How do I claim tax back?

Updated on 30 December 2020

Tax basics

These pages tell you how to claim back overpaid tax from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and what the time limits are for making such a claim.

Image of the word refund attached to pieces of string
(c) Shutterstock / Palto

If you have paid too much tax, or ‘overpaid’ tax, and you complete a tax return, HMRC should send you a repayment once they have processed your tax return – for more information see the question How do I claim back tax if I complete a tax return?.

If you do not complete a tax return, you can still claim back overpaid tax in various situations. We tell you more about the most common ones in these pages.

What information is in these pages?

Claiming back a straightforward overpayment of tax should usually be easy enough to do yourself. But exactly how you do it depends on the type of income you have.

In the following pages, we cover:

There is more detailed information on repayments that relate to specific groups in different sections of this website as follows:

  • If you are a pensioner and think you have overpaid tax, for example on your purchased life annuity income, or because you have taken cash or a lump sum flexibly from your pension, you should go to the pensioners section.
  • If you are a migrant and you are leaving or have left the UK, you should go to the migrants section.
  • If you were employed, but have stopped working part way through the tax year for whatever reason, or want to claim a refund for employment expenses, you should go to the employment section.
  • If you want information on refunds of overpaid or incorrectly paid National Insurance contributions (this is rare), go to our National Insurance page.

How do I work out if I have paid too much tax?

To work out accurately if you have paid too much tax, you will have to work out your tax liability and compare this to how much you have paid.

To start with, you will need to gather all the information about your income and tax position. This may include the following documents for the tax year:

  • P60 and/or P45 from your employer(s) or pension provider(s)

  • P11D from your employer, if you receive taxable benefits-in-kind

  • Details of taxable state benefits received

  • Bank statements (or certificates of tax deducted from certain types of interest income)

  • Building society statements (or certificates of tax deducted from certain types of interest income)

  • Statements showing how much statutory interest has been paid as part of a PPI claim and the tax deducted from that interest

  • Dividend certificates
  • Details of rental income and expenses.

For more information on the types of records and documents that you need to work out your income and tax position, go to GOV.UK.

How do I work out my tax liability?

We set out an example tax calculation and explain the steps involved in calculating your tax liability on our page How do I work out my tax?.

To work out your tax liability, you first need to calculate your taxable income. You must include the gross amounts in your calculation, that is, the amounts before tax is taken off.

You may be able to deduct certain expenses or claim allowances against your gross taxable income.

You need to calculate your tax liability using the correct rates of tax, and you can then deduct the tax you have already paid, for example, under Pay As You Earn (PAYE), to work out your tax overpayment or underpayment.

If you live in Scotland and are a Scottish taxpayer, different income tax rates and bands apply to your non-savings and non-dividend income. There is more information in our section on Scottish income tax. UK rates and bands apply to your savings and dividend income.

HMRC have a 'tax checker' tool, which can help you work out if you are due a repayment of tax.

This is a useful tool for you if your tax position is straightforward. It may not give an accurate result if your tax position is more complex, for example, if you receive taxable state benefits.

If you do use the HMRC tool, you must read the guidance carefully first. This explains who can use the tax checker tool and what information to gather together.

What are the time limits for claiming back tax?

You have four years from the end of the tax year in which the overpayment arose to claim a refund, as shown below. If a claim is not made within the time limit you will lose out on any refund that may be due and the tax year becomes 'closed' to claims.

  • Tax year 2016/17 (year ended 5 April 2017): claim by 5 April 2021
  • Tax year 2017/18 (year ended 5 April 2018): claim by 5 April 2022
  • Tax year 2018/19 (year ended 5 April 2019): claim by 5 April 2023
  • Tax year 2019/20 (year ended 5 April 2020): claim by 5 April 2024

In cases of ‘official error’, HMRC might agree to issue repayments for years prior to 2016/17 under their ‘Extra-statutory Concession B41’. For more information on this concession, see below.

What can I do if I am too late to make a claim for a repayment?

Claiming back tax for 'closed' tax years: Extra-statutory Concession B41

If you think you have overpaid tax in tax years that are ‘closed’ to claims, there is a rule known as Extra-statutory Concession B41 which can allow HMRC to repay tax for those earlier years.

This concession only applies in situations where HMRC or another government department, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, have made an error in your tax affairs and where there is no doubt about the facts of the case.

The relevant part of the concession reads as follows:

‘....repayments of tax will be made in respect of claims made outside the statutory time limit where an over-payment of tax has arisen because of an error by HMRC or another Government Department, and where there is no dispute or doubt as to the facts.....'

In our experience, it is rare for HMRC to grant this concession so you will need to set out clear evidence, as to what the error was which resulted in you paying too much tax.

We have produced an example letter that you can use to write to HMRC regarding a B41 repayment.

How long does it take to get a refund?

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 our news article to find out more.

Tax refund scams

If you receive such a communication, purporting to be from HMRC, then it is a scam or ‘phishing’.

Phishing is when someone sends a fake email or text, pretending to be from a legitimate organisation (in this case, HMRC). They are designed to steal personal and financial details or deliver malware to your computer.

We have an example of what a typical repayment scam email looks like in our news item. HMRC also regularly update their Examples of HMRC related phishing emails and other bogus contact page.

Watch our video on refund scams for help with what to do if you receive such a message.


HMRC refund notification by LITRG

If you have responded to a scam and provided any personal or bank details, you need to report this to HMRC. Contact HMRC at Include a brief outline of what you disclosed (e.g. name, address, HMRC User ID, password) but don’t give your actual personal details in the email.

You should also monitor your bank statements for unusual transactions and notify your bank of any breach or unauthorised activity as soon as possible.


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