Do I need to file a tax return if I am unemployed?

According to the most recent labour force survey, nearly 29 million workers were unemployed between February and April. Certainly, this is a stressful time for many, and the thought of filing a tax return may seem like a pointless endeavor.

But despite your misgivings, it is highly likely that if you have been out of work for any length of time, you are due some tax back as your annual tax allowance would not have been calculated correctly. Tax refunds can provide you with this much needed boost in your income. But only if you apply.

This article will attempt to address a variety of scenarios in which you could find yourself receiving a tax refund.

Timing makes a difference.

Although nearly everyone who became unemployed in 2009 is eligible for a tax refund, the longer you’ve been without work will increase the likelihood of receiving, and the amount of, your tax refund.

First things first

If you were working for any part of 2009, make sure your employer has given you a form P45. Your P45 will show much you have earned and paid in tax. Add to your income and JSA you received between the date you lost your job and April 5th 2010

If you leave at the very end of the tax year, you should be given a P45 on leaving and, by 31 May, a P60.

Form P45 is in four parts. Part 1 will be kept by your old employer who will give the other parts to you. Part 1A is for you to keep safely as your record of pay and tax taken off. Parts 2 and 3 are for your new employer if you start to work again or claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

I will not be working again during the tax year

Typically if you’ve been out of work for some time, your tax refund would be paid when you started working again. However in a situation where you can show you would not be working again in the tax year, such as if you’ve retired or become a full-time student, you can claim a refund immediately. You should write to your tax office and ask for a final calculation or alternatively you can complete a claim form P50 which you can download from the HMRC website at

I am claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

You will have to give the P45 to the Jobcentre Plus office. If you start work again before the end of the tax year, Jobcentre Plus will give you a P45U or P45ESA which includes details of the taxable benefit you have received as well as the normal P45 details.

I am unemployed and claim benefits

You cannot normally claim a tax refund immediately. You will either get a refund automatically under PAYE if you go back to work, or at the end of the financial year, whichever is sooner.

I am temporarily on short-time working

Your employer should make whatever tax refund you are entitled to on your normal paydays.

I am on strike or involved in a trade dispute

You will not be able to claim a tax refund whilst on strike. Instead, you will have to wait for a refund under PAYE – in other words when you either leave the job or return to work. If you are still on strike at the end of the tax year, you will not get a refund until you leave the job, or return to work. However, your employer will give you your P60 which will show the refund which is due as if it had been paid. Your employer must also give you an additional note saying how much tax refund under PAYE is being withheld until you leave or return to work.

Any more questions? We are happy to help. Alternatively, why not apply for some expert help with your tax return?

Claim a tax Rebate

apply for a tax rebate


  1. k.barley says:

    i have been off work in the uk for nearly 4 years now, was off for nearly 1 year due to broken kneecap and was let go from the company i worked for, i then lived at my dads and studied a few on line courses,then went travelling and stayed in poland with friends for a while.
    im now back in the uk and have recently been accepted for a job starting on monday, my new employers have asked for my p45….after a lenghthy search i have found it but it is dated 2008!! is this a problem or will i have to apply for another or what is my next step in course of action.
    any help would be much appreciated cheers

  2. Paul Devlin says:

    Hi,what do you need to do if you havnt been working for the whole of the tax year,ie do you need to send anything.

  3. Teflon Don says:

    A jobseeker on JSA ie enrolled on the Flexible New Deal job program. Part of which involves the jobseeker undertaking a minimum 4 week unpaid work placement.

    Prior to starting the placement, the jobseeker is transferred from Jobseekers Allowance to a ‘Training Allowance’ equal to Jobseekers Allowance. They are also issued with a P45U.

    QUESTION: Is the issuing of a P45U simply a device to allow the jobseeker to undertake the placement without being required to attend the jobcentre to sign on once a fortnight?

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