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Interest paid on savings accounts such as bank or building society accounts normally has 20 per cent Income Tax taken off before it's paid. If you're on a very low income you may qualify to pay some tax at 10 per cent and be able to claim a tax refund from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
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Most people have income which is made up of a mixture of 'earnings' (things like wages and pensions) and 'savings income' (interest from bank and building society accounts).
Nearly everyone is entitled to a Personal Allowance, which allows you a certain amount of income that does not get taxed. The basic Personal Allowance for 2013-14 tax year is £9,440. If your total taxable income (earnings plus savings income) is more than your Personal Allowance, you'll have to pay tax on the income that is above your Personal Allowance. The amount of your Personal Allowance increases with age - find out more by following the second link below.
The rate of tax will depend on the type of income you receive (earnings or savings) and how much of each type of income you receive.
Most taxable income (up to the basic rate limit of £32,010 - limit for 2013-14 tax year) is taxed at the basic rate of 20 per cent, but there is a special 10 per cent starting rate for savings income (that is bank and building society interest) that you may qualify for. The rate at which your saving income is taxed will depend on the total earnings you receive. If your earnings are less than your Personal Allowance plus £2,790 (the 10 per cent starting rate limit for savings income 2013-14 tax year), then some or all of your savings income will be taxable at 10 per cent.
If you have a mixture of earnings and savings income you have to work out if you are entitled to have any of the savings income taxed at 10 per cent. The examples in the section below 'Worked examples of how the 10 per cent tax rate is calculated' show how this works.
If your only taxable income is savings income, you are entitled to have the first £2,790 of income above your Personal Allowance taxed at 10 per cent. Any savings income above £2,790 will be taxed at the 20 per cent basic rate, the 40 per cent higher rate or the 45 per cent additional rate, depending on your total income.
Banks and building societies will automatically deduct tax at a rate of 20 per cent from the interest you earn. So if you are entitled to have any of your savings income taxed at 10 per cent you will be able to claim some tax back from HMRC, read the section 'How to claim back tax'.
If you need help or you're unsure if the 10 per cent rate will apply to your savings income then contact HMRC.
The examples in the link below show how the tax rate is worked out for savings interest.
If you've paid too much tax on your bank or building society interest, you can claim it back by completing form R40 'Claim for repayment of tax deducted from savings and investments'. You can find a copy by following the link below or you can contact HMRC and ask them to send you a copy. The time limit for making a claim is four years from 5 April end of the tax year. For example, a claim for the tax year 2009-10 must be made by 5 April 2014
If you want to register to get interest on your savings tax-free you need to fill in form R85 'Getting your interest without tax taken off' and send it to your bank or building society.