where’s my reply’ tool, is currently showing a two week wait for a refund from an online tax return and a four week wait for a refund from a paper tax return.

You should be aware that sometimes tax return refunds can be delayed while security checks are carried out

If you have received a P800 calculation and it shows a refund, then usually you can go into your Personal Tax Account (PTA) and ask HMRC to pay it directly into your bank account via BACS (which takes 5 working days). If you do not do this within 45 days, HMRC should send you a cheque, which should arrive within 60 days of the date on your P800.

HMRC’s guidance says that if you are not given the option to have the P800 refund paid directly into your bank account, then you’ll get a cheque within 14 days.

If you have applied to HMRC for a tax refund outside of the Self Assessment system, for example, because you are due some tax relief on your employment expenses, then HMRC will issue your tax refund, by cheque, once they have processed your form.

Again, if your form was submitted online (for example, via your PTA), this is likely to take less time to process than if you sent in a hard copy form – usually hard copy forms take around six weeks for HMRC to receive and process. Please note, even if your form was completed and submitted online, HMRC will still issue your refund by cheque rather than make a BACS transfer.

We provide more details on claiming tax refunds in various different circumstances on our page How do I claim tax back?.

You should be aware that HMRC will not make payments to overseas bank accounts. See our guidance for further information on how to get your refund if you have left the UK.


Contact: Meredith McCammond (please use form at Contact Us) or follow us on Twitter: @litrgnews

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