Do you need to complete a tax return?

If you have relatively straightforward tax affairs and already pay tax through PAYE (Pay As You Earn) you probably won't need to complete a tax return. But if you have income from self-employment or above a certain level you may need to complete one.

On this page:

Who needs to complete a tax return?

You can see the most common reasons for needing to fill in a tax return below.

You're self-employed

You have to complete a return for each year you were self-employed (or a partner in a partnership). You need to complete a tax return even if you make a loss or if it's your final year of trading.

Example

Joe is a self-employed plumber. In September 2013 he decides to finish in business and finds employment with a local company.

As Joe ceased in business in September 2013 he still needs to complete a Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014. In April or May 2014 HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will send him a notice to complete a tax return. Joe will need to send his tax return to HMRC by 31 January 2015. On his tax return he will need to include details of his employment and self-employment, including the date he stopped being self-employed.

If Joe's circumstances stay the same he won't need to complete tax returns in the future.

Work out if you're employed or self-employed

You're a company director, minister, Lloyd's name or member

You must complete a return if you're any of the following:

  • a company director (unless you're a director of a non-profit organisation, for example a charity, and don't receive any payments or benefits)
  • a minister of religion (any faith)
  • a name or member of Lloyd's

Your annual income is £100,000 or more

If you receive total income of £100,000 or more you'll need to complete a tax return. You may have higher or additional rate tax to pay that hasn't been collected through your tax code.

Find out more about how much Income Tax you pay

You have income from savings, investment or property

If you are an employee or a pensioner and already pay tax through a PAYE code, you can sometimes ask for tax that you owe on income, such as savings and property, to be collected through your code number. You'll need to complete a tax return instead if the income you receive is:

  • £10,000 or more from taxed savings and investments
  • £2,500 or more from untaxed savings and investments
  • £10,000 or more from property (before deducting allowable expenses)
  • £2,500 or more from property (after deducting allowable expenses)

If you don't pay tax through a PAYE code you’ll need to complete a tax return if all of the following apply:

  • you have income to declare, for example income from savings, trusts or abroad, rental income from land or property
  • your total income exceeds your total allowances and reliefs
  • you have tax to pay on this income

Example

Raj has been renting out a property for a number of years. He has completed annual Self Assessment tax returns showing the rental income and expenses. He sold the property in May 2013.

As he sold the property in May 2013 Raj still needs to complete a tax return for the tax year 6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014. In April or May 2014 HMRC will send him a notice to complete a tax return. Raj will need to send his tax return to HMRC by 31 January 2015. On his tax return he must give details of the rental income and expenses, and the date he sold the property.

If Raj sold the property at a profit, he may have capital gains tax to pay. If so, he will need to give details of this on his tax return.

If Raj's circumstances stay the same he won't need to complete tax returns in the future.

Find out more about tax allowances and reliefs

Contact the Self Assessment Helpline

You need to claim expenses or reliefs

If you're employed and want to claim expenses or professional subscriptions of £2,500 or more, you'll need to complete a tax return. If you want to claim expenses below this amount, you can contact HMRC.

You can only claim certain reliefs, such as Enterprise Investment Scheme relief or relief on Venture Capital Trusts, by completing a tax return.

You or your partner receive Child Benefit and your income is over £50,000

You must complete a tax return if all of the following apply:

  • your income is over £50,000 a year
  • you live with a partner and your income is higher than theirs
  • you or your partner are entitled to receive Child Benefit (or get an equivalent amount from someone who claims Child Benefit for a child who lives with you)
  • you jointly decide to keep receiving Child Benefit and pay the new tax charge

Example

Lynda and David live together with their daughter Libby. Libby was born in January 2014. Lynda receives child benefit. David works for a national distribution company and earns £55,000 a year. Lynda works part-time for a local supermarket earning £18,000 a year.

As David is earning over £50,000 and earns more than Lynda he will have to pay a tax charge. The charge is based on the amount of child benefit Lynda received. David will need to complete a Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014 showing details of the child benefit received up to 5 April 2014. He must send his tax return to HMRC by 31 January 2015.

If their circumstances stay the same David will need to complete annual tax returns in the future.

Find out more about the High Income Child Benefit charge

You get income from overseas

You must complete a tax return if you have any foreign income that's liable to UK tax.

Find out more about tax on foreign savings and investments

You have income from trusts, settlements and estates

You must complete a return if you receive income (or are treated as receiving income) on which tax is still due, for example from:

  • annual trusts or settlements
  • the estate of a deceased person

You have Capital Gains Tax to pay

If you have Capital Gains Tax to pay, for example you've sold, given away or otherwise disposed of an asset such as a holiday home or shares, you'll need to complete a tax return and the Capital Gains Tax pages.

Find out more about tax returns and Capital Gains Tax

You've lived or worked abroad or aren't domiciled in the UK

Residency is a complex issue. Follow the link below to find out more about your residency status, the remittance basis and what to do next.

You may need to complete a tax return if you're:

  • not resident in the UK
  • not ordinarily resident in the UK
  • not domiciled in the UK and claim the 'remittance basis'
  • dual resident of the UK and another country

Find out more about residence when moving in or out of the UK

You're a trustee

You'll need a tax return if you're a:

  • trustee or personal representative (including someone who manages the tax affairs of a deceased person)
  • trustee of certain pension schemes

Find out more about tax returns for trustees

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If you don't think you need a tax return

If HMRC has asked you to complete a tax return and you've checked the information above and think you don't need one, call the Self Assessment Helpline. They will tell you whether you still need to complete a tax return.

Contact the Self Assessment Helpline

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If your circumstances change

If you don't currently complete a tax return but your circumstances change, you need to tell HMRC.

If you've checked the sections above and you need a tax return, follow the link below to register for Self Assessment.

If you're not sure if you need a tax return, contact the Self Assessment Helpline. They will tell you whether you need a tax return or whether you can pay the tax due in some other way instead.

For example, you may owe tax as:

  • you start to pay tax at the higher rate on your earnings and have investment income that needs to be taxed at the higher rate
  • you don't have a tax code, but your taxable income increases and is more than the tax allowances you are entitled to

Register for Self Assessment

Contact the Self Assessment Helpline

Find out more about reporting changes that might affect your tax

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How to get a tax return

You need to register for Self Assessment before you can get a tax return. HMRC will use the information you provide to set up the right records for you and will send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference. You'll then receive a letter, each year usually in April or May, telling you to complete your return. You can send your tax return online or on paper but there are lots of benefits to sending it online.

Find out how to register for Self Assessment and get a tax return

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Types of tax return

There are different types of tax returns depending on the type of income you have. Find out more using the links below.

Completing your tax return (individuals and directors)

Tax returns if you're self-employed or in a partnership

Dealing with a tax return for someone who has died

Tax returns for trustees or charities

Tax returns for registered pension schemes

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Benefits of filing online

You can save time and paperwork by sending your return online. You'll receive an automatic acknowledgment and also find out what you owe or are due back right away, because the figures are calculated for you instantly.

Find out more about filing online

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More useful links

Tax return deadlines and penalties

Contact the Self Assessment Helpline

Tax refunds and reclaiming overpaid tax

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