How to register as an employer

If you employ someone - even if it's only yourself - you'll usually need to register as an employer with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Most new employers can register online, but some will need to register by email, by telephone, or with an HMRC office.

This guide explains who needs to register as an employer, what information you'll need with you when you register, when you need to register and how to do it. It also explains who will need to register by email, telephone or at an office.

On this page:

When you need to register

As soon as you first employ someone, you will need to register as an employer with HMRC if any of the following is true:

  • you're paying them at or above the PAYE threshold
  • you're paying them at or above the National Insurance Lower Earnings Limit
  • the employee already has another job
  • they are receiving a state, company or occupational pension
  • you're providing them with employee benefits

You might need to register as an employer even if you're the only person working in your business (perhaps because you're the only director of your limited company). If any of the conditions above apply to you as an employee, you'll need to register - you'll be both the employer and employee.

Register in plenty of time

If you need to register as an employer you can do so in advance of the first payday. You should start the process in plenty of time because:

  • if you can't use the online tax registration service, you might have to wait a week for your PAYE and Accounts Office reference numbers to arrive
  • it takes up to a week for your Activation Code for PAYE Online to arrive
  • whether you operate your own payroll or use someone else such as an accountant to do it for you, you must have a payroll system set up ready to report your payroll information online to HMRC on or before your first payday

Please note if you register and don't file anything with HMRC for 120 days your PAYE scheme will be cancelled and you will have to re-register.

If you want to avoid your PAYE scheme being cancelled because there's no activity you should register by email or by telephone - don't use the online tax registration service. Find out why HMRC may cancel your scheme in 'Automatic cancellation of a PAYE scheme' - there's a link below.

Automatic cancellation of a PAYE scheme

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Information you'll need to register

To register as an employer you'll need the following information to hand. Items marked with an asterisk (*) are necessary and you will not be able to register without providing that information.

Information required from all employers

Please provide:

  • name, business name, partner's name, company name (as appropriate) *
  • business or home address, including postcode (as appropriate)*
  • business or home telephone number
  • a contact email address *
  • a contact telephone number *
  • a name and address to send correspondence to
  • the date of your first payday or, if earlier, the first date you made payments of expenses and/or provided benefits to your employees *

Additional information you will need that is dependent on the type of business you are registering.

Your business is a partnership

Your business is a limited company

Your business is not a partnership or a limited company

Please also provide:

  • the partnership unique taxpayer reference
  • the trading name (if appropriate)
  • the nature of the business being registered *
  • confirmation of your Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) number, where appropriate
  • the number of employees you employ or expect to employ in this tax year
  • confirmation of whether you will be engaging any subcontractors in the construction industry
  • the name of each business partner *
  • the National Insurance number of each business partner *

Please also provide:

  • the company unique taxpayer reference
  • the trading name (if appropriate)
  • the company registration number
  • the address of its registered office
  • the business telephone number
  • the nature of the business being registered*
  • confirmation of whether you are operating an occupational pension scheme
  • the number of employees you employ or expect to employ in this tax year (including paid directors)
  • confirmation of whether you will be engaging any subcontractors in the construction industry
  • the names of all company directors
  • the National Insurance numbers of all company directors - but see the note below *

Please also provide:

  • your unique taxpayer reference number
  • your National Insurance number *
  • the trading name (if appropriate)
  • the type of business you run *
  • the number of employees you employ or expect to employ
  • confirmation of whether you will be engaging any subcontractors in the construction industry
  • confirmation of whether you are operating an occupational pension scheme
  • confirmation of whether you will be employing staff who are undertaking electoral duties
  • confirmation of whether you will be employing staff to take on occasional educational examination duties

You don't need the National Insurance numbers if they are a director of a non-UK based company or have been advised by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that they do not qualify for a number (which may be due to residency status abroad).

Applying for a National Insurance number

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How to register

Most employers can register online using HMRC's online tax registration service as explained below. But there are exceptions for some employers who must register in another way - so check you don't fall into one of the more unusual situations listed later in this section. And if you want to avoid your PAYE scheme being cancelled because there's no activity you should register by email or by telephone.

Register as an employer using the online tax registration service

To register as an employer follow the step-by-step process within the online tax registration service. You register as an employer and enrol for the PAYE Online service in a single visit, so you'll want all the information listed above to hand before you start. Help text is available should you need it as you work through the registration process.

Note that if you have previously registered for Self Assessment Online as an individual, and you want to keep the same User ID and password to register as an employer, you will need to 'de-enrol' from Self Assessment and then 're-enrol' by choosing Self Assessment from the group of services under the heading 'Organisations'.

Please note that you must have a separate organisation Government Gateway account (User ID and Password) for each PAYE scheme that you want to register with HMRC. This will allow HMRC to automatically enrol the PAYE scheme for PAYE Online once your registration application has been processed.

And that's it. Now you must wait for a letter in the post. This will contain the Activation Code you need to activate the PAYE Online service the first time you access it, as explained later in this guide.

Register as an employer using the online tax registration service

You may need to register by email

If you are one of the employers listed below, you can still register online, but you'll need to use a form on the HMRC website that sends your information securely by email to HMRC:

  • LLPs with ten or fewer partners
  • clubs which include charities and committee-run organisations (excluding limited companies)

Once registered, you'll need to enrol for PAYE Online separately, as described later in this guide.

Register by email

You may need to register by telephone

If you are one of these employers, you'll need to register by telephone by calling the HMRC New Employer Helpline:

  • a limited company with more than nine directors
  • a UK based limited company with non-UK resident Directors and you have been advised by DWP that you don’t qualify for a National Insurance number
  • a non-UK based limited company with Directors who don’t have a National Insurance number.
  • a partnership and LLPs with more than ten partners

If you are an individual employing someone to provide care and support in your home (for example, a carer) you may need to register by telephone - there's more about this in the guide 'Employing a carer or other domestic help in your home'.

Employing a carer or other domestic help in your home

Once registered, you'll probably need to enrol for PAYE Online separately, as described later in this guide.

Find contact details for HMRC's New Employer Helpline

You may need to register through an HMRC office

Certain employers cannot register using the standard telephone or website methods. This is because their payroll affairs are unusual and require special attention from HMRC. If you are in one of the following categories:

  • receivers paying employees of companies in receivership
  • most offshore employers - however EEA or Isle of Man employers who are liable for UK National Insurance contributions (NICs) can register by telephone or email
  • employees who deduct their own tax and/or NICs (this includes registrars, certain employees of foreign embassies and consulates, and Roman Catholic priests)
  • profit sharing schemes - trustees of profit sharing schemes must operate PAYE when they make a payment on behalf of an employer to a recipient that isn't either an employee of the employer or receiving a pension from them
  • businesses responsible for paying sick pay to the employees of more than one employer (such as insurance companies, for example)

You will need to register by writing to:

Customer Operations Employer Office
BP4102 Chillingham House
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

Alternatively, you can contact the Employer Helpline and they will take your name and telephone number and arrange for Employer Office to get in touch with you.

Find contact details for HMRC's Employer Helpline

If you are a provider of incentive awards and use a Taxed Award Scheme to pay the basic rate tax due on non-cash awards, you should contact HMRC's Incentive Award Unit on Tel 0161 261 3269.

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Your next steps after registering

Once you've registered as a new employer with HMRC, you'll receive a letter by post headed 'New employer registration and reference numbers' containing your PAYE reference and Accounts Office reference. You should expect to receive this within five working days or so.

The letter also includes a link to the 'New Employer - getting started' guide. Everything you need to get started can be accessed from that guide.

You registered using the online tax registration service

If you registered using the online tax registration service, you'll also be automatically enrolled for PAYE Online - although you'll still have to activate it. You'll receive a second letter by post which contains your Government Gateway Activation Code, which can take up to ten days to arrive.

Activating the PAYE Online service after registration

You registered using another method

If you registered by a method other than the online tax registration service, such as the online email form, you will need to wait for your PAYE reference number to arrive and then enrol for PAYE Online for employers as described in the next section.

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How to enrol for PAYE Online if you registered by phone, email or in writing

You must report certain payroll information online to HMRC before you can pay anyone, and you have to be enrolled with PAYE Online before you can do that - so you should enrol as soon as you can. If you weren't able to register as an employer using the online tax registration service, you have to enrol for PAYE Online yourself.

When you can enrol for PAYE Online

If you used the email or telephone service you need to take action now and can enrol for the PAYE Online service as soon as you've received both of these:

  • employer PAYE reference
  • Accounts Office reference

These reference numbers can be found on the letter headed 'New employer registration and reference numbers' sent to you by HMRC when you registered as an employer.

Give yourself at least a week

Enrolling for the PAYE Online service only takes a matter of minutes over the internet. But before you can actually start using the service, you'll need to wait for an Activation Code that will be sent to you by post from the Government Gateway, and then activate the PAYE Online service. The Activation Code will usually arrive within ten days of your enrolment.

How the enrolment process works

The following are the main stages in the enrolment process:

  1. Go to the online services homepage and click on the 'Register' button.
  2. Click on 'Organisation', and select 'PAYE for Employers' on the next page.
  3. Read and accept the terms and conditions of HMRC's Online Services.
  4. Enter your name and email address.
  5. Create a password, making sure to keep it as you'll need it to use the service.
  6. You'll be given a User ID - write it down or take a screen print as you'll need it to use the service.
  7. Enter your employer PAYE reference and Accounts Office reference.

And that's it. Now you must wait for a letter in the post. This will contain the Activation Code you need to access the service for the first time.

View an online demonstration of the registration process (Opens new window)

Go to HMRC Online services now to start the registration process

You've already used another HMRC online service as an organisation

If you've already used another HMRC online service as an organisation (rather than as an individual):

  1. Follow the link below and log in using your existing User ID and password.
  2. Follow the on-screen instructions to enrol for PAYE.

You'll receive an Activation Code in the post within seven working days.

Go to HMRC Online services now to enrol for PAYE Online for employers

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Activating the PAYE Online service after registration

Regardless of which method you used to register as an employer, everyone has to activate the PAYE Online service.

To log on to the PAYE Online service, you start by entering your User ID and password.

The first time you log in you will also be asked to type in the Activation Code that was posted to you - then, the service will be activated.

This must be done within 28 days of the letter containing the Activation Code, or you'll have to request a new code from HMRC by logging in using your User ID and password, and providing the information requested. HMRC will send you a new PIN.

If you lose your Activation Code

If you lose your Activation Code within its 28 day validity:

  1. Log in using your User ID and password.
  2. Click on 'Activate'.
  3. Click on 'Request a new PIN'.

Go to HMRC Online services now to start the activation process

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