Where are we with paper statements and paper returns?

In recent weeks we have received queries from members and taxpayers confused about paper return, paper statements, and paperless communications in general for self-assessment tax payers. The confusion appears to have arisen based on some wording used on the 2019/20 SA316 Notice to File a Tax Return forms issued earlier this year. We and others have raised this with HMRC who have kindly helped to resolve some of these concerns.

Paper returns

As part of an ongoing HMRC initiative to encourage more people to file online, some taxpayers who would usually expect to receive a paper tax return will only have received an SA316 Notice to File a Tax Return this year, which directed them to file online where possible.

This change is part of HMRC’s ambition to reduce paper, but was intended to be a nudge or encouragement to those still filing on paper to file digitally, rather than an absolute instruction to go online.

HMRC have explained that while “there was no opportunity to opt out of being sent a paper Notice to File rather than a paper tax return in the first instance, the option remained for the customer to revert to a paper return where required.”

Any individual taxpayer who wishes to file with a paper return can still request one by phone, or download and print off a return from GOV.UK (trustees should look here). Anyone intending to file on paper should be aware that the deadline of 31 October for paper filing is rapidly approaching – which might be an added incentive to consider online filing.

Paper statements

Also on the 2019/20 SA316 was new wording about taxpayers receiving statements digitally rather than on paper. This message was not clear and has caused concern and confusion about the future of SA300 paper statements amongst our members.

At the time the SA316s were issued (these go to around 9 million taxpayers) it was HMRC’s intention to introduce digital statements in preference to issuing paper statements.

However, in the current circumstances, HMRC have confirmed to us that they are still intending to issue paper statements for 2019/20. Taxpayers can therefore still expect to receive paper tax demands in December/January as usual unless they have specifically opted for paperless communications.

Digital/paperless communications

This brings us to the final aspect – whether or not taxpayers can continue to receive paper correspondence in general. Again, we have seen a few examples of confused messaging here, but HMRC have confirmed the following:

“The paperless option only kicks in if someone has registered for a Personal Tax Account (PTA) and opted for digital communications. Otherwise, our communications are paper by default, regardless of whether they are digitally excluded. Where communications are digital, we don’t issue confidential, sensitive taxpayer information by email; we send an email to prompt taxpayers to log on and view the information in their PTA.”

The result is that a customer can have a PTA and still opt for paper communications if they wish.

HMRC also highlighted that a customer can request to be recorded as having digital excluded status with HMRC. If HMRC agree they meet these criteria, their record is noted as such and they should be excluded from any future paperless initiatives. This might be useful for elderly or vulnerable clients who might be confused or concerned about future mailings suggesting that they should go digital.

If members have any comments or concerns about any of the paperless initiatives above, please do atttechnical [at] att.org.uk (subject: Paperless%20communications) (let us know).


Posted in: Tax