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HMRC Online Services: Guide to Managing Your Taxes

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In the past, managing your taxes meant collecting hundreds of pieces of paper and manually calculating what you owe based on your earnings minus your expenses. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since the days of physical tax filing. 

HMRC’s online services allow you to manage your taxes from your phone, tablet or desktop, covering everything from filing your self-assessment to making payments and changing personal details.

It’s now easier than ever before to keep track of your tax obligations, all with the added convenience of digital accessibility. 

Not everyone is comfortable with digital services, however. We understand how easy it can be to feel overwhelmed by the HMRC online portal – so we’re here to help. 

Whether you are used to doing your taxes offline, or you are new to the world of business and just need a helping hand, we’ve got you covered.

In this Crunch guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about HMRC online services and how to make the most of the platform so you can save time and minimise stress when it comes to managing your taxes.

Understanding HMRC's digital ecosystem

While HMRC’s online services may seem daunting at first, once you fully get to grips with the platform, you’ll notice how effective it is. In order to access the online platform, you will need a Government Gateway account.

If you already have a personal account for managing benefits such as child tax credits, you will need to register a separate business account to oversee your Self Assessment and other business taxes.

If you have multiple limited companies, it is possible to have a government gateway for each, to keep your businesses separate, but you still need a primary account for your Self Assessment. 

If you are yet to transition fully to digital taxes, then you will need to speak to your accountant or register directly with HMRC for a Government Gateway ID. 

Once you register, you can manage your preferences and reduce the number of letters coming through your door by registering for paperless communication - an efficient and environmentally friendly way to get notified of changes to your account.

Don’t worry if you can’t find your Government Gateway User ID and/or password. HMRC has a very simple process for recovering lost details. You’ll find all the information you need to recover your details on the HMRC website here

Registration and account management

HMRC’s online services allow you to manage your personal tax account online. To access this information and carry out tasks such as filing your Self Assessment and checking your tax codes, you will need to register for an account. 

If you have ever used HMRC’s online services before, e.g. to claim tax credits, then you may have an account already. As we’ve already covered, this is called a Government Gateway account, which includes an ID and password.  

You can sign up for a Government Gateway account here. You simply need your National Insurance number or postcode and two of the following:

  • a valid UK passport
  • a UK photocard driving licence issued by the DVLA (or DVA in Northern Ireland)
  • a payslip from the last three months or a P60 from your employer for the last tax year
  • details of a tax credit claim if you made one
  • details from a Self Assessment tax return if you made one
  • information held on your credit record if you have one (such as loans, credit cards or mortgages)

Want to know more? Read our full guide to registering for a personal tax account with HMRC.

Once you have access to the HMRC online services, you can carry out a wide range of activities relating to your personal and business tax accounts.

For example, you can add, change or remove details for your business, such as changing your registered trading address, via the online portal. Simply log in to your account and navigate to business services.

You must tell HMRC if you are no longer self-employed or if your business ceases to operate. You can do all of this and more via the online services. 

Another one of the great benefits of HMRC’s online services is that you can easily manage your personal tax account, including registering as self-employed, submitting your Self Assessment and even paying your tax bill.

To access this service and browse a full list of available personal tax services, visit the HMRC website

Navigating services and features

The HMRC online services allow you to carry out a wide range of activities. With a personal tax account, you can:

  • Register as self-employed
  • Change your personal and business details
  • Fill in, send, view and pay a personal tax return
  • Check and manage your tax credits and other benefits
  • Find your details, such as National Insurance number and Unique Taxpayer Reference
  • Claim a tax refund

… among many more services. 

Making payments via HMRC online services

You can pay your Self Assessment tax bill and other tax bills, such as corporation tax, via online services. There are a number of different ways to pay, including:

  • Bank transfer 
  • Using online or telephone banking
  • By CHAPS
  • By debit or corporate credit card online
  • In-person at your bank or building society

You can also set up a direct debit to ensure payments are automatically sent to HMRC on time. If you are having issues accessing the payment services, or the service is unavailable, read this guide from HMRC for more information, or speak to your accountant about the best way to get your tax paid on time. 

If you can’t afford your tax bill and you want to apply for Time to Pay or discuss your other options, you can do this via the HMRC website or contact the team directly on webchat or telephone. Learn more about what to do if you can’t pay your Self Assessment in our dedicated guide

Claiming tax refunds 

You can find out if you are eligible for a tax refund via HMRC’s online services. However, you may not be able to claim the refund via the platform. If your P60 says you can claim online, then you can do so via your Government Gateway account

However, if you’re unsure about whether you are owed a refund or if you can claim online, then it’s best to speak to your accountant to get the right advice. Working without an accountant? Speak to Crunch today and make sense of your taxes with our expert team. 

So, if you think you have paid too much tax from an employed job, via Self Assessment or any other form of tax paid, use this tool to find out what you need to do next

Check the status of an ongoing tax refund claim here

Troubleshooting and support

While HMRC online services are typically very easy to use, you may still encounter problems while navigating the system.

If you have lost your login information or cannot access the Government Gateway for any other reason, you can recover your details via the HMRC website. In some rare cases, your account may become locked.

If this is the case, then you will have to contact HMRC directly via telephone or webchat. Need to pay a tax bill but can’t access the online services?

Speak to your accountant about getting access to your account as quickly as possible; they might be able to help organise payment while you regain access to your account. 

Rarely, the platform may be unavailable due to technical issues or ongoing maintenance. Scheduled maintenance is usually signposted on the website for plenty of time ahead of the date in question. If you require access to the platform when it is down, you can still contact HMRC via telephone on …

Another route for troubleshooting is HMRC’s webchat, whereby you can speak to an adviser via an online messaging service. This is particularly helpful if you don't have time to wait in a telephone queue.

Whatever your issues, be sure to search the HMRC website to find answers to commonly asked questions, before you hop on the phone to speak to a team member. 

Advanced tools and future developments

As many users reap the benefits of HMRC’s online platform, the government continue to invest heavily in the digitalisation of its services. You may remember GOV.UK Verify, a verification tool that allowed you to verify your identity to access your online account.

The government closed this platform in 2022, announcing that all Verify services would be obsolete by April 2023. 

In 2023, the government launched GOV.UK One Login, both an online and in-person verification service in partnership with the Post Office. The system aims to get as many people accessing their accounts as possible, even those who don’t have a smartphone.

This service is set to extend to other services, including HMRC Government Gateway, within the next 18 months. 

According to a government report released in November 2023, HMRC is transitioning to a ‘platform and product’ approach, with “half of the operation focused on platforms and the other half creating products on those platforms.”

Securing your online tax affairs 

One of the biggest concerns for those transitioning to online tax services is cyber security. If you have been self-employed or running a business for many years, or even decades, then you will likely have a process in place for managing your taxes.

Shifting to online services shouldn’t bring with it an increased risk, as long as you follow some simple steps when creating, accessing and managing your account.

Cyber security do’s and don’ts for accessing HMRC online services include:

  • Do choose a long password with numbers, letters and symbols
  • Do report any suspicious emails or phone calls to HMRC
  • Do access HMRC online services via a secure internet connection
  • Do set up multifactor authentication - a secondary step process to add extra security steps to your login process
  • Don’t share your password with anyone or save them somewhere unsafe, e.g. in a file on your computer
  • Don’t click “stay logged in” if using a public or shared computer

Not sure whether an email or phone call from HMRC is legitimate or a scam? Read the government’s guide to phishing and scams here

Conclusion

In summary, HMRC’s online service is a fantastic platform for sole traders, partnerships and limited companies. When used correctly, you will save time and money on managing your taxes.

Working with any online service has its pitfalls, but HMRC is heavily investing in improving the system, and it’s definitely a good idea to embrace the world of digital tax. 

Need help getting started with HMRC online or stuck with your Self Assessment? Here at Crunch, we work with you as agents to manage your online tax account. We can support you with everything from issuing invoices via our digital platform through to filing your Self Assessment and paying corporation tax.

If you’re still feeling uncomfortable about working with the HMRC platform, why not let us handle it for you? Check out our Self Assessment services to make taking care of your tax obligations easier than ever.

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Updated on
December 12, 2023

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