HMRC Time Limits for Getting a Refund, Making a Claim or Investigations

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December 16th 2018
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HMRC Time Limits for Getting a Refund, Making a Claim or Investigations

There are limits to how long HMRC have to initiate an investigation or how far back taxpayers can make a claim for a tax refund or claim. Here is a full breakdown.

Update: There is now a Tax Refund Check tool to accompany this article - try it now.

Taxpayers are subject to time limits to how long they have to make a claim for a refund, or issue a correction to their tax affairs. Similarly, HMRC has a time limit for initiating a tax investigation.

The general time limit is four years. This is from the end of the tax year in question, so for a tax period 6th April 2013 to 5th April 2014 the deadline would be 5th April 2018. This means at the start of this month, the 'normal' time deadline expired for tax years prior to 2014/2015.

There are exceptions to the deadline but these relate to where either an error by HMRC/Other Government Department has caused an overpayment of tax, or an investigation is being opened due to deliberate misconduct or fraud. For companies, time limits are applied according to the company's accounting period rather than the tax year.

If you are looking to make a tax refund claim or make an adjustment/correction to a tax return the currently open deadlines are as follow:

Tax Year Related to ClaimDeadline
6th April 2014 to 5th April 20155th April 2019
6th April 2015 to 5th April 20165th April 2020
6th April 2016 to 5th April 20175th April 2021
6th April 2017 to 5th April 20185th April 2022
6th April 2018 to 5th April 20195th April 2023

Tax refund claims can arise for a multitude of reasons:

  1. You were on an incorrect tax code at some point and have been taxed at the wrong rate or without taking into account any tax free allowances. This can be due to the wrong tax code being used, an emergency tax code being used, pensions not taxed correctly or just a mistake.
  2. You did not claim married couples allowances (for those born before April 1935).
  3. Marriage tax allowance has not been used (for basic rate taxpayers with partners with income below personal allowance level).
  4. You have not claimed pension tax relief fully.
  5. You have not claimed higher rate tax relief on gift aid charitable contributions. Check your possible gift aid refund.
  6. Too much tax paid on income from savings interest - there are multiple allowances and reliefs with savings and it is possible there could be mistakes here. Savings interest prior to the 2016/2017 tax year was taxed 20 percent at source - for some this could be too much if total income was below the tax free allowance.
  7. You have had work-related expenses and did not make a claim for them either as costs on your tax return or by requesting a tax adjustment from HMRC for employees.
  8. You are making an adjustment to previously declared capital gains, dividends, savings, PAYE, VAT, self employment, property on a tax return.
  9. Refunds required following an individual's death.
  10. ...and more!

You can use our Multiple Income Tax Calculator to check taxes across all types of income, with multiple combinations and as far back as the 2009/2010 tax year. We have also developed a tax relief calculator to check tax refunds due to expenses for both self employed and employed people.

If national insurance contributions are overpaid, or certain classes of NIC have been paid but should not have been, these can be refunded and there are variations on how long you have to claim:

TypeReasonTime Limit
Class 1Overpaid - 1+ JobsNo Limit
Class 1Overpaid - Other reason6 Years
Class 2Paid in error6 Years
Class 2OverpaidVariable - call HMRC
Class 3Any reason6 Years
Class 3AAny reasonWithin 90 days of payment
Class 4Paid in error5 Years
Class 4OverpaidNo Limit

Time limits that apply to HMRC to open investigations or look into a tax record range from four to twenty years and vary using the basis for the investigation. These are as follows:

TypeNormal InvestigationCarelessFraud
Corporation Tax (Accounting Period)4 years6 years20 years
Capital Gains4 years6 years20 years
Income Tax / PAYE4 years6 years20 years
VAT4 years4 years20 years
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