When a business registers as an employer and sets up Pay As You Earn (PAYE), HMRC will issue an ‘employer PAYE reference’ and an ‘Accounts Office reference’. These are two unique identifiers that HMRC uses to distinguish employers and their PAYE transactions.
In this blog, we discuss these reference numbers in a bit more detail and explain the difference between the two.
What is an employer PAYE reference?
An employer PAYE reference is a unique combination of letters and numbers that HMRC assigns to a business when it registers as an employer. HMRC uses this reference to identify the business for employer PAYE purposes.
It is sometimes called an ‘Employer Reference Number’ (ERN), an ‘employer PAYE reference number’, a ‘Pay As You Earn reference number’, or a ‘PAYE reference’.
An employer PAYE reference consists of:
- a three-digit tax office number
- a forward slash (/)
- a tax office employer reference, which is a combination of characters (letters and/or numbers) unique to the business
It will look something like 123/AB4567.
The three numbers in the first part of the reference (before the forward slash) identify the specific regional tax office that deals with the employer’s PAYE affairs.
The second part of the reference (after the forward slash) identifies the particular business/employer.
When will I use my employer PAYE reference?
Your employer PAYE reference is incredibly important, so you must keep it somewhere convenient. You will need to provide it on a number of occasions in any given tax year, including when:
- setting up your payroll software
- completing your end-of-year PAYE reports
- issuing payslips to employees
- an employee requests it—to apply for tax credits, Universal Credit, student loans, etc
- buying employer’s liability insurance
- adding your PAYE scheme to an apprenticeship service account
- setting up a workplace pension scheme
- contacting HMRC’S Employer Helpline about any PAYE matters
To ensure its safekeeping, you should retain all official letters and other forms of communication sent by HMRC.
Where can I find my employer PAYE reference?
When you register online as an employer, HMRC will issue your unique employer PAYE reference and send it to you within approximately 5 business days, along with a welcome pack for new employers.
If your business has been set up as a limited company or an LLP, all correspondence from HMRC will be delivered to your registered office address. If you have a different type of business structure (e.g. sole trader, business partnership), you will receive this mail at your nominated business address.
You can also find your employer PAYE reference in other official letters and emails from HRMC, on employee payslips, and on copies of P45s, P60s, and P11Ds issued to your employees.
What is an Accounts Office reference?
An Accounts Office reference is a unique combination of 13 characters that HMRC uses to identify and link an employer’s PAYE payments to their PAYE Online account. This reference is assigned and issued at the same time as an employer’s PAYE reference.
It is sometimes referred to as an ‘Accounts Office reference number’ or a ‘PAYE Accounts Office reference’.
Accounts Office references are always formatted as:
- a three-digit tax office number
- uppercase ‘P’
- another uppercase letter
- 8 numbers, or 7 numbers and an uppercase ‘X’
It will look something like 123PX00123456 or 123PX0012345X. Unlike the employer’s PAYE reference, there is no forward slash after the three-digit tax office number.
When will I use my Accounts Office reference?
You will use your Accounts Office reference when making any PAYE payments to HMRC.
These payments include Income Tax, employees’ National Insurance, student loan repayments, Apprenticeship Levy payments, Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) deductions, and your employer’s Class 1 National Insurance contributions.
You may also have to provide your Accounts Office reference when contacting HMRC to discuss your PAYE payments or anything else related to your employer registration.
Where can I find my Accounts Office reference?
HMRC will issue a unique Accounts Office reference when you register as an employer. It will be sent to your registered office or nominated business address about 5 working days after registration, at the same time as your employer’s PAYE reference.
Your Accounts Office reference will also be included in most other PAYE letters and emails from HMRC, PAYE bills, and on the front of your payment booklet.
You must keep this reference safe, along with your employer’s PAYE reference, because you will need to provide it on a regular basis to ensure the smooth running of your payroll.