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What’s the difference between a paper and online tax return?

  • 3 min read
  • Last updated 24 Apr 2024

So, you’re probably wondering, what’s the difference between a paper and online tax return, right? Aside from the obvious, there are a few areas where they differ, so let’s get into it!

What is a tax return?

A tax return is a document you file with HMRC that reports your income, expenses, and other relevant financial information, like capital gains for a particular tax year. We use a method called Self Assessment to do personal tax returns. 

Why do I need to file a tax return?

  • To pay tax on your earnings outside of your salary
  • Claiming a tax rebate
  • You want to claim a tax relief
  • Pay tax on your pension
  • Paying tax on savings interest
  • To pay back your child benefit

OK… so what’s a paper tax return?

Well, a paper tax return is a tax return that’s in paper form. It sounds pretty simple, but there are a few things that you should be aware of. Firstly, the deadline to file a paper return is 31st October. This is earlier than the deadline for an online return, so make sure you’ve filled out all your forms and have posted them to HMRC as soon as possible. Don’t forget to account for postage time!

 The tax return form is called SA100 and is the main Self Assessment form that you’ll need to file. There are other supplementary forms that you would need to fill out based on your situation, so be aware of  which forms will be required to avoid any issues. We’ve listed these forms for you here 👇

  • SA101
  • SA102
  • SA103
  • SA104
  • SA105
  • SA106
  • SA107
  • SA108

You need to attach some of the above forms with your SA100 and post it to HMRC if they apply to you and your current circumstance. Once you’ve posted your Self Assessment, unfortunately, you won’t get notified once HMRC receives it. It’s recommended that you send it tracked so that you can make sure it has been received. Also, you should be aware that late filing fees for paper returns are applied from 1st November. 

What’s an online return?

An online return is your Self Assessment tax return done completely electronically. It’s the same as the paper return but everything is done paperless and submitted to HMRC, you guessed it, online!

To register for an online return you have to do the following:

  1. Register via the HMRC website
  2. Find out your UTR number (this will be posted to you)
  3. Receive your activation code (also via post)
  4. Activate your account

Once you have activated your account, you can start to fill in your online return. Instead of having to fill in various forms, you will need your P60 and records of your income and expenses. Other relevant documents will also be required depending on your situation, such as student loan statements or business account information. 

Here’s what you’d need to do after you’ve gathered all your documents:

  • Fill in your personal details
  • Only fill in the relevant sections (and skip any that don’t apply to you)
  • Check and submit your return

Once you’ve submitted your tax return, you’ll get confirmation straight away with an on-screen code, which you should keep safe. You should also keep all relevant documents in a file or somewhere safe where you can access them in the future if needs be. The deadline for an online tax return is 31st January.

Now, you can do this all yourself for free… but do you really want to? Really? Or would you rather have your tax return filed by an accredited accountant using a quick, easy, and most of all stress-free automated system?  Save some time and lots of hassle and let TaxScouts file your tax return!

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