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How Do I Check My Tax Refund Status?

Nigel Graber
receipt from HMRC saying "tax rebate"

Updated: 9 Nov 2018

Want to check your tax refund status? Reckon you’re due an income-tax refund?

In this article, we’ll tell you the main reasons you might have paid too much tax and how to go about checking the status of your tax return and claiming back your overpaid contributions.

Where can I check my state tax refund status?

Your first port of call to check the status of your refund is to phone 0300 200 3300. That’s HMRC. Lines are open from 8am-8pm Monday-Friday and 8am-4pm Saturday. Be prepared to give your name and address and your ten-digit tax reference code if you’re self-employed.

Can you check your refund status online?

If you’re into filing electronically, you can check your tax refund status on the website. You’ll find a simple questionnaire designed to assess whether you’ve paid too much tax. Among other things, that could be on pay from a current or previous job, pension payments, redundancy payments or a self-assessment tax return.

How do I find out about my refund status?

If HMRC owes you any tax through a rebate or refund, you’ll receive a letter called a P800 from the government’s income-tax department. This will tell you your refund amount.

But don’t start hopping from foot to foot if one drops through your letterbox. P800 letters can also indicate that you’ve not paid enough tax.

Your P800 will arrive after the relevant tax year has ended in April. You’ll usually receive it around September.

Your P800 will tell you all about claiming online through the GOV.UK website. If you’re able to claim online, the income-tax refund will appear in your bank account within about five days.

Alternatively, if you’re in no rush, you can wait about 45 days and you’ll receive your refund as a cheque in the post. But see below for a more detailed breakdown of time limits.

What if you don’t have a P800 but believe you’re due an income-tax refund? No problem. You can use the government's income-tax calculator to figure out how much should be dropping into your bank account.

Where can I call to check my tax refund status?

If you think you might be due an income-tax refund and want to check your tax refund status, call 0300 200 3300 or go to the GOV.UK website.

If you’re an employee, a common reason for paying too much tax is being given an incorrect PAYE code. Often, this is down to receiving an emergency tax code when you start a new job.

If you reckon you’re due an income tax refund in the current year and haven’t had a P800, call HMRC before the end of the tax year – 6 April 2019 – and explain why you think you’ve overpaid.

The good news is that you’ve got four years from the end of the tax year in which the overpayment took place to claim your income-tax refund.

What if you owe HMRC money?

If the boot’s on the other foot and you owe HMRC money, that could be because you’ve got more than one job, you’ve changed jobs or you’re getting fringe benefits from your employer that are taxable, such as health insurance.

If you’ve not paid enough income tax, you’ll likely be notified between May and October following the relevant tax year.

In any case, HMRC must tell you about the underpayment error within one year. If they don’t, you can ask them to waive the extra tax demand.

If, however, they’re within the 12-month deadline, you don’t have many options but to cough up. You may, though, be able to spread the cost over a number of tax years.

Who gets a refund of their taxes?

Here’s a summary of why you might be entitled to a tax refund:

  • You started a new job and were issued with an emergency tax code.
  • You got married and you or your partner were born before April 1935.
  • Your tax code is wrong.
  • You’re self-employed and your circumstances have changed. For example, profits have taken a tumble. This can mean your payments on account are too high. If you’ve not made a claim to have them reduced, you might have paid too much tax.
  • Are you a pensioner? If you have more than one occupational pension, you’ll want to check that HMRC has correctly allocated your tax-free personal allowances. If not, you’ll have paid too much tax.
  • You have two jobs. If your second employer automatically deducts tax at the basic rate, you’ll not be enjoying the full benefit of your tax-free personal allowances. In particular, this applies to students and low-paid workers.

You can read more about emergency PAYE codes here: The Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system.

There’s more information about incorrect tax codes here: Pay As You Earn (PAYE): common problems.

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Tax refund status after a death

After a death, an income-tax overpayment may occur. If someone has died and you want to claim back tax on their behalf, have a look at the GOV.UK website. Note that any refunds are deemed to be part of their estate.

Tax refund status on savings interest

If you pay too much tax on savings interest, you can claim a refund. You’ll find more information about getting interest tax-free and claiming a refund on tax overpaid on interest on HMRC’s website.

Tax refund status on pensions

Private-pension holders in the UK can now cash in their pots at age 55. If you do so, you might have overpaid tax on this pension. You can find more information about tax refund status on pensions at the GOV.UK website.

Is there interest on refunds?

If HMRC makes your tax repayment after 31 January following the end of the tax year in which you were overpaid, you’ll be entitled to interest. To get more information about the rates that apply, head to the HMRC website.

When can I expect my tax rebate?

So, what about processing times? How long before your tax refund lands in your bank account? The main cause of any delay at HMRC is their current processing time. Usually, you’ll receive your check within eight to twelve weeks of your application. But it could be longer or shorter.

What about speeding up your tax rebate?

Hey, your destiny is in the all-powerful hands of HMRC, so there’s only so much you can do to speed up your tax refund. However, here are a few ideas:

  • Make sure you’ve got all the appropriate information gathered up in one place, and ensure you know your national insurance number, so HMRC doesn’t need to pester you for everything they need.
  • Don’t submit your tax refund application when they’re mega-busy. That means avoiding self-assessment deadline periods in January and July.
  • If your tax refund is a small amount – usually under £1,000 – things should be quite quick. But be prepared for extra checks on larger claims, which will add to your wait.

Tracking your tax refund

If you want to track your tax-refund with HMRC, you might find it worthwhile contacting them to get a date. As a general rule, there’s little point doing this inside five weeks of filing your application electronically, or six weeks if you’ve gone down the paper route.

So how long before your tax rebate will be paid?

OK, we know you’re impatient. Once HMRC has authorised your tax-refund, you shouldn’t have to wait too long, although the exact timespan will depend on what method you’ve chosen for payment:

  • Getting paid directly by bank transfer or onto a credit or debit card will usually take up to five working days.
  • You can expect a cheque to hit your doormat inside five weeks.
  • Got a P800 notice explaining that you’re due a tax refund and can claim it online? You’ll see the money in your bank account within five working days of making the claim. If you don’t claim online inside 45 days, you’ll get a cheque within 60 days of the date on the P800.
  • When your P800 notice tells you that you’re due a cheque, you’ll normally get this within two weeks of being notified.

If you reckon you’re owed a tax refund and you have a particularly complex case, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with a qualified accountant or specialist tax advisor to help you put together your claim.

Your tax-refund case will be dealt with much quicker if your claim is completed fully by professionals so that it’s easier for HMRC to deal with.

So, good luck, don’t get too impatient and spend your tax refund wisely when it arrives.

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