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Published on 4 October 2023

Act now to meet 31 October paper tax return deadline!


This year, HMRC decided to stop automatically sending out paper returns to many taxpayers. HMRC have also changed the downloadable version of the form to indicate it is now ‘for reference only’. If you need to complete your 2022/23 tax return on paper but have not yet received or ordered one from HMRC, act now!

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⚠️Update 16 October 2023

Since publishing this article, HMRC have now confirmed that they will accept 2023 paper self assessment tax returns that have been downloaded and printed directly from GOV.UK, provided the form has been correctly completed and signed. We welcome this news. HMRC are still strongly encouraging taxpayers to file their self assessment tax return online where possible.

How has HMRC’s approach to paper tax returns changed this year?

HMRC are very keen to encourage taxpayers to deal with their tax affairs ‘digitally’ – by which we mean online using their Personal Tax Account and other digital tools available under HMRC’s ‘online services’ platform.

In a move to actively discourage people from filing their self assessment tax return on paper and promote online filing, earlier this year HMRC decided to stop automatically sending out paper tax returns to most taxpayers.

Certain groups of taxpayer were excluded from this exercise – that is, HMRC sent them a paper tax return in the post as normal. Those who should still have received a paper return automatically include:

  • previous paper filers aged 70 and over
  • visually impaired taxpayers
  • international taxpayers
  • ministers of religion.

For those taxpayers who were not automatically sent a paper form in the post, HMRC have said that they can still complete their tax return on paper if they wish. However, to do so, they will need to telephone the self assessment order line to specifically request the 2022/23 paper tax return.

Similarly, if you were in the group of people above who should have been sent a paper form automatically, but have not received it in the post, then you ought to ring and request one, assuming you do still wish to file your return on paper.

As we now approach the paper filing deadline on 31 October, taxpayers who wish to file on paper but have not received the paper form will need to act quickly to ensure they do not miss the deadline. It can take a couple of weeks or more to receive the form in the post.

Last year I just printed the tax return from GOV.UK – can I do that instead?

In previous tax years, the tax return (SA100) was available to download from the main GOV.UK page. For the 2022/23 tax year, as well as deciding not to automatically send out paper tax returns to some taxpayers, HMRC also removed the downloadable tax return from the main GOV.UK page and moved it to the supporting forms page and marked it ‘For reference only’.

The main tax return page now advises that anyone needing a paper return should order it from the SA order helpline. This is HMRC’s preferred route for people to obtain a paper tax return.

HMRC’s advisers on HMRC’s Community forum have highlighted to people that the online version is for reference only and that they must call HMRC to request a paper return – suggesting that the form cannot be downloaded and completed. However, more recently they appear to have confirmed at the very end of this chain that it can be used.

Warning: We are not aware if there is any legal basis for HMRC to reject a 2022/23 tax return that has been printed directly from GOV.UK (assuming it is completed and signed correctly), and that would appear to be supported by HMRC’s post on the community forum. If you are unable to get a paper tax return, or you have ordered one that has not arrived, we suggest confirming with HMRC directly that they will accept the downloaded form in your particular case. Keep a record of any interaction (webchat, telephone call) you have with HMRC in case of later dispute.

What about supplementary pages?

HMRC have indicated that it is only the main SA100 form on GOV.UK that is for ‘reference only’.

If you need to complete any supplementary pages (for example, self employment pages, UK property pages, and so on) and do not have the relevant hard copy, HMRC have confirmed that you can print these direct from GOV.UK. You are also able to call the order line to request these if you do not have access to a printer.

Example – Edwin

Edwin is 73 and completes a tax return each year on paper. Since Edwin is in the 70 and over category, he automatically received a paper tax return after 5 April 2023 – he did not have to call the order line to request the form. However, during 2022/23, Edwin inherited a property from his late brother, which he started letting out. As a result, when Edwin completes his tax return, he will also need to complete the UK property supplementary pages. This is the first time he has had to complete the UK property pages, so they were not automatically sent out by HMRC with the paper tax return. Edwin is able to simply print the supplementary pages from GOV.UK and send these in along with the main paper tax return that HMRC sent him.

I am concerned I have left it too late and will miss the deadline – what can I do?

HMRC would like you to try to file online if you can. But, as we explain below, there might be reasons why you cannot do that – or at least not without incurring an additional cost.

Therefore, you might be calling HMRC in the next few weeks (ahead of the 31 October 2023 deadline) to request a paper tax return. And you might be concerned that the tax return form will not arrive soon enough for you to complete it and send in on time. If you miss the 31 October filing deadline, HMRC might charge you a £100 late filing penalty.

It is possible to appeal late filing penalties if you have a ‘reasonable excuse’, so you might consider taking the following steps:

  1. When you call the order line, specifically ask the call handler if you can print the form from GOV.UK and fill it in as you are worried about missing the deadline (they may say ‘no’ but you can mention the post on the HMRC community forum by an HMRC adviser which indicates that it can be used). Keep a note of their answer.
  2. Make a note of the date and time that you called and ordered the paper tax return form.
  3. If you are unlucky enough to miss the filing deadline, and the reason for this is that you did not receive your paper tax return form in time to be able to send it in by the deadline, then you might be able to appeal the late filing penalty.
  4. When submitting your appeal, you should make it clear that you had asked if it was possible to print off the online form to ensure you could meet the deadline, and were advised by HMRC that you could not – assuming of course that this was the case (stating the time and date of the call to the order line).

There is no guarantee that this appeal will be successful, but we would hope that HMRC will take an understanding approach to taxpayers in this situation – particularly since this is the first year that HMRC have told people they must phone the orderline to obtain a paper form.

Clearly, if you missed the filing deadline for any other reason (not connected to the paper form having been received late), then this line of appeal will not be possible. However, you can consider if you had another sort of reasonable excuse which might lead to the penalty being cancelled. You can read more about appealing late filing penalties and reasonable excuse on our website and on GOV.UK.

What other filing options are available?

You might consider filing your tax return online if you have access to a computer, tablet or smartphone, and feel confident to do so. If you choose to complete your tax return online, the deadline for submission is 31 January 2024. We have some useful information on our website about accessing and using HMRC’s digital services.

Unfortunately, there are some taxpayers who will not be able to file their tax return using HMRC’s own software, even if this would usually be their preferred method.

For instance, it is not possible to file a tax return using HMRC’s own software if you need to complete the foreign pages or the trusts etc pages (which includes income from the estate of a deceased person). This is because HMRC’s online tax return software does not allow this. In such cases, your only options (other than completing a paper tax return), are to:

Clearly, both of the above options come at a cost to you, which is why many taxpayers in this situation choose to continue filing their tax return on paper.

Where can I get more help?

You will find more information on our website in relation to self assessment.

If you are on a low income and are worried about your tax obligations, there are two tax charities offering individual advice which may be able to help if you. Tax Help for Older People offers help to those aged 60 and over, except if they are self-employed. TaxAid offers help to those who are self-employed and those under the age of 60.

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