Do I need to complete a tax return?

Updated on 7 February 2019

Pensioners

This section looks at whether or not you need to complete a tax return if you are a pensioner.

What is Self Assessment?

Self Assessment (SA) is not a tax – it is a way of paying tax.

The idea of SA is that you are responsible for completing a tax return each year if you need to, and for paying any tax due for that tax year. It is your responsibility to tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if you think you need to complete a tax return.

If you complete a SA tax return, you include all your taxable income, including sources from which you have had tax deducted already, and any capital gains. You also claim any tax allowances or reliefs that you are entitled to on the tax return.

Many pensioners in the UK pay tax through their pension providers’ systems and are not required to submit a tax return. You may, however, need to complete a tax return because your tax affairs are complicated in some way, for example by having a source of untaxed income (e.g. the state pension).

If you file SA tax returns to HMRC, you are said to be ‘in’ or ‘within’ SA. This is because if your circumstances are such that you are required to file an SA return, HMRC will continue to issue you one to complete year on year, unless they are notified otherwise.

The SA return is sometimes known as an SA100.

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Do I need to complete a SA return?

Most people in the UK pay all their tax ‘at source’, for example, through Pay As You Earn (PAYE) if they are employed, and are not required to file a tax return. So, SA does not affect everyone and you will normally only need to complete a form if your circumstances match HMRC's criteria for issuing a tax return. This is explained on GOV.UK and that website also offers a tool to help you understand if you need to do a tax return.

There is more information on who needs to complete a tax return in the tax basics section. One particular point for pensioners is that if you have any kind of foreign pension, you will normally have to complete a tax return each year.

HMRC also have the ability to send you a Simple Assessment showing how much tax they think you owe. You might receive such an assessment if you need to pay taxes on your state pension (which is taxable but paid gross) and it has not been possible to collect the taxes due from another source of income liable to PAYE (such as an occupational pension). Previously, in such cases, you were likely to have been required to file a full SA tax return. 

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What do I do if I no longer need to complete an SA return?

We explain what to do if you think you no longer need to complete a Self Assessment tax return in the tax basics section.

If you are no longer within SA, but think you are due a tax refund, you may need to claim a repayment of tax each year. If you think this applies to you, take a look at How do I claim tax back?.

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What if I have not completed a tax return previously?

We explain the deadline by which you need to notify HMRC if you think you need to complete a tax return and you are not already within Self Assessment in the tax basics section.

We also explain the deadlines for submission of tax returns and the special rules that apply according to the date when HMRC issue you with a tax return.

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What is a short tax return?

We explain what a short tax return is and help you work out whether or not you might be able to request one instead of completing the full Self Assessment tax return in the tax basics section.

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Where can I find more information?

You can find out more about HMRC's 'Simple Assessment' in the tax basics section.

You can find more information on SA in the tax basics section.

There is more information on how to reclaim tax if you do not need to complete a tax return in the tax basics section.

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