PAYE Tax – a guide for small businesses | Start Up Loans (2023)

With the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system, employers deduct tax and national insurance (NICs) from their employees’ earnings including statutory pay which is then paid to HMRC, known as PAYE tax.

Most UK employers use a PAYE payroll system to accurately work out how much income tax and NICs their employees owe and then deduct this from their wages before they are paid. Deductions are determined by an employee’s tax code and their National Insurance category letter, as well as pension contributions, student loan repayments and – in some cases – child maintenance payments.

There’s no need to register for PAYE if none of your employees are paid £118 or more a week, just get expenses and benefits, have another job or get a pension. However, you must keep payroll records.

Failing to pay the correct PAYE tax to HMRC when required can lead to interest and penalty payments. Employers are legally responsible for completing all PAYE tasks, even if they outsource them. Understanding payroll and PAYE tax is important for any small business owner to ensure you avoid penalties and staff are paid accurately and on time.

Setting up your PAYE payroll

If you’re starting up and haven’t employed an accountant to take care of your payroll, you can set up a payroll system yourself. But before you can do this, you’ll must:

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  • Register as an employer with HMRC. This so you can get your employer PAYE reference number and be able to login to use PAYE Online. Even if you’re the only employee of your business or the sole director of a limited company you must register.
  • Choose your payroll software. The software must be able to report PAYE information in real time to HMRC.
  • Record all sums paid to your employees. This needs to include deductions taken from their earnings, and you’ll need to report these sums to HMRC before payday and then pay Income Tax and NICs payable to HMRC.
  • Maintain accurate payroll and PAYE tax records. You must also tell HMRC about relevant changes regarding your employees.

Employee PAYE payslips

You must give your employees a payslip on or before payday. It should detail their gross wages (earnings before deductions), deductions, net wage or take-home pay, hours worked and rate of pay, their National Insurance number and tax code as well as the earnings and deductions taken so far within the current tax year. Payroll software produces a payslip for each employee, which you can print and give to them or simply email it to them.

How PAYE tax works

Most employers use payroll software, which makes calculating pay and deductions easier and quicker. For PAYE tax purposes, pay can also include tips, benefits, bonuses, commission and statutory maternity or sick pay.

Employee payments and deductions must be reported to HMRC just before or on payday. Commercial payroll software can report PAYE information to HMRC online in real time.

Employers must tell HMRC if they take on a new staff member. They must also let HMRC know if an existing employee’s circumstances change, for example, if they reach state pension age or become a director.

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PAYE forms – P11D, P11D(b), P60 and P45

At the end of the tax year which ends on April 5, employers must submit a P11D form to HMRC for employees who have received expenses or benefits.

You also need to submit a P11D(b) form if you’ve previously submitted any P11D forms; you’ve paid employees’ expenses or benefits through your payroll or if requested by HMRC. From this, HMRC can work out how much Class 1A NICs your business must pay on taxable expenses and benefits.

You must also give your employees a P60 at the end of the tax year. This is a statement summarising their pay and deductions for that tax year. You must give your employees a P45 when they leave your employment.

Paying PAYE deductions to HMRC

Based on the data you input, your payroll software will tell you how much PAYE tax you need to pay HMRC. This is usually payable each month, however small businesses that expect to pay less than £1,500 a month can arrange to pay quarterly. If your business qualifies, you can contact the HMRC payment enquiry helpline on 0300 200 3401 to discuss this. The helpline is open Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm, and on Saturday between 8am and 4pm.

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Employers use the HMRC PAYE Online service to access tax codes and notices about their employees, as well as receive alerts from HMRC when reports or payments are late or appeal any penalties.

You use payroll software to send a Full Payment Submission (FPS) to report to HMRC payments made to your employees and deductions taken from their earnings. To do this, you’ll need to enter your PAYE reference and Accounts Office reference into your payroll software – you get both reference numbers when you first register as an employer.

The FPS must be sent either on or shortly before payday, even if you pay HMRC each quarter (rather than monthly). There are circumstances when sending an FPS after payday is allowed. Your payroll software should provide instructions on how to complete and send your FPS.

Ways to pay HMRC

Same or next day payments can be made to HMRC using online or telephone banking or CHAPS using the PAYE HMRC account details for payments. Allow three working days to pay by either debit or company credit card online; BACS; at your bank or building society by cash or cheque; Direct Debit; or by cheque via the post.

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To verify that HMRC has received your payment, you can check your HMRC online account. The payment should show within six working days.

Key PAYE tax deadlines

  • In the next tax month, you can access your HMRC online account from the 12th day of the month to see your FPS and find out how much in tax and NICs your business owes.
  • By the 22nd day of each month, you must pay HMRC deductions taken from your employees’ earnings in the previous month as reported on your FPS.

The Government provides more in-depth payroll and PAYE guidance for employers on managing your payroll obligations.

PAYE tax refunds

You can claim a reduction on the money you owe to HMRC by sending an Employer Payment Summary (EPS) by the 19th day of the month, with the balance paid on the 22nd day, or the 19th day if you’re paying by post. Overpaid tax is used as credit against future payments, or you can apply for a PAYE tax refund at the end of the tax year. Overpaid tax should be refunded through payroll to the respective employee if, for example, a payroll mistake was made and too much income tax paid.

PAYE tax codes

To find out how much tax to deduct from an employee’s pay, you can enter their tax code into your payroll software. A new employee’s tax code can be found on their P45, which they must receive when they leave their former employer.

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An employee’s PAYE tax code is made up of a number and a letter or letters. Once multiplied by 10, the number shows how much tax-free income they can earn during that tax year. The most common tax code for tax year 2019-2020 is 1250L. It applies to people with one job and no untaxed income, unpaid tax or taxable benefits such as a company car.

The letters in an employee’s tax code refers to their employment/tax circumstances and how this affects their Personal Allowance , such as how much someone can earn in a year before tax is payable.

You may need to update your employee’s tax code at the start of a new tax year, because the number can change. If the tax code changes during the year, HMRC will let you know. Then you can update your payroll records to ensure the correct amount of tax is deducted.

PAYE tax tips

  1. If you’ve ten employees or less, use free payroll software that is HMRC approved. It must be able to report PAYE information to HMRC online in real time. HMRC has a list of free payroll software to choose from.
  2. If you’ve ten or more employees, you can use paid-for software that enables your business to report in real time. HMRC has a list of paid-for payroll software to choose from.
  3. The payroll software you choose should give you the full range of capabilities your business needs. For example, you may need it to produce payslips or make pension payments.
  4. When completing your Full Payment Submission (FPS) to report payments and deductions to HMRC, split staff into groups to make the task more manageable. For example, do employees first, then directors, or full-time staff first, then part-timers.
  5. If you’ve made a mistake in your FPS, correct it as soon as possible.
  6. Check if you need to deduct child maintenance directly from an employee’s earnings or pension.
  7. You’ll need to ask HMRC for a payment booklet if you want to pay PAYE tax at your bank/building society or by post.
  8. You must inform HMRC if you haven’t paid any employees for at least one tax month. You do this by filling in an Employer Payment Summary (EPS), which must be sent by the 19th day of the month following the tax month when no employees were paid. Failure to do so can lead HMRC to send you a notice estimating how much you owe, while you may also have to pay a penalty.
  9. If your payroll software does not produce P60s, you can order copies from HMRC.
  10. Make sure you update your payroll software so that it uses the latest rates and thresholds.
  11. If your business does not maintain full PAYE/payroll records, HMRC may estimate how much is payable – and hit you with a penalty of up to £3,000.


How much can a small business earn before paying tax UK? ›

As a sole trader, your tax-free personal allowance is £12,500. As long as you're earning less than that, you won't need to pay any income tax. If your business earns between £12,501-50,000, you'll pay a basic 20% income tax rate. If your earnings fall between £50,001 and £150,000, you'll pay 40%.

Do companies have to pay PAYE? ›

As an employer, you normally have to operate PAYE as part of your payroll. PAYE is HM Revenue and Customs' ( HMRC ) system to collect Income Tax and National Insurance from employment.

How do you use a PAYE system? ›

You can choose when and how often to pay your employees.
  1. Register as an employer with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and get a login for PAYE Online.
  2. Choose payroll software to record employee's details, calculate pay and deductions, and report to HMRC.
  3. Collect and keep records.
  4. Tell HMRC about your employees.

Can you work for someone and be self-employed? ›

Individuals can also be employed and self-employed simultaneously – for example, if they work for an employer during the day and then run their own business on evenings or weekends. An employer can decide what, how, where and when the work is done.

How much can a small business make without paying taxes? ›

If you operate your business as a pass-through, meaning the income is taxed as part of your personal income, then the tax-free threshold (also called the standard itemized deduction) for 2021 income is $12,550 for individuals and $25,100 for married couples filing jointly.

How much money does a small business have to make before filing taxes? ›

See Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business (For Individuals Who Use Schedule C) for more information. You have to file an income tax return if your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more.

How can I avoid paying tax PAYE? ›

To avoid paying emergency tax you should: Give your employer your PPSN. Make sure you are registered for Pay As You Earn (PAYE) in myAccount. Register your new job with Revenue's Jobs and Pensions service in myAccount.

Is self-employed better than PAYE? ›

PROS. You could pay less tax – you'll be taxed the same rate as employed workers but it won't automatically be deducted via PAYE – you'll have to complete an annual self-assessment tax return. The difference is, you can claim expenses that offset your earnings.

Why is my PAYE tax so high? ›

If you receive employment income and pay tax through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system you may sometimes pay too much tax, for example, as a result of being on emergency tax when you start a new job or because you stop work part way through the tax year.

How do I calculate my PAYE? ›

The following steps are involved in calculating PAYE:
  1. Step 1: Calculate the year-to-date taxable income. ...
  2. Step 2: Calculate the annual equivalent. ...
  3. Step 3: Calculate the tax on the annual equivalent. ...
  4. Step 4: Determine the projected annual tax liability. ...
  5. Step 5: De-annualise the annual tax liability.

Do I need an accountant to do PAYE? ›

If you choose to do it yourself, you'll need to use approved software. HMRC provides its own software (there is a free version for organisations with fewer than 10 employees) but many other packages are available. If you don't want to do it yourself, you can search for an accountant who provides a payroll service.

How do PAYE work for self-employed? ›

Self-employed workers are not paid through PAYE, and they do not have the rights and responsibilities of an employee. A worker must tell HM Revenue and Customs ( HMRC ) if they think they have become self-employed.

Can I be on PAYE and self-employed? ›

Yes definitely you can be employed and self-employed at the same time, it just means some of your income is taxed at source through PAYE and some will need to be declared on a Self Assessment Tax Return by you.

How much can you pay someone before putting them on payroll UK? ›

You usually have to pay your employees through PAYE if they earn £123 or more a week (£533 a month or £6,396 a year). You do not need to pay self-employed workers through PAYE .

What are six disadvantages of self-employment? ›

What are some potential self-employment disadvantages?
  • You usually have an inconsistent income. ...
  • You may have difficulties finding clients. ...
  • You may have difficulties in separating your personal life from your professional one. ...
  • You don't have any paid leaves. ...
  • You may have to pay more taxes. ...
  • Your stress levels may be higher.
2 Nov 2021

How do small businesses avoid paying high taxes? ›

7 Ways Small Business Owners Can Reduce Their Tax Bill
  1. Pay for health insurance.
  2. Save for retirement.
  3. Claim the qualified business income deduction.
  4. Using your car for business purposes.
  5. Depreciation expense.
  6. Home office deduction.
  7. Financing costs for the business.
18 Oct 2022

Can I reduce my taxes by starting a business? ›

Starting a small business can legally save you thousands of dollars in taxes on you (and your spouses) full-time job incomes. Because businesses can claim tax deductions for housing, utilities, transportation, travel, and computer equipment.

How much do you have to make to be considered a business? ›

Unincorporated Businesses

As a sole proprietor or independent contractor, anything you earn about and beyond $400 is considered taxable small business income, according to Fresh Books.

Do I have to pay taxes if I just started my business? ›

Most businesses must file and pay federal taxes on any income earned or received during the year.

What are the taxes I need to pay as a startup? ›

Key Takeaways. Small business owners must pay federal income taxes on their business income, and state income taxes if they are in an income-tax state. Businesses with employees must contribute to Social Security and Medicare taxes and pay state and federal unemployment taxes.

How much should I pay myself as a business owner? ›

If your business is established and profitable, pay yourself a regular salary equal to a percentage of your average monthly profit. Don't set your monthly salary to an amount that may stress your company's finances at any point.

Can I opt out PAYE? ›

There are two ways you can request to opt out: Use the online form service to sign in or set up a Government Gateway account if you don't have one. If you use the online form, you'll get a reference number that you can use to track the progress of your form. Email the form – this doesn't require a sign in.

What is the penalty for not paying PAYE? ›

The employees' tax so withheld must be paid over to SARS by no later than the seventh day of the next month. Should the full amount due not be paid to SARS by this date, the employer will be subject to a 10% penalty as well as interest, unless a deferral arrangement is in place.

How much PAYE should I be paying? ›

How is PAYE worked out? If you earn over the personal allowance pay cap, you'll be charged 20%, 40% or 45% of your earnings, depending on whether you fall under a basic rate, higher rate, or additional rate tax band. This is determined based on your annual income.

What are the disadvantages of PAYE? ›

The main disadvantage of PAYE is that it doesn't take into account the individual's circumstances. For example, if an individual has a low income in one month but a high income in the next, their tax bill will be higher than it should be. This system also doesn't allow for any deductions or tax credits.

Can I pay myself through PAYE as a sole trader? ›

You can simply draw money from your business account to pay yourself as a sole trader. For this reason, it is recommended that you use a separate bank account for your sole trader finances. When you're a sole trader, there is no legal difference between you and your business.

Do I pay PAYE as a sole trader? ›

If you have income from employment as well as your self-employed income, you'll need to declare it on your annual Self Assessment tax return. Your employer should have deducted the income tax and National Insurance due through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme.

Can you reclaim PAYE tax? ›

If you have paid too much tax through your employment or pension and the end of the tax year in which you overpaid tax has already passed (and you have not received a P800 or need your refund urgently and can't wait for your P800), you can make a claim for a refund. It is probably easiest to do this by writing to HMRC.

Do HMRC automatically refund overpaid tax? ›

If HMRC think you have overpaid tax, they will send you a repayment of tax automatically – you do not need to make a claim. If HMRC think you have not paid enough tax, they will write to you explaining that they intend to collect the underpaid tax through your tax code or telling you how you can repay it to them.

How can I reduce my PAYE tax UK? ›

10 ways to minimise your tax bill
9 Feb 2021

At what percentage is PAYE calculated? ›

If one spends 20% of the allowance on business trips, 80% will be subject to PAYE deductions. Meanwhile, if the person travels 80% of their working time for official duties, 20% of their travel allowance is taxable.

Is PAYE calculated on gross or net salary? ›

For individuals, gross income is the sum of all wages, salaries, profits, interest payments, rents, and other forms of earnings, before any deductions or taxes. The PAYE calculated as a result is based on the employee's earnings and includes basic salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits and other allowances.

Is PAYE tax is calculated from your gross salary? ›

PAYE became a Final Withholding Tax on 1st January 2013. Final in the sense that once an employer deducts PAYE from the gross salary/wage of a particular employee, it represents the final tax liability on that income.

Can I do my own payroll for my small business? ›

If you don't have extra funds to spend on a payroll service, the DIY approach can save you some cash. Doing manual payroll isn't the most straightforward task, but armed with the right knowledge, time, and a sturdy calculator, you can do payroll for your small business yourself.

How do small businesses start payroll? ›

How to set up payroll
  1. Step 1 – Apply for an EIN. ...
  2. Step 2 – Obtain your local or state business ID. ...
  3. Step 3 – Collect employee documents. ...
  4. Step 4 – Choose pay periods. ...
  5. Step 5 – Purchase workers' compensation insurance. ...
  6. Step 6 – Offer optional benefits to employees. ...
  7. Step 7 – Open a payroll bank account.

Do I need bank statements for self assessment? ›

If you're new to Self Assessment, you'll need to keep records (for example bank statements or receipts) so you can fill in your tax return correctly.

Do I pay tax in my first year of self-employment? ›

If you are self-employed you need to fill in your self-assessment tax return and pay tax by 31 Jan following the year that you started running your business. For example, if you are started your own business in the June 2020, you will pay your tax in Jan 2022. The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.

How does HMRC know how much I earn self-employed? ›

Does HMRC Know How Much I Earn? Yes, HM Revenue and Customs can see how much you earn, from your pay as you earn (PAYE) records and the information you provide on your self-assessment tax return. That's just the figures you're telling them.

How much can you earn self-employed before telling HMRC? ›

If you're self-employed, you're entitled to the same tax-free Personal Allowance as someone who's employed. For the 2022-23 tax year, the standard Personal Allowance is £12,570. Your personal allowance is how much you can earn before you start paying Income Tax.

Can I have two jobs on PAYE? ›

If you have more than one job as an employee, you need to check that your PAYE code is correct for each job. This is because the system is designed to treat one job as your main employment and your personal allowances will be given in full. The other jobs are treated as secondary and are taxed in full at 20%).

How much can a small business make before paying taxes UK? ›

As a sole trader, your tax-free personal allowance is £12,500. As long as you're earning less than that, you won't need to pay any income tax. If your business earns between £12,501-50,000, you'll pay a basic 20% income tax rate. If your earnings fall between £50,001 and £150,000, you'll pay 40%.

Do I have to declare self-employed income under 1000? ›

If you're starting a new self-employed business and expect your annual gross income to be no more than £1,000, you may not have to register for Self Assessment but can voluntarily if your gross income for 2018 to 2019 will go above £1,000 and you want to be in Self Assessment.

What happens if you get caught working cash in hand? ›

Working cash in hand is not illegal if you declare your cash payments to HMRC. The offence that you are most likely to be prosecuted for is fraudulent evasion of income tax pursuant to Section 106A of the Taxes Management Act 1970 (TMA 1970).

Can I pay someone cash to work for me? ›

While paying your workers in cash is completely legal, paying them under the table (informal payments with no taxes and no records) is illegal and could land you in jail. Employers that engage in paying employees under the table do so to avoid creating any kind of paper trail that would set off red flags with the IRS.

How much can I pay someone without reporting it? ›

Usually, anyone who was paid $600 or more in non-employment income should receive a 1099. However, there are many types of 1099s for different situations. Also, there are many exceptions to the $600 rule, meaning you may receive a 1099 even if you were paid less than $600 in non-employment income during the tax year.

What are 2 risks of being self-employed? ›

Disadvantages of Self-Employment
  • Less security - It will be your responsibility to make sure you always have work to do. ...
  • Fewer free benefits - You will have to pay for your own vacation time, fund your own retirement plans, and buy your own dental, disability and life insurance.
7 Mar 2022

What are the 3 types of self-employment? ›

Different self-employment options
  • Sole trader – this is the simplest way of starting a business. ...
  • Partnership – a minimum of two people hold responsibility for a business. ...
  • Limited company - the business is a completely separate legal entity from the people who run it.

How much can you make self-employed without paying taxes UK? ›

You do not pay tax on things like: the first £1,000 of income from self-employment - this is your 'trading allowance' the first £1,000 of income from property you rent (unless you're using the Rent a Room Scheme) income from tax-exempt accounts, like Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) and National Savings Certificates.

How much profit do you need to make before paying tax UK? ›

Your tax-free Personal Allowance

The standard Personal Allowance is £12,570, which is the amount of income you do not have to pay tax on. Your Personal Allowance may be bigger if you claim Marriage Allowance or Blind Person's Allowance. It's smaller if your income is over £100,000.

What revenue is considered small business UK? ›

An SME is any organisation that has fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than €50 million or a balance sheet total less than €43 million.

What income tax do you pay in the UK for a business? ›

Profit: corporation tax. A UK company will be subject to UK corporation tax on its income profits and capital profits. The rate of corporation tax for all companies is currently 19%.

Can I be PAYE and self-employed? ›

Yes definitely you can be employed and self-employed at the same time, it just means some of your income is taxed at source through PAYE and some will need to be declared on a Self Assessment Tax Return by you.

How does HMRC know how much I earn? ›

Yes, HM Revenue and Customs can see how much you earn, from your pay as you earn (PAYE) records and the information you provide on your self-assessment tax return.

What percentage of profit should you pay yourself? ›

Profit distributions as a salary

An alternative method is to pay yourself based on your profits. The SBA reports that most small business owners limit their salaries to 50% of profits, Singer said.

What percentage should you begin to pay yourself? ›

A safe starting point is 30 percent of your net income.

Since they'll know your unique tax situation, they can give you a more accurate percentage.

How much money can you make privately before paying taxes? ›

The IRS website states, “As a self-employed individual, generally you are required to file an annual return and pay estimated tax quarterly.” However, there are some exceptions. If you believe you'll make less than $1,000 in a given year through your self-employment, you don't have to pay quarterly estimated taxes.

How do you calculate revenue for a small business? ›

The sales revenue formula calculates revenue by multiplying the number of units sold by the average unit price. Service-based businesses calculate the formula slightly differently: by multiplying the number of customers by the average service price. Revenue = Number of Units Sold x Average Price.

Does a small business count as income? ›

2. Income tax: Small business (non-corporate) tax rates are tied to the reported income of the business's owner(s), so business owners should expect to pay both their income tax and a self-employment tax.

Are small business taxes based on revenue or gross profit? ›

Every business pays a GE Tax based on gross revenues. A small business might operate at a loss on the federal level but still pay taxes to the state. For example, an insurance company that generates $300,000 annually in gross income and deducts $300,000 on its federal tax return nets zero in profit.

Do you pay tax if you make no profit? ›

Any year you have minimal or no income, you may be able to skip filing your tax return and the related paperwork. However, it's perfectly legal to file a tax return showing zero income, and this might be a good idea for a number of reasons.

What business start up costs are tax deductible UK? ›

Costs you can claim as allowable expenses

office costs, for example stationery or phone bills. travel costs, for example fuel, parking, train or bus fares. clothing expenses, for example uniforms. staff costs, for example salaries or subcontractor costs.

What do I need to give my accountant for small business taxes UK? ›

Here is our handy checklist of the information you'll need to provide to your accountant:
  1. Sales and purchase invoices/receipts.
  2. Bank statements.
  3. Credit card statements.
  4. Cheque book and paying in book stubs.
  5. VAT returns together with any workings (if you're VAT registered)
  6. Petty cash receipts.
9 Mar 2016


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