Using Basic PAYE Tools to operate payroll and report in real time

Basic PAYE Tools is software that you download onto your computer - it will help you run your payroll throughout the year. It's designed for employers who have 9 or fewer employees, and you can use it to work out payroll deductions and then produce all the submissions you need to send to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This guide tells you how to set up Basic PAYE Tools and start using it. It also tells you how to take a backup of your data, get the tools working with assistive software, and what to do if you encounter any problems.

On this page:

Choosing the right payroll system

To find out about the key features and benefits of Basic PAYE Tools and its limitations, read the guide 'Software packages and other payroll options'.

Software packages and other payroll options


New users

Installing and setting up Basic PAYE Tools

You can read how to download and install the tools, set up your employer details and the details of each of your employees in the user guide 'First time users: download and install Basic PAYE Tools'.

Download 'First time users: download and install Basic PAYE Tools' (PDF 1.7MB)

The next step is to add pay details, which will enable the tools to calculate the PAYE tax, National Insurance contributions (NICs) and other deductions. Once this is completed, you must then send your payroll information to HMRC online. The user guide 'All users: Using Basic PAYE Tools' explains how to do this.

Download 'All users: Using Basic PAYE Tools' (PDF 4.8MB)

If you’ve not already downloaded the tools, follow the link below.   

Download Basic PAYE Tools


Existing users

If you already use Basic PAYE Tools to run your payroll, but need help using the tools, you can use the following guide.

Download 'All users: using Basic PAYE Tools' (PDF 4.8MB)


When an employee leaves

When an employee leaves your employment, you need to enter information into Basic PAYE Tools in a specific order. The user guide 'Basic PAYE Tools- what to do when an employee leaves' will guide you through the process.

Download 'Basic PAYE Tools - what to do when an employee leaves' (PDF 846K)


Updating Basic PAYE Tools

It is important that you are using the latest version of the Basic PAYE Tools - otherwise you may be operating PAYE incorrectly. The latest versions numbers are 14.1.14168.

To check the version you are using, open the Basic PAYE Tools. The version number is shown in the bottom left corner of the Home page.

Once you've installed Basic PAYE Tools, if your computer is connected to the internet when you open the tools, you will be automatically advised if an update is available. Please look out for these notifications on the Home page of the tools.

If you have automatic updates switched off, you can still check for updates manually. To do this open the Basic PAYE Tools, select 'Settings' then 'Update' then 'Check now'.


Backing up your data

If you use Basic PAYE Tools to work out and record employee wages, HMRC recommends that you save the data regularly and back it up after each pay period.

By default, the backup option stores a copy of your database as a file on your computer's hard disk drive. This means that if your computer gets a virus or is stolen, or the hard drive fails, you may not be able to access the backup file - so you should select another location, such as a CD-ROM or USB memory stick.

To back up your data:

  1. Select the 'Back up your data' link from the Menu on the Home page of Basic PAYE Tools.
  2. Choose a suitable location for the backup file as explained above.


Using the tools with assistive software

Basic PAYE Tools has an 'Assistive Mode' which is designed to work with assistive software such as screen readers and speech recognition software, for example JAWS or Dragon. Screen readers and speech recognition software are specialist software used by some people with limited vision or blindness, or with a print disability, such as dyslexia, and by those who find it difficult or impossible to use a mouse or keyboard.

You should not use the Basic PAYE Tools in Assistive Mode unless you use a screen reader or speech recognition software, otherwise you will not receive some of the messages you need.

If you use assistive software, you must use Basic PAYE Tools in 'Assistive Mode' for it to work with your assistive software. To do this, open the Basic PAYE Tools, select 'Settings' then select 'Yes' to the question 'Assistive software support?'

Or, if you haven't already downloaded the tools, you can download the 'Assistive Mode version of the Basic PAYE Tools' as this will automatically run in Assistive Mode. Follow the link below.  
If you don't use assistive software, such as a screen reader, this version isn't suitable as it doesn't have 'an Assistant' to help you use the tools.


Sorting out any problems when using the tools

Service issues and Online Service availability

To check whether there are any known issues that may impact on your use of the tools and to find workarounds and solutions to those issues, look at HMRC's Service issues page.

Service issues - Basic PAYE Tools

Service availability

Error messages received when trying to submit PAYE information

For a list of common error messages you might get when you try to submit PAYE information in real time using Basic PAYE Tools, and what action you need to take, look at the following page:

Basic PAYE Tools error messages