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Updated on 6 April 2024

Tax returns: provisional or estimated figures

If you do not have all the information you need to be able to complete your tax return accurately, you can use a provisional or estimated figure. If you do this, it means you do not need to delay submitting your tax return to HMRC and risk getting a late filing penalty.

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Provisional figures

If you know you have something to include on your tax return but do not yet know the correct amount, you should provide a provisional figure. This is different from an estimated figure (see the Estimated figures heading below).

Once the actual figure is known you should amend your tax return to change the provisional figure to the correct figure as soon as possible.

Example – provisional figures

Jean knows that she has some bank interest to include in her tax return. She thinks it was around £200, but cannot find a statement or interest certificate showing the exact amount for the tax year. It is approaching the deadline for submitting her tax return. She contacts the bank and they tell her it will take two weeks to send her the information she needs.

Jean should enter the £200 as a provisional figure on her tax return and tick the box that says the return includes provisional information. She should explain in the additional information box that she has contacted her bank to confirm the figures and that she expects to be able to provide the exact sum in two weeks’ time, when the statement has arrived. She should submit the return with the provisional figure, so that she does not incur a late filing penalty.

When the statement from the bank arrives, Jean will need to amend her tax return for the correct interest figure. She can either do this by writing to HMRC with the information, or – if she filed online – she can go into her Personal Tax Account and amend the form and re-submit it. If she used third party software to complete her tax return, she should use that to submit the amended tax return.

Estimated figures

You might have lost some important documents that you needed for your tax return and might never get them back (though you should try your best to get copies, if this is possible).

If you cannot retrieve your records, you will have to make a best guess (or estimate) at the figures you should include on your return.

If you have estimated any of the figures on your tax return, you should always tell HMRC what they are, why you have needed to use them, and how you have worked them out. Give as much information as possible – usually in the additional information text box provided on the return. This could help to protect you from HMRC later suggesting you owe more tax or trying to charge you an inaccuracy penalty. In such cases, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you took reasonable care to complete the tax return to the best of your knowledge and belief.

It is unlikely that you will amend estimated figures once you have submitted the tax return. This is different to when you use provisional figures, as usually these will need to be amended, as explained above.

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