How Often Do HMRC Check Tax Returns & How Do I Avoid It?

If you’re worrying about whether you’ve done enough to appease the taxman this year – you’re not alone. Lots of taxpayers ask: “How often do HMRC check tax returns?” And the answer isn’t wholly reassuring. HMRC…

5 Minute Read

Last Updated: 28th June 2022

If you’re worrying about whether you’ve done enough to appease the taxman this year – you’re not alone. Lots of taxpayers ask: “How often do HMRC check tax returns?” And the answer isn’t wholly reassuring. HMRC have 1 year from the filing deadline to make enquires in to your tax return. 

However, In reality, HMRC can go back and look at your Self Assessment submission using the discovery assessment rules if certain conditions are met.  The time ranges from 4 years where an incomplete tax return has been carelessly made, up to 20 years if there has been a deliberate hiding of income. 

But don’t let that work you up. There are plenty of ways to appease the taxman and reduce the likelihood of a tax investigation. Simply take the guidance here, and you won’t need to worry about HMRC poring through your accounts.


Any tax returns that arrive after the Self Assessment tax return deadline raise a big red flag with HMRC. You’ll be penalised with an immediate £100 fine for late filing, but you’re also bundled together with taxpayers who are considered disorganised – or worse, dishonest. In the taxman’s eyes, those who can’t meet basic deadlines may make errors elsewhere when it comes to paying what they owe.

As long as you’re hitting the Self Assessment tax return deadline and filing it in the correct manner with accurate figures, you should keep HMRC happy. Digital tax tools can help. GoSimpleTax alerts you well in advance of every deadline, so you never miss a beat.


It’s crucial to declare your expenses clearly on your tax return – but do your research and understand what you can claim for. Unjustified or inaccurate expense listings may bother the taxman. He may decide to investigate potential deceit.

For added security, keep hold of any receipts you’ve obtained throughout the year and store them in a safe place, as this will help to reinforce any expense claims you’ve made. That way, it won’t matter how often HMRC check tax returns: you’ll always be prepared to answer any questions.

A full GoSimpleTax account can be used to upload photographs of receipts, meaning you can snap away whenever you receive one and keep a running log of your expenditure.


HMRC need to know about pretty much every penny that comes into your account – regardless of where it’s come from. They will then determine whether you need to be taxed on this income. If you omit any earnings (small or large), it’s like you’re trying to make that decision for them.

If your income doesn’t add up, or regularly logged earnings from previous years are absent on your most recent Self Assessment tax return, the taxman will come knocking. Don’t risk leaving any income out. If you do, get in touch beforehand to explain why.


Meeting the Self Assessment tax return deadline, listing accurate expenses and logging all income will significantly reduce the chances of an HMRC investigation. GoSimpleTax – our mobile tax return software – is here to make it all pain-free….

Widely regarded as the best Self Assessment software on the market in terms of usability and dependability, GoSimpleTax cuts the stress out of the way you want to earn. With a free trial of our tax software, you can start inputting your income and expenditure to calculate your tax bill, with guidance and support at every turn. Upgrade for just £46, and you can submit a flawless Self Assessment too.

So stop worrying about how often HMRC check tax returns. Instead, trial our software for free today and ensure you can complete your Self Assessment on time

Our Why would HMRC visit me? Reasons for an HMRC tax compliance check article may be of interest

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Blog content is for information purposes and over time may become outdated, although we do strive to keep it current. It's written to help you understand your Tax's and is not to be relied upon as professional accounting, tax and legal advice due to differences in everyone's circumstances. For additional help please contact our support team or HMRC.


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