Filing a tax return for the first time? Don’t miss the 5 October deadline

Customers must register for self-assessment by 5 October or risk being fined

Tax return
(Image credit: Getty images)

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is reminding customers who need to complete a tax return for the first time to register by 5 October 2022. 

About 600,000 people are expected to register for self-assessment and complete their first tax return for the 2021-22 tax year.

Those filing for the first time may include those who are newly self-employed and earned more than £1,000, a new partner in a business partnership, those who have received any untaxed income, and those claiming child benefit but they or their partner have an income above £50,000.

Business owners must register by 5 October in their business’s second tax year. 

Those failing to meet the deadline could be slapped with a “failure to notify” penalty. The amount of the fine depends on how much money is still owed to HMRC by 31 January, such as income tax and class 4 National Insurance contributions. It also depends on the reason for missing the 5 October deadline. Customers face a 100% fine where they have deliberately not notified HMRC and tried to conceal this.

No penalty is charged if someone pays their liabilities in full by 31 January.

How do I register for self-assessment?

Before customers can complete their first tax return, they need to register with HMRC to receive their Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). 

This can be done online at, by phone (0300 200 3310) or by post (Self Assessment, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1AS).

After registering, the UTR is sent in the post within 10 working days. This code is then used to file a tax return, as well as access details of income or earnings and other financial records.

How do I know if I need to do a tax return? 

You can check if you need to complete a tax return by using the free tool on the government website.

Last year there were about 600,000 “first-time filers” and HMRC is anticipating a similar number this year.

Self-employed workers, buy-to-let landlords, those with untaxed earnings or investment income (such as investments held outside of ISAs and pensions are some of the people that may need to file a tax return this year. 

Those who received coronavirus support scheme payments, such as from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme or Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, during the 2021-2022 tax year should include details of them on this year’s tax return.

What’s the deadline to file a tax return? 

The majority of people file a tax return online, and the deadline for this is 31 January. If you prefer to file a paper return, the deadline is 31 October.

The deadline for making any payments due is 31 January. 

HMRC says it is encouraging customers to plan ahead to give themselves the best chance to complete their self-assessment tax return on time. “Customers who file early will benefit from knowing what they owe, allowing them to budget and pay at a time that suits them. If customers are due a refund, they could get it back quicker. Customers have until 31 January to pay any tax owed,” it notes.

It is also warning self-assessment customers to be alert to the risk of criminals emailing, calling or texting claiming to be from HMRC. Scams may threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, while others offer a tax rebate. 

Customers should never share their HMRC log-in details. A fraudster using them could steal or make a fraudulent claim in their name

Ruth Emery

Ruth Emery is contributing editor at The Money Edit. Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.