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How far back can you claim tax rebates?

Published 14 March 2016 by

When you’re on a relatively low income and a tight budget, it always feels like a bonus when a letter comes through to tell you that you’re due a tax rebate. Even though it’s just your money that should never have been taken from you in the first place, it’s still nice to get a payment you hadn’t been expecting.

But if it turns out you’ve been overcharged tax for several years, will you still be able to reclaim this? Or is there a deadline for when you’ll have to claim any refunds you’re due? Let’s go through what HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) says on the subject.

Reasons for refunds

There are a few reasons why you might be due a rebate on your tax but the most common one is if you’re employed and you’ve had too much tax taken from your pay. This could be due to your tax code being wrong, meaning HMRC didn’t know how much tax to take from you. It could also be because you have more than one job and your tax-free allowances are spread between these or if you’ve changed your job halfway through the tax year.

Alternatively, you might be due a tax rebate if you were made redundant and too much tax was taken from your redundancy pay. You could also have paid too much tax on your pension or life annuity or you might have made a mistake when you filed your tax return if you’re self-employed. Whatever the reason, it’s likely that the first time you hear anything about overpaying your tax will be when you get a letter in the post from HMRC.

Time limits

If the reason you overpaid tax was your fault – because you filled in your Self Assessment tax return wrong, for example – HMRC will only let you claim a refund for up to four previous tax years. However, if HMRC made a mistake, you might be able to claim further back than this.

Generally though, the deadline for claiming is four years after the end of the tax year you’re claiming for though, so it’s best to reclaim any refunds as soon as you realise you’re due or when you’re notified. So if you were claiming for tax you’d overpaid in the tax year 2011-2012, you’d have to claim before April 2016.

How to claim

To claim a tax rebate, you’ll have to get in touch with HMRC. You can contact the office on the phone or by post – details are on the HMRC website. To process any refunds, HMRC might need to see evidence of tax you’ve paid, including your P60 for the end of the tax year, your P45 if you left any job during the time you’re claiming a refund for, as well as any evidence of benefits you received.

HMRC will never send you an email to let you know you’re due a tax rebate so if you’ve received a message like this, it could be a scam. Fraudsters may try and scam you by telling you that you’re due a council tax refund too – find out how to protect yourself from this with our council tax scam blog.