Paper vs Online Tax Returns

If you need to submit a self-assessment tax return, you have the option of completing a traditional SA100 paper form or submitting an online tax return via the Government portal.

Over 97% of self-assessment tax returns are submitted via the online tax return portal, and there are various advantages of completing your self-assessment tax return online over a paper tax return which we’ll cover in this post. But first, let’s start with some basics.

Do you need to complete a Tax Return?

It’s important to determine whether you actually have to file a tax return, as not everybody has to. If you’ve met any of the below criteria in the last tax year, you would usually have to submit a tax return:

  • Total taxable income of £150,000 or more
  • A sole trader that earned £1,000 or more (before any tax reliefs)
  • Are a company director (not including directors at non-profit organisations that receive benefits or pay)
  • You paid the high income child benefit charge
  • Were a partner in a business partnership
  • Have untaxed income from sources such as rental property, investments or savings
  • Have foreign income

If you’re unsure, you can check on the Government website here.

When are the Tax Return Submission Deadlines?

It’s important to meet the deadlines for filing your tax return and paying your liability to avoid any fines, penalties and interest charges on late payments from HMRC.

The deadlines are:

  • Register for Self-Assessment: 5 October for the previous tax year
  • File an Online Tax Return: 31 January
  • File a Paper Tax Return: 31 October
  • Pay Your Tax Bill: 31 January for the previous tax year

Online Tax Returns vs Paper Tax Returns


HMRCs online tax portal will perform some calculations for you which increases the chances of everything being correct provided that your bookkeeping is accurate. It will also check for any missing information and errors before you file your return. You can also utilise accounting software, such as FreeAgent which we supply to all our clients inclusive with our accountancy packages, to calculate your tax returns automatically and then digitally submit them to HMRC.

Conversely, when you complete a paper tax return, manual calculations are involved which have a much higher chance of errors or inaccuracies which can lead to unwanted attention from HMRC and the possibility of fines and penalties.


You get more time to prepare and complete an online tax return. The deadline to file your online tax return is 31 January but the paper submission deadline is 3 months earlier on 31 October. More time to file your tax return means less pressure and less chance of mistakes being made or the deadline being missed.

Speed & Convenience

As well as having more time to file an online tax return, they are also quicker to complete. Some of your details can be pre-populated and automated calculations expedite the process. Guidance and support is also available on the online portal. In addition to this, HMRC can process online tax returns much more quickly hence the later deadline, and they submit instantly with real-time confirmation.

A paper return will take longer to complete and will also have to work its way through the postal system which means there’s a risk of a delivery delay or it being lost in transit. HMRC will then have to process it which again takes them more time which is why they’re keen to push online filing with the Making Tax Digital (MTD) rollout.


It goes without saying that HMRCs online tax return portal utilises industry-standard encryption, multi-factor authentication, automatic logout after 15 minutes of activity and more to ensure your personal information is secure and protected from malicious activity.

When sending personal information such as a tax return through the post, there’s always unfortunately a risk of it falling into the wrong hands or being lost.

Environmental Impact

Environmental considerations are a factor for many and online tax returns mean less paper wastage and a lower carbon footprint as nothing needs to be physically delivered to HMRC.

Why You Should Engage an Accountant for your Tax Return

The best way to ensure that your tax return is filed accurately and on-time is to work with an accountant. As a Gorilla Accounting client, your own dedicated accountant will help with the preparation and submission of your annual self-assessment tax return, as well as your VAT and Corporation Tax returns if applicable, ensuring your filings are timely and correct and that you’re compliant with tax regulations.

This gives you the peace of mind that your tax obligations are being expertly handled and also frees up more of your time to focus on core business activities. On top of this, all your business and personal accounting needs will be expertly managed.

You’re guaranteed a same day response to your queries and award-winning FreeAgent accounting software is included as standard at no extra cost. You’ll receive unlimited support, advice and guidance covering all your accounting needs including how to optimise your tax position, minimising your tax liability and maximising your take home pay.

If you’re not a Gorilla client, we can still help with your tax return. Our self-assessment tax return service will handle the whole process for you accurately and efficiently from start to finish. Complete our personal tax questionnaire to get started and one of our expert accountants will be in touch.

Request a callback today if you have any queries about your online tax return or our service.