Tax returns

A tax return is an HMRC form on which a taxpayer makes an annual statement of income and personal circumstances, used by HMRC to calculate the tax you owe based on what you report.

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Tax Returns

What is a tax return?

A tax return is an HMRC form on which a taxpayer makes an annual statement of income and personal circumstances, used by HMRC to calculate the tax you owe based on what you report. The form includes details of taxable income such as rental income, capital gains if appropriate and lets you claim tax allowances and tax reliefs.

There are a lot of things you seriously need to know about tax returns so it’s definitely worth looking at all the information we have here to help you. In fact, every year, lack of interest in tax gets a lot of self assessment taxpayers in scalding hot water with HMRC.

Take a look at our rundown and make sure you don’t fall into any common tax return mistakes. Also, if you're moving to the UK to work and need to pay UK tax you can find out more with us. If you think you could be due a tax refund, our simple tax refund calculator will tell you what you need to know.

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Tax Returns

When should I do my tax return?

Technically, you can do it any time after the end of the tax year, as long as it's filed by the 31st of January the following year. That said, it's always better to get it done sooner. For one thing, you'll know earlier how much you owe. That means you have time to plan or save up for making the payment. But also, as the numbers below show, there is quite a crush around tax return deadline time!

  • A record 85.5% of tax returns were sent online last year. The real crushes came on the 30th and 31st of January, when HMRC received 980,000 returns. The busiest hour was between 1pm and 2pm on 30 January, when almost 50,000 returns were received – 830 per minute!
  • The busiest hour on deadline day was between 11 am and midday. Almost 32,000 returns were received then – 530 per minute. Amazingly, HMRC managed to answer 95% of calls first time on deadline day.
  • Around 4.3 million customers (42%) left it until January to file their returns. This is despite HMRC asking for them back in April!
  • 210,000 more people are filing their returns on time than last year.
  • Christmas Day saw just over 2,000 Tax Returns submitted and Boxing Day another 5,400.
  • A record of nearly 25,000 tax returns were submitted on New Year's Eve. Another 11,500 came in on New Year's Day.
  • 600 people made a flying start on their New Year's resolutions, submitting their return between midnight and 10am.
  • Missing the tax return deadline lands you in an automatic £100 late-filing penalty. Those fines ratchet up further after 3, 6 and 12 months. A genuine reason might stop the penalty pain, but don't count on it.
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What is the current tax year in the UK?

Tax years in the UK run from the 6th April to the 15th April the following calendar year. For example, the tax year covering 2016/2017 ends on the 5th April 2017. This means that claims made in 2016/2017 can cover refunds as far back as 2012/2013 - but time is running out to claim for 2012/2013 and you won't be able to do so when the 2016/2017 tax year starts in April.

As for why the tax year is worked out from such odd dates - well, it's complicated. The short answer is to blame Pope Gregory XIII and the fact that September 1752 was missing 11 days.  After that, things get tricky...

Tax Return Stats

How many tax returns are submitted?

According to HMRC, 10.39 million Self Assessment tax returns were completed ahead of the 31st of January deadline this year. That's more than 92% of the total returns expected, and 150,000 more than the year before.

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RIFT Refund Stats

Some key RIFT Tax Refunds stats

  • We've reclaimed over £135 million in tax refunds for clients.
  • We handled 218,555 in-bound calls last year.
  • We make an average of 1,370 calls per week to HMRC.
  • We sorted out 37,913 tax returns last year.
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Our Guarantee

Our guarantee means you'll never lose a penny​

When you claim your tax refund with RIFT, our unique RIFT Guarantee means that you don't have to worry about the taxman reclaiming any of your money. So long as you give us full and accurate information, if HMRC disagrees with the amount that we’ve claimed and ask for the money back, we’ll pay it. It won’t cost you a penny.

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Need more help?


Wondering if you can claim a tax refund or need to submit a tax return? Use our online tools to find out if you're owed money by HRMC.

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Call us on 01233 628648


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