Millions of UK Taxpayers are Filling In Self-Assessment Tax Returns Even When They Owe Nothing, According to HMRC.

Is it time to change the current self-assessment tax system?

Does HMRC need to review its current policy regarding the filing of self-assessment tax returns?


Well, the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, (ACA) certainly believes so. The ACA believes that thousands of UK workers are needlessly filling in time-consuming forms every year even when they do not owe HM Revenues and Customs anything.

According to figures recently released by HMRC, the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants may have a point. In fact the figures suggest that the ACA may actually have underestimated the size of the problem. HMRC’s official data shows that 2.67 million people (16%) file tax returns despite owing nothing to the tax authority. The official figures show that around 25% of the 11 million taxpayers filling in tax returns actually owe less than £50 or nothing at all at the end of it.

So who’s filling in these unnecessary self-assessment tax returns?

Well, many of the people are self-employed and earn less than the £10,600 income tax threshold: however, an increasing number of employees have also been dragged into the system and are now also required to file self-assessment forms. At the other end of the scale professionals who earn more than £100,000 or directors of companies must automatically submit tax returns even in the event they have no additional undeclared income. Added to that are thousands of parents who now also fill in self-assessment returns following changes to child benefit two years ago. The outcome of which is that some or all of it can be clawed back from higher wage earners.

So what needs to change to make the process less time-consuming and more efficient?


Well, according to Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), it’s the self-assessment system itself that needs to change. That’s the only way to stop our employers filling out forms unnecessarily:

“For self-employed people, self-assessment makes sense. But more and more employees are also being dragged into the self-assessment net, especially after the changes to child benefit,” he said.

“The high number of people filling in forms unnecessarily is expensive for the taxman to administer and fills many taxpayers with dread – like a trip to the dentist.”

“HMRC receives information from employers, banks and financial institutions on the pay and dividends workers earn, so a bit more joined up thinking should enable them to better use this intelligence to work out when employees owe something and amend their tax code accordingly.”

“The current system means many workers are bothered with the hassle of filling out self-assessment forms when they do not owe anything. Since self-assessment relies on workers being honest, workers earning over a certain amount or directors should also be trusted to tell the taxman when they have something additional to declare.”

Commenting on the ACA statement, an HMRC spokesman said that the tax authority had no desire to make anyone fill in a tax return ‘unless it’s absolutely necessary’:

“That’s why we automatically remove 400,000 people from self-assessment every year,” added the HMRC spokesman.

“For those who do, we’ve made it easier than ever to send in a self-assessment return by bringing in short tax returns and online self-assessment, and we are taking this much further by introducing the new digital tax accounts.”

“If you don’t think you need to be in self-assessment, contact us, and, if we agree, we’ll take you out of the system.”

If you would like more information on self-assessment tax returns, then contact Steven Glicher accountants on 0161 485 8007 or email

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