⚠️ We are currently updating our 2020/21 tax guidance across the website

When do I make Self Assessment payments and file my tax return?

Updated on 1 July 2020

Self-employment

This page aims to provide you with a summary of the key dates that are important if you are self-employed so you know when you need to take action. As a self-employed person, you will usually fall within the Self Assessment system.

Image of a sticky note saying file tax return
(c) Shutterstock / Thinglass

What is Self Assessment?

Self Assessment is the process by which you advise HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) of your income, gains and relevant expenses for a tax year. You currently do this by completing a tax return, sending it to HMRC and calculating your own tax liability (note the online return will do the calculation for you automatically). You can find out more about Self Assessment on the How do I pay tax on self-employed income? page.

If you have only a small amount of self-employment income and can use the trading allowance then you may not need to register with HMRC or complete a Self Assessment tax return.

However, the government announced some time ago that it is their intention to phase out tax returns as the method of reporting details of taxable income in due course (although not before 2021) and replace them with a predominantly digital system. The project is known as ‘Making Tax Digital’. There is more information about HMRC’s digital services generally in our tax basics section. To find out more about ‘Making Tax Digital’ and how it will affect self-employed businesses go to Making Tax Digital for Business. If you are registered for VAT, you can read about the new ‘Making Tax Digital for VAT’ programme which came into effect on 1 April 2019 on our page What is Making Tax Digital for VAT?.

Important dates if you are self-employed

When we talk about dates for tax, often the date is said to be ‘during the tax year’ or ‘following the end of the tax year’. A UK tax year runs from 6 April to the following 5 April.

So, if we are talking about the tax year 2020/2021 it would start on 6 April 2020 and finish on 5 April 2021. The 31 January during the tax year would be 31 January 2021, the 5 October following the end of the tax year would be 5 October 2021 and the 31 January following the end of the tax year would be 31 January 2022.

Not all of the dates listed below may apply to you even if you are self-employed. You can follow the links that give you more information to help you decide if you need to take some action by that date.

⚠️ Please note that there has been a change to the 31 July 2020 payment on account tax deadline because of the coronavirus (COVID 19) outbreak, we explain more about this change in the table below. Our coronavirus section covers other tax and benefits guidance following the outbreak.

31 January (during the tax year)

The first payment on account for the tax year ending the following 5 April is due.

For example, the first payment on account for the 2020/21 tax year is due by 31 January 2021.

Find out more about payments on account on our How do I pay tax on self-employed income? page. Not everyone has to pay these payments on account.

April (following the end of the tax year)

The tax year ends on 5 April and shortly after this date anyone who is required to file a tax return will receive a notice advising that you must file a tax return for the tax year just ended.

If you are newly self-employed, you will need to register with HMRC for tax and National Insurance (NIC) for this to happen.

If you have stopped trading during the tax year, you will still need to complete a tax return for your last year of business. There is more information on what to do when your business ceases to trade in our section ‘Stopping your business’ on our guide to self-employment and on our page How do I work out my taxable profits?.

31 July (following the end of the tax year)

The second payment on account for the tax year ending the previous 5 April is due.

For example, the second payment on account for the 2020/21 tax year is due by 31 July 2021.

⚠️ For the 2019/20 tax year, the second payment on account was due on 31 July 2020. However, because of the coronavirus outbreak this payment on account is no longer due to be paid by 31 July 2020 and the payment deadline has been deferred until 31 January 2021. For more information see our section on How are my tax payments affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

If you still want to pay your second payment on account by 31 July 2020 you can still do so and this means you will have less tax to pay on 31 January 2021.

Find out more about payments on account on our How do I pay tax on self-employed income? page. Not everyone has to pay these payments on account.

5 October (following the end of the tax year)

The 5 October is the date by which you need to notify HMRC that you have income that has not been taxed before you received it or capital gains in excess of £12,300 (2020/21). This is so that HMRC can send you a notice a file a tax return.

If you are self-employed, you need to register with HMRC for tax purposes by this date.

Find out more on our How do I register for tax and National Insurance? page if you are self-employed.

31 October (following the end of the tax year)

If you are sending HMRC a paper tax return this must be submitted by 31 October. If you send the form after this date there will be a penalty even if you have no tax to pay. See our penalties section for further information.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, a special extension of the filing deadline was given for 2018/19 tax returns (including paper tax returns) to 23 April 2020 but this was only for the purpose of being able to claim a grant under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). This one-off extension is for 2018/19 tax returns only. The deadline for filing a paper tax return for 2019/20 for the purpose of establishing when late filing penalties become due is 31 October 2020, and for other tax years the filing deadline for paper tax returns is 31 October following the tax year.

Find out more about tax returns for the self-employed and the options for paper or online returns in the section on How to complete your Self Assessment tax return? in our self-employment tax guide.

30 December (following the end of the tax year)

If you file your tax return online, you will need to submit it by this date if you have employment or pension income and want HMRC to collect the self-employed tax through your PAYE tax code. This may be possible where you owe less than £3,000. If your income is more than £30,000, even more tax may be collected through your PAYE tax code. See How do I pay tax on self-employed income? for more information.

31 January (following the end of the tax year)

All tax returns filed online must be submitted by this date. If you miss this deadline a penalty will be charged even if you have no tax to pay or have already paid all of the tax you owe. See our penalties section for more information.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, a special extension of the filing deadline was given for 2018/19 tax returns to 23 April 2020, but this was only for the purpose of being able to claim a grant under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). This one-off extension is for 2018/19 tax returns only. The deadline for filing an online tax return for 2019/20 for the purpose of establishing when late filing penalties become due is 31 January 2021, and for other tax years the filing deadline for online tax returns is 31 January following the tax year.

Also, your balancing payment of tax is due at this time. For example, your balancing payment for 2020/21 is due on 31 January 2022. See our How do I pay tax on self-employed income? page. You may also have a payment on account to make at this time. For example, you may have a payment on account to pay for the 2021/22 tax year on 31 January 2022.

As explained above, because of the coronavirus outbreak the second payment on account for the 2019/20 tax year, due by 31 July 2020, has been deferred to 31 January 2021. So, it is possible to be paying your second payment on account and your balancing payment for 2019/20 by 31 January 2021 as well as your first payment on account for the 2020/21 tax year. For more information see our section How are my tax payments affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

Find out more about payments on account on our How do I pay tax on self-employed income? page. Not everyone has to pay these payments on account.

31 January (following the end of the tax year ) + 1 year

If you become aware that an entry on your paper or online tax return is incorrect you can amend that return up to 12 months after 31 January following the end of the tax year.

For example, if you need to amend your 2019/20 return you have until 31 January 2022 to make the amendment. This applies whether you filed manually using a paper return or completed it online.