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Sadly, the only two things in life you can be sure of are death and taxes. It’s not an easy subject to think about, but a person’s tax affairs will need dealing with even after they’ve passed away. If this is your first encounter with a Self Assessment tax return, we’ll take a step back for a second.

What is a Self Assessment tax return?

Essentially, a Self Assessment tax return is a document which shows a person’s untaxed income, expenses and other costs. HMRC use these figures to calculate how much tax that person still owes. We go into it in more detail in our Self Assessment guide.

Not everyone needs to complete a Self Assessment tax return

Generally only those who are self-employed or who have extra untaxed income coming in need to complete one. For instance, the director of a limited company needs to complete a Company Tax Return for the company, but also needs to submit Self Assessment for the personal income that they take from the business which hasn’t already been taxed.

Some income doesn’t need to be included in a Self Assessment tax return, for example any interest earned from an ISA. This is because it’s tax-free.

If the person who died was submitting a Self Assessment tax return each year, or was about to start doing so, then one final one following their death will need submitting too.

Do I need to report the death to HMRC?

When a person passes away, you’ll need to let the government know as soon as possible. You can use the Tell Us Once service to do this and like the name suggests, you tell them once and the service will pass this information on to all of the relevant government agencies. If you use this service, you don’t need to contact HMRC separately.

You can still contact HMRC if you want to though, and might find it useful to ask for tax help using their bereavement and deceased helpline.

They will want to know the name and address of someone they can contact regarding the deceased person’s tax affairs, as well as to confirm the exact date of death. HMRC will also ask for some details about the person who died, including:

HMRC will confirm whether or not a Self Assessment tax return is necessary, and send out a paper tax return form with instructions on how to fill it out.

What will I need to fill out the tax return itself?

Completing and submitting a tax return on behalf of someone who has died means you’ll need access to that person’s private records. The exact records you need depends on their circumstances, but will usually include:

Again, you can contact the HMRC bereavement and deceased service if you have any questions or are struggling to find the records required.

You might also need to include information which relates to the administration period.

What’s an administration period for someone’s estate?

The gap in time between the day after the person’s death and the date when their estate is settled is called the ‘administration period’. If you are the executor or administrator of their estate, then you might need to give HMRC certain information about the administration period.

The size of their estate will determine what information you must provide. You might need to include money which arrives in to their estate during the administration period on their Self Assessment tax return. This would include things like any rent payments received from tenants, or income from dividends received after death.

How does this work?

If you need to send a Self Assessment tax return to cover the administration period, and any of the following apply, then you should also complete the trust and estate section:

Will I need to register for Self Assessment to submit a tax return for someone who has died?

You won’t need to register yourself personally, but you will need to register the estate for Self Assessment, even if the person who died was already registered.

Once you register the estate, HMRC will send you a UTR number. This will be different to the UTR number that was issued to the person who has passed away, so mark them clearly to avoid getting confused.

 
Tax return services

When do I need to submit the tax return for someone who died?

HMRC will confirm the tax return deadline in the letter which comes with the form. It can be stressful enough completing Self Assessment at the best of times, so you can ask an accountant to do this for you.

Who pays their Self Assessment tax bill if someone dies?

Any unpaid tax due at the date of the person’s death should be paid by the personal representative dealing with the assets of the estate. In other words, their estate pays their tax bill.

Many banks will make a payment directly to HMRC. However, if no funds are available (perhaps because probate has not been granted) a loan or other financing may need to be arranged to pay the tax due. If there is any rebate of tax due back, it will form part of the deceased’s estate.

Don’t forget, your own tax position may also now change

When a spouse, civil partner or partner passes away, it can affect your own tax position too. A common example would be where the surviving partner starts receiving income from rental properties or investments that used to be paid to the deceased.

It’s not uncommon for non-taxpayers suddenly need to start paying tax because they’ve inherited an income stream from someone who has died.

When you contact HMRC, they will review your new tax position and also confirm if you must start submitting Self Assessment tax returns for yourself. If you do, you’ll need to register in your own right before the registration deadline. You’ll receive your own unique UTR number, which will be different to the one you received to submit a return for the estate.

Remember that any Marriage Allowance, Married Couple’s Allowance or Blind Person’s Allowance is fully transferrable between spouses and civil partners.

Dealing with someone’s tax affairs after they’ve passed away can be confusing and emotional. Help is available, and you don’t have to struggle by yourself. Talk to one of our team using our live chat feature or by calling 020 3355 4047. You can also get an instant quote for our online accountancy services without talking to us first.

About The Author

Elizabeth Hughes

A content writer specialising in business, finance, software, and beyond. I'm a wordsmith with a penchant for puns and making complex subjects accessible. Learn more about Elizabeth.

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