Demise of paper tax returns

More than 12 million taxpayers file self-assessment tax returns, but less than 3% do so using a paper return. Given this low demand, HMRC is reviewing the current paper filing service.

HMRC stopped sending out paper tax returns three years ago, with any taxpayer wishing to file by paper required to download a blank version of the form. That move brought a further 3% of taxpayers to the online service. HMRC has now announced that self-assessment tax returns will not be available to download for the 2022/23 tax year.


Subject to a limited exception, anyone who still wants to file offline will have to obtain a tax return form by phoning HMRC.

  • The limited exception is for visually impaired taxpayers and those aged 70 or over who have not previously submitted online. HMRC will continue sending them paper returns to complete.
  • As an alternative to contacting HMRC, a blank tax return can be printed using commercial software.

There are some taxpayers who, because of the complex tax calculations involved, simply cannot file online. This is the case even if commercial software is used, which means they will have to print their completed tax return and file it by post.

Online filing 

HMRC has written to some 135,000 taxpayers who file on paper to encourage them to complete returns online in the future. In many cases, this may now be the most sensible option, and there is a wide range of commercial low-cost software available if anyone does not wish to use HMRC’s offering.

Filing online has two distinct advantages:

  • Not having to use the postal system when a return might be lost; HMRC will sometimes deny having received a mailed return even when there is a record of delivery.
  • An additional three months to file each year – the online filing deadline being 31 January following the tax year, rather than 31 October.

Capital gains tax (CGT)

Going somewhat in the opposite direction, HMRC has made a downloadable version of its CGT UK property return available on a four-month trial basis. The intention is that the downloadable form can be used by those taxpayers who cannot report and pay tax using the online service.

HMRC guidance on self-assessment tax returns can be found here.

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