What is PAYE?


What does PAYE stand for?PAYE (Pay As You Earn) is crucial for both employers and employees. For employers, it ensures tax compliance and simplifies the process of collecting taxes from employees.

By deducting income tax and national insurance contributions directly from employees’ salaries, employers fulfill their legal obligations and avoid potential penalties. This streamlined approach helps employers manage their tax responsibilities efficiently.

For employees, PAYE offers several advantages. It spreads the tax burden throughout the year, making it easier to budget and manage finances. Employees can rely on their employer to accurately calculate and deduct taxes, providing peace of mind that their tax obligations are being met.

Additionally, PAYE ensures that employees receive the correct tax relief and benefits they are entitled to, such as tax credits and allowances, based on their personal circumstances. Overall, PAYE promotes transparency, compliance, and a fair working relationship between employers and employees

What does PAYE stand for?

PAYE stands for Pay As You Earn. It is a tax collection system utilized by many countries, where employers deduct income tax and national insurance contributions from employees’ wages or salaries.

The deducted amount is then remitted to the tax authorities on behalf of the employees. PAYE ensures that individuals’ tax liabilities are met throughout the year, making it a convenient and efficient method of tax collection.

How does PAYE work?

In the UK, the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system works as follows:

  1. Registration: Employers must register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as an employer and obtain a PAYE reference number.
  2. Employee Registration: When an individual starts a job, they provide their employer with relevant information, including their National Insurance number, tax code, and details of any other income sources.
  3. Tax Code Assignment: HMRC assigns a tax code to each employee based on their circumstances. The tax code reflects their tax allowances, deductions, and any other factors affecting their tax liability.
  4. Tax Deductions: Employers calculate the amount of income tax and National Insurance contributions to be deducted from an employee’s wages based on their tax code and earnings. This is done before the employee receives their net pay.
  5. Payment and Reporting: Employers pay employees their net salary after deducting income tax and National Insurance. They are also responsible for providing regular reports to HMRC, summarizing the total earnings and deductions made for each employee.
  6. Remittance to HMRC: Employers are required to remit the deducted income tax and National Insurance contributions to HMRC. This is typically done on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the size of the employer.
  7. Year-End Processes: At the end of the tax year (April 5th), employers provide employees with a P60 form, which outlines their total earnings and deductions for the year. Employers also submit an annual report, known as the Employer Annual Return, to HMRC.

It’s worth noting that the UK’s PAYE system also incorporates other elements such as student loan repayments, pension contributions, and other deductions or adjustments based on individual circumstances. The system ensures that employees’ taxes are deducted and paid correctly throughout the year, making the process more efficient and convenient for both employers and employees.

How is PAYE tax calculated?

A worker’s HMRC PAYE payment is determined based on their tax code and annual earnings. In the UK, employees generally have a yearly personal allowance of £12,570, which means they don’t have to pay income tax on earnings up to that threshold.

For earnings above the personal allowance, different tax bands and rates apply:

  • Basic Rate: Income between £12,571 and £50,270 is taxed at a rate of 20%.
  • Higher Rate: Income between £50,271 and £150,000 is taxed at a rate of 40%.
  • Additional Rate: Income above £150,000 is taxed at a rate of 45%.

It’s important to note that starting from April 2023, the higher rate will reach its maximum threshold at £125,140, and the additional rate will begin at this lower amount.

Source: GOV.UK

PAYE for employers

When it comes to deducting taxes through the PAYE system, various payments made to staff are subject to these deductions. This encompasses :

  • salaries
  • wages
  • bonus payments
  • tips
  • statutory sick pay
  • maternity pay

The main deductions that employers make before paying their staff their monthly wages are income tax and National Insurance contributions.

However, employers also have the flexibility to deduct additional amounts, such as pension contributions, student loan repayments, child maintenance payments, and donations made through Payroll Giving.

Can I do PAYE myself?

Yes, you can handle PAYE yourself, thanks to user-friendly payroll software and online tools available. To get started, register as an employer with HMRC and provide the necessary employee details. With the help of specialized payment software, you can easily manage PAYE tax deductions, calculate employees’ income tax and National Insurance contributions, and generate payslips.

However, keep in mind that payroll processes can be complex, and staying updated with changing tax regulations can be challenging. Some employers prefer to work with third-party payroll providers who have expertise in managing PAYE.

Consider your business needs and resources to determine whether self-managing PAYE or seeking professional assistance is the right choice for you.

How do I report employee deductions and pay HMRC?

To report employee deductions and pay HMRC, follow these steps:

  1. Deductions Calculation: Use your payroll software to calculate the income tax and National Insurance contributions that need to be deducted from your employees’ wages. This calculation should also include any employer’s National Insurance contributions.
  2. Monthly Reporting: On or before your monthly payday, you are required to inform HMRC about all employee payments and deductions. This can be done by submitting the necessary information electronically through your payroll software or HMRC’s online services.
  3. Separate Reports: If you have deductions for items like statutory pay, you can send a separate report to claim reductions or provide additional details as required.
  4. Payment Deadline: Generally, you are expected to pay the balance owed to HMRC by the 22nd of the current month. It is recommended to make the payment online through HMRC’s online services.

Remember, timely reporting and payment are crucial to avoid penalties. Failure to meet the reporting and payment deadlines may result in penalties being imposed. Make sure to accurately report employee deductions and promptly pay HMRC to remain compliant with tax regulations.

What else should I report to HMRC?

In addition to reporting employee payments and deductions, it is important to inform HMRC about other relevant information, such as:

  1. New Starters: Notify HMRC about any new employees who join your business. This includes providing their details, such as their National Insurance number, start date, and tax code.
  2. Changes in Circumstances: Keep HMRC updated about any changes in your employees’ circumstances that could affect their tax obligations. For instance, if an employee reaches the state pension age, you should inform HMRC about this change.

By reporting new starters and changes in circumstances to HMRC, you ensure that the tax authorities have the most up-to-date information about your employees. This helps in accurately calculating their tax liabilities and maintaining compliance with tax regulations. Remember, timely and accurate reporting is crucial to ensure that HMRC has the necessary information to administer tax matters effectively.

PAYE for employees

PAYE simplifies tax deductions for employees, as employers handle them automatically. However, employees should still keep track of important documents like tax codes, payslips, and P60 forms to verify the accuracy of calculations and ensure compliance.

PAYE and your tax code

Your tax code plays a significant role in determining the amount of income tax deducted from your monthly wages through PAYE. You can find your tax code on your payslip, the HMRC app, or any official correspondence you receive.

The tax code consists of a combination of numbers and letters, with 1257L being the most common code. Each number and letter in your tax code has a specific meaning and helps indicate your tax-free income for the year.

For example, the letter ‘L’ signifies that you are eligible for the standard tax-free personal allowance. Alternatively, letters ‘M’ and ‘N’ pertain to the Marriage Allowance. A comprehensive list of tax code meanings is available on the Government’s website.

Understanding your tax code is essential as it enables you to comprehend how your tax-free income is determined and ensures that the correct amount of tax is deducted from your wages.

Checking PAYE on a payslip

Your payslip is a valuable resource for monitoring PAYE deductions. Each month, your employer should provide you with a payslip that details important information. This includes your gross pay (total earnings before deductions), take-home pay (net pay after deductions), and your tax code.

Crucially, the payslip also outlines any deductions made from your gross salary. These deductions can encompass PAYE tax, National Insurance contributions, as well as payments towards pensions or student loans. If you notice any discrepancies or have concerns about the deductions listed on your payslip, it is advisable to discuss the matter with your employer as a first step.

Ensuring the accuracy of your payslip ensures that your PAYE deductions are correctly accounted for and can help address any issues promptly.

Tracking PAYE tax through your P60

In addition to regular payslips, your employer should provide you with a P60 at the end of the tax year. The P60 serves as a comprehensive summary of your earnings and the total amount of tax you have paid throughout the year.

This document is a valuable tool for tracking your PAYE tax and ensuring that everything is accurate and in order. It provides a consolidated overview of your tax payments, allowing you to review and verify the information against your records.

By keeping track of your P60, you can stay informed about your annual earnings and the amount of tax you have contributed. This enables you to assess your tax liabilities and maintain proper financial records.

How does PAYE work for the self-employed?

PAYE is not typically applicable to self-employed individuals. Instead, self-employed individuals generally use the self-assessment process to declare and pay their taxes.

However, in certain circumstances, it may be possible to pay a self-assessment bill using a PAYE tax code. To qualify for this option, you would need to meet the following criteria:

  1. Owe less than £3,000 in tax.
  2. Be an existing taxpayer through PAYE, such as being an employee in addition to your self-employment.
  3. Have submitted your tax return online by 30 December or through a paper return by 31 October.

It’s important to note that this option is not available to all self-employed individuals, and specific eligibility requirements must be met. Consulting with a tax advisor or contacting HMRC directly can provide further guidance on whether this option is applicable to your individual circumstances.


In conclusion, PAYE (Pay As You Earn) is a system that simplifies tax deductions for employees by having employers automatically deduct income tax and National Insurance contributions from their wages. It relieves employees from the responsibility of directly managing their tax payments. However, it is still important for employees to stay informed and keep track of their tax codes, payslips, and important documents like P60 forms to ensure accuracy and compliance.

For employers, PAYE is a crucial element of payroll management. It requires registering with HMRC as an employer, making accurate tax deductions, and reporting employee payments and deductions on time. Many employers choose to use specialist payment software or third-party payroll providers to assist with the complexities of operating PAYE effectively.

Self-employed individuals typically do not use PAYE for tax payments. They usually rely on the self-assessment process to declare and pay their taxes. However, in certain circumstances, it may be possible to pay a self-assessment bill using a PAYE tax code, subject to specific eligibility criteria.

Overall, understanding and adhering to the PAYE system is important for both employers and employees to ensure accurate tax deductions, timely reporting, and compliance with tax regulations. Keeping track of tax codes, payslips, and important documents like P60 forms is essential for individuals to monitor their tax liabilities and address any discrepancies or issues promptly.

Steve Jones Profile
Insolvency & Restructuring Expert at Business Insolvency Helpline

With over three decades of experience in the business and turnaround sector, Steve Jones is one of the founders of Business Insolvency Helpline. With specialist knowledge of Insolvency, Liquidations, Administration, Pre-packs, CVA, MVL, Restructuring Advice and Company investment.