Claiming tax back

No one wants to pay too much tax, but there are situations when that might happen. If you think you've been charged too much and you want to know how to get it back, this is what you need to do.

Girl on the phone

That long phone call with the tax office will be worth it if you get money back

Enter how much pay you’ve received on HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) tax checker and how much tax has been deducted – although it’s been developed for students you don’t need to be a student to use it. This will tell you if you’ve paid too much tax and if so, how much. It also shows you how it’s calculated the amount of tax you owe. If you’re due a refund, you should contact HMRC.

For tax that you may have overpaid in previous years, you should contact your tax office and send them any P60s that relate to the year in which you overpaid – these confirm your final tax code and pay details for the year. It’s a good idea to keep copies of any documents you send. You may be sent a form to complete and return. Then you’ll be issued with any tax repayment due to you

How long will it take to get a tax repayment?

It should only take a few weeks to get your cheque, as long as the tax office has all the information it needs. If the employer hasn’t sent your pay and tax details in, the tax office may need to write to them to get that information. During busy periods, HMRC says that it can take longer. If it does take longer than 28 days, contact the tax office.

I got taxed in a previous job, but I’ve lost my payslips!

If you haven’t been given any payslips or you’ve lost them, your employer needs to let the tax office know what date you finished your job. If this hasn’t happened, you’ll need to contact the tax office or HMRC Enquiry Centre so that your employer can be asked to provide the relevant information.

How do I know if I’m on the right tax code?

You will find your tax code on your payslip. If you think you’re on the wrong tax code, you need to contact your tax office as soon as possible. If you’ve lost your P45 (given to you by your employer when you stop working) or your payslips and you want to find out what your tax code is, you’ll need to give the tax office your National Insurance number, and if possible, a tax reference number. Until your employer gets the correct code they will use an emergency tax code.

Why would I be put on an emergency tax code?

If you start a new job before you’ve been given your P45 from a previous job, you may be put onto an emergency tax code. Other times when you might be put on it include:

  • You’ve started your first job since the start of the tax year (April 6th) and haven’t been receiving any state benefits that you have to pay tax on (or a state or company pension).
  • You’ve started a new job but you’ve had another job or received taxable state benefits during the year.
  • You’ve started a new job and were previously self-employed.
  • There’s been a change in your tax code during the year because, for example, you’ve started to get company benefits.
  • Sometimes your employer will have to put you on an ’emergency’ – or ‘special basis’ – tax code until HMRC has worked out what your correct tax code for the year should be. This usually happens when HMRC doesn’t know enough about your income or tax details for the full tax year.

Like many other codes, the emergency tax code is a number followed by the letter L. If this is your first job, you should be put onto what’s called a ‘cumulative’ emergency tax code. This means your tax should be correct by the end of the tax year. If you’ve already had a job, you’ll probably be put onto a ‘week 1’ or ‘month 1’ code. The problem with that is that you may have paid too much (or too little) tax by the end of the year.

An emergency code will probably be used if you have had other earnings in the tax year but haven’t got a P45 to give your new employer. If you’re on the emergency tax code, get in touch with your tax office and they will arrange to get this put right.

What if my income is going to be more than the allowance?

You should ask your employer for a P46. You will then be taxed under the PAYE system and issued with a tax code that shows your entitlement to any allowances and deductions. Your employer will be informed of your tax code to enable them to deduct the correct amount of tax and National Insurance contributions from your wages.

Do I need to pay tax on income made from my savings?

Income from savings is counted with your wages and other taxable income, so it will count towards your tax-free allowance. You need to ask your bank to have your income from savings paid to you without being taxed. You can download this form (R85) and take it to your bank to save time. If you want to reclaim tax that you’ve already paid on savings, use form R40.

How can I get the help I need?

HMRC encourages people to ring if they have a query. Make sure you keep a note of what was said in the telephone conversation – if you do something wrong, it may be down to you to show that you were acting on the advice of an employee of HMRC.

Photo of a girl on the phone by Shutterstock.

Next Steps

  • The Citizens Advice Bureau has a great Advice4Me page, which explains legal rights specifically for under-25s.
  • The Money Advice Service offers free, unbiased and independent advice about all financial matters. 0300 500 5000
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 29-Sep-2015