How do I claim tax back?

Updated on 6 April 2023

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.

Illustration of people next to a clipboard containing tax refund paperwork

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 page 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
  • If you have made Gift Aid donations and want to claim tax relief, you should read our giving to charity guidance
  • If you have made pension contributions and want to claim tax relief, you should read our Tax relief on pension contributions information

Note that it is possible to claim tax relief when you make certain investments. For example, the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) provides tax relief to investors who invest in certain smaller, unquoted, trading companies. Income tax relief is given at 30 per cent on the cost of new EIS share investments. We do not consider such tax relief further in these pages. However, please see the warning in our guidance about companies using individual’s Government Gateway login credentials to submit tax returns containing apparently inappropriate claims for such tax relief.  

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?

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.

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?.

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.

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 2019/20 (year ended 5 April 2020): claim by 5 April 2024
  • Tax year 2020/21 (year ended 5 April 2021): claim by 5 April 2025
  • Tax year 2021/22 (year ended 5 April 2022): claim by 5 April 2026
  • Tax year 2022/23 (year ended 5 April 2023): claim by 5 April 2027
  • Tax year 2023/24 (year ended 5 April 2024): claim by 5 April 2028

In cases of ‘official error’, HMRC might agree to issue repayments for years prior to 2019/20 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?

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. It will depend 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

HMRC will never contact you via email, text, WhatsApp or phone call you to tell you about a tax refund.

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 communication, 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.

HMRC’s website contains some useful information on avoiding and reporting internet scams and phishing. This includes a page listing genuine contacts, a page of example scams including phishing emails and a page on how to recognise different tax scams.

What are the tell-tale signs of a scam email?

  • poor spelling and grammar
  • wording which unduly stresses that urgent action is required
  • lack of a specific greeting like ‘Dear Hannah Greene’
  • incorrect ‘From’ addresses – Government e-mails sent from the Government Secure Intranet (GSI) take the format name@[department] Note however that, sometimes phishing emails can include the official ending or something like it.

What should I do if I receive a scam email?


  • keep calm
  • forward the email to HMRC ([email protected]) to help them stop these scams
  • if you are unsure if the message is genuine – contact HMRC via one of their phone lines

Do not

  • reply to the email
  • click on any links
  • download any attachments

What will happen if I click on a link in a scam email?

The likelihood is that you will be taken to a site where you are asked to update or to verify your personal and financial information. This may include your date of birth, login information, account details, credit card or PIN numbers. Or you may start the process of downloading malware onto your computer putting your data and information at risk of theft, loss, attack or damage.

How to report a suspicious email

Forward any phishing or scam emails you receive or are suspicious about, to the HMRC phishing team.

I have received a text message from HMRC – is it a scam?

HMRC do not contact people about tax refunds via text message. Note that although the Government uses technology to identify fraudulent text messages and stops them being delivered, some will still get through.

Scam texts may display ‘HMRC’ as the sender rather than a phone number, to make them appear legitimate.

As with the scam emails, do not reply to the message and do not click on any links.

If you think you have received a scam text message from HMRC, forward it to 60599 (network charges apply) or email [email protected].

How can I report WhatsApps or phone calls?

Take a screenshot of the WhatsApp and send it to the HMRC phishing team. Report any phone calls online using HMRC’s ‘Report a suspicious HMRC phone call’ service.

What should I do if I have given the scammer my details?

  • Contact [email protected], and include brief details of what you disclosed – for example, name, address, Government Gateway User ID, password, etc.
  • Do not give your personal details in the email.
  • Contact your bank and explain the situation as they may be able to offer advice on what, if any, action can be taken.

Further information about on the different kinds of online scams and links to advice on online safety visit our page ‘protecting yourself online’.

Watch our video on scam refund emails or texts!

LITRG video: HMRC have sent me a refund notification by email by LITRG

HMRC want to check my identity before issuing a refund

HMRC routinely check that Self Assessment tax refund claims are genuine. Their systems use risk assessments. If HMRC’s systems suggest your claim may not be genuine, they will contact you by letter, asking you to confirm your identity. This does not mean you have done anything wrong. It is important that you respond to HMRC though.

If HMRC want to check your identity, they will normally (but not always) send you an initial letter. This letter explains that they believe your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) may have been used to submit a potentially fraudulent repayment claim.

If you receive this initial letter and you submitted a Self Assessment repayment claim, you should telephone HMRC within 30 days. There should be a telephone contact number on the letter.

⚠️ It is important that you contact HMRC, otherwise they will cancel the repayment claim and close down your Self Assessment record and UTR.

Sometimes HMRC do not send this initial letter. Instead, they just send you the second letter.

If you telephone HMRC after receiving the initial letter, they will send you the second letter. The second letter asks you to provide evidence of your identity and to complete a questionnaire.

It is important to respond as requested to HMRC’s letter.

If you are uncertain about any of the requests in the letter or need extra support, you should contact HMRC on the official Self Assessment helpline number.

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