When is the paper tax return deadline?

Self-assessment customers need to know that the paper tax return deadline is midnight on 31 October, or they risk being slapped with a £100 fine.

A calculator on top of a self assessment tax form
Almost half a million people file their tax return by post
(Image credit: © Getty Images)

Customers wishing to file a paper tax return must ensure that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) receives it by midnight on Monday 31 October – or risk being fined.

Almost half a million people choose to fill in and post a tax return each year, rather than submitting their self-assessment return online.

This year, those posting a tax return are being urged to do so as quickly as possible due to ongoing postal strike action, which could lead to delivery delays.

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If you miss the Halloween deadline for paper tax returns, it’s possible to do an online tax return instead – in which case, the tax return deadline is 31 January.

However, anyone who files a paper tax return after the 31 October deadline risks being fined by HMRC. You’ll pay a late filing penalty of £100 if your tax return is up to three months late. If it’s later than this, you could face penalties totalling more than £1,000.

Regardless of whether you submit a paper or online return, the deadline to pay any tax due is 31 January.

Who must send a tax return?

About 12.2 million people submit a tax return each year, with the vast majority (around 95%) completing the process online rather than sending in a paper return. This year, 452,629 paper returns have been filed so far, according to HMRC.

Self-employed people, those with untaxed income (such as from investments), landlords with untaxed rental income, and parents who need to pay the high income child benefit charge are just some of the people who should file a tax return.

You don’t usually need to send a return if your only income is from your wages or pension, or if you’re newly self-employed but your earnings don’t exceed £1,000.

The tax return that needs to be submitted currently relates to the 2021-22 tax year, which ran from 6 April 2021 to 5 April 2022.

If you‘re not sure whether you need to complete a tax return or not, use this free online self-assessment tool on gov.uk.

How to submit a paper tax return

The quickest way to submit a tax return is online, plus the deadline is longer as you have until 31 January to do it.

However, if you prefer to file a paper return, you’ll need to print out and fill in form SA100.

There is a guide on the gov.uk website on how to fill it out and supplementary pages – which you may need for certain types of income. Don’t forget to sign and date the form yourself. If you don’t, it will be sent back to you.

HMRC must receive the completed tax return by midnight on 31 October, make sure you post it well before the final deadline.

If you live in the UK, send it to: Self Assessment, HM Revenue & Customs, BX9 1AS.

If you live outside the UK, send it to: HM Revenue & Customs, Benton Park View, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE98 1ZZ, UK.

What happens if I miss the 31 October deadline?

If you're worried you'll miss this deadline you can avoid a fine by submitting your tax return online instead. Just make sure it’s done by 31 January.

If you submit a paper return past the 31 October cut-off, you'll be charged a £100 penalty – even if there's no tax to pay.

If you still haven’t filed your return after three months, further penalties of £10 a day are applied, up to a maximum of £900. After six months, HMRC will fine you 5% of the tax owed or £300 (whichever is greater), which is repeated at 12 months.

Beware of HMRC scams

Self-assessment customers should beware of HMRC scams, as tax return season is a popular time for scammers to target victims.

In the 12 months to August 2022, HMRC responded to more than 180,000 referrals of suspicious contact from the public, of which almost 81,000 were scams offering fake tax rebates.

Criminals claiming to be from HMRC may target individuals by email, text and phone. They may offer bogus tax rebates or threaten arrest for tax evasion.

There is a risk some people doing their tax return may think the communications are genuine and from HMRC.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: “Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard. HMRC will never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.”

You can report any suspicious activity to HMRC by forwarding texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk. Any tax scam phone calls can be reported using the online form on gov.uk.

Ruth Emery
Contributing editor

Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. 

A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. 

Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.