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File your Employer Annual Return online: P35 and P14s

Your Employer Annual Return is due by 19 May following the end of the tax year. Filing your return online is quick, easy, convenient and secure – and it's now a requirement for almost all employers.

This guide lists the different ways you can file your return online, and sets out what you need to do to get started. It explains how to amend your return if you need to make a change after it has been filed. And it provides a link to separate guidance for employers who are exempt from the requirement to file online.

On this page:

Important updates and changes

Almost all employers now required to file online

Starting with the 2009-10 tax year, almost all employers must file their Employer Annual Return (P35 and P14s) online. The 2009-10 return must be filed no later than 19 May 2010.

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Who needs to file an Employer Annual Return?

You must complete and file an Employer Annual Return if you have had to maintain a form P11 (or equivalent payroll deductions record) for at least one employee during the tax year. This applies even if you didn't have to make any deductions of PAYE (Pay As You Earn) tax or National Insurance contributions (NICs) from your employee(s) during the year.

The Employer Annual Return comprises:

  • a form P14 for each of the employees for whom you've had to maintain a P11 or equivalent record
  • a form P35 to summarise the end-of-year payroll totals for all of your employees combined

Your return must reach HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) no later than 19 May following the end of the tax year. If your return is late, HMRC may charge you a penalty.

Penalties if you file your Employer Annual Return late

More about the requirement to maintain a form P11 for an employee

Receiving notification to file your annual return

Before the end of the tax year HMRC sends out a notification to employers to file their Employer Annual Return.

Almost all employers are now required to file their annual return online. If you've never filed online before, HMRC will send you a paper form P35PN by the end of March to notify you. Otherwise, you'll be sent an online P35N – you'll need to log on to the 'PAYE Online for employers' service in order to view the notification.

A paper form P35 will only be issued to those employers who are exempt from online filing.

If you haven't had to maintain at least one form P11 during the tax year

In this case you don't need to complete an Employer Annual Return. Contact your HMRC office in writing or by phone so that they can update your record accordingly.

Form P38A – the Employer Supplementary Return

If you're required to file an Employer Annual Return, you'll also need to submit a form P38A to HMRC if you've had any employees during the year to whom both of the following apply:

  • you haven't had to maintain a form P11 for them during the year (and therefore haven't completed a P14 for them as part of your Employer Annual Return)
  • you haven't completed a form P38(S) for them during the year, to indicate that they're a student who only worked for you during their holidays

You can file a P38A online. Alternatively you can file on paper by printing off copies from your Employer CD-ROM or ordering the form from the Employer Orderline.

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The requirement to file online

Almost all employers are now required to file their Employer Annual Return (P35 and P14s) online. The only employers who can still file on paper are:

  • employers with fewer than 50 employees who cease operating PAYE during the 2009-10 tax year and file their return by 5 April 2010
  • employers entitled to operate PAYE using the Simplified Deduction Scheme for domestic employees (using forms P12 and P37) provided they haven't previously received a tax-free payment for online filing
  • practising members of religious societies or orders whose beliefs are incompatible with the use of electronic methods of communication
  • employers who employ someone to provide care or support services at or from their home - subject to a number of conditions (follow link below)
  • limited companies filing a return solely to submit an entry in box 28 of form P35 ('CIS deductions suffered') - these returns cannot be filed online

If you are in category (c) or (d) and wish to file on paper, you must write to your HMRC office with full details of your circumstances so that your records can be updated.

If you file your annual return on paper when required to file online, HMRC may charge you a penalty. For details, follow the link below.

Online filing exemptions - find out more

Penalties for failing to file PAYE online

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Registering for PAYE Online

In order to file your Employer Annual Return online you must first register as a user of the 'PAYE Online for employers' service (or 'enrol' if you're already using another online service).

Registering or enrolling for PAYE Online only takes a matter of minutes, but you'll need to wait to receive an Activation PIN in the post before you can start to file online. This will take up to a week to arrive. The deadline for filing your Employer Annual Return is 19 May, so the very latest you should register is a week before this.

How to register for PAYE Online

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Online filing methods you can choose from

There's a range of online filing methods you can use to send your Employer Annual Return (P35 and P14s) to HMRC. Please note that you're not restricted to using just one of these options. For example, you could have an agent file your P14s but then file your form P35 yourself using HMRC's free service.

Commercial payroll software

If you use a software package for your day-to-day payroll during the year and it meets the HMRC Payroll Standard, it will automatically complete and file your return online at the end of the tax year.

HMRC's Employer CD-ROM

You can use the P11 Calculator on the Employer CD-ROM to file your return if you have nine or fewer employees at the end of the tax year.

Please note that the P11 Calculator is year-specific - so you can only file your 2009-10 return using the version that's on the 2010 CD-ROM.

Read more about filing straight from your Employer CD-ROM

HMRC's free 'Online Return and Forms - PAYE' service

This service is available on the HMRC website, and can be used to file returns containing up to 50 P14s. There are four steps to filing your return online using this service:

  • you enter your employees' details
  • you complete an online form P14 for each employee
  • your P14 information is used to automatically generate an online form P35 for you
  • you submit the completed forms to HMRC

Demonstration of HMRC's 'Online Return and Forms - PAYE' service

An agent or payroll bureau

You have an agent or bureau file online on your behalf, using the figures and records you provide to them.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

EDI is an online-filing option that's generally suited for larger employers only. It has a separate registration process and more complicated software and telecommunications requirements.

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Make sure your return is error-free

When you file your Employer Annual Return online it's checked against HMRC's Quality Standard to make sure the information you've provided is in the correct format. If your return is rejected you must correct it and file it successfully before the 19 May deadline to avoid having to pay a penalty.

Avoid common errors

There are a number of common errors to look out for when you file online - these are a frequent cause of returns being rejected. Follow the link below for a list.

Common errors to avoid when filing your annual return online

Test your return before submission

If you file online using HMRC's 'Online Returns and Forms - PAYE' service, or the P11 Calculator on the Employer CD-ROM, your return is checked for errors as you complete it, so that you can correct them before filing.

If you're using commercial payroll software, many packages will let you make a test submission. HMRC will respond with the same messages used for real submissions (see the next section, below), so you'll know whether your return contains any problems to be fixed before you file it properly.

If you send a test submission and receive a message saying that your return has been successful, don't forget that you still need to file it properly.

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Acceptance and rejection messages when you file online

After you file your Employer Annual Return online, you'll get an acceptance or rejection message through the software or service you use. If you've provided HMRC with an email address, you'll also get an email message. These messages are usually issued within a minute of filing, but it can take longer if your return covers a large number of employees.

If your return is successful, you'll get the following messages:

  • Software - '9004: the EOY Return has been processed and passed full validation.'
  • Email - 'The submission for [your PAYE reference] was successfully received on [date]. If this was a test transmission, remember you still need to send your actual Employer Annual Return using the live transmission in order for it to be processed.'

If your return is rejected, you'll get the following message instead:

  • Software - your message will highlight the area(s) of your return that have led to its rejection.
  • Email - 'The submission for reference [your PAYE reference] was received on [date]. Unfortunately it could not be accepted as it failed data checks. To correct this, please use the help provided within the software you used to complete your form and send it again.'

Returns filed before the start of the new tax year

If you file your annual return before 6 April (for example, because you've ceased being an employer), HMRC will still let you know straight away whether the return has been accepted or rejected. However, the return won't actually be processed for tax and NICs purposes until early April.

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Sending your P14s and P35 separately

You can file your forms P14 and your form P35 separately to HMRC. This might be useful if your payroll arrangements make it impractical to send the entire return at the same time - for example, if a payroll agent files your P14s for you but you file your P35 yourself.

Follow the link at the end of this section for more detailed information, but bear the following points in mind if you're considering sending your return in this way:

  • We may need to contact you in order to process your return if inconsistencies result from filing this way.
  • Filing in parts can slow down recording tax and NICs details which can affect your employees and can mean you spend a lot of time sorting out inconsistent information.
  • You'll need to check that your filing method allows you to file your return in parts (you can file in parts using HMRC's 'Online Return and Forms - PAYE' service, but not the Employer CD-ROM; if you're using commercial software, check with your software provider).
  • If you're sending separate batches of P14s, each batch must have its own unique identifier.
  • If possible file your P35 last, after filing all your P14s.
  • Your form P35 should indicate how many batches of P14s you've filed, not how many individual P14s. Don't count the P35 (or a P38A if you're filing one) in this total.

Read more about filing your P35 and P14s separately

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Amending your return after you've filed it

If you need to amend your Employer Annual Return after you've sent it to HMRC you must take the following steps:

  • Write to your HMRC office explaining why your return needs to be amended.
  • Send new versions of the forms that need to be amended.
  • Only record the difference between what you had originally filed and what the figure should be. So if you recorded £100 too little tax on an employee's P14, your amended form should show '+£100'
  • If you amend any P14s you must send a new P35 with them, even if there are no changes to the figures you reported on your original P35.

Sending amended information means that your original return wasn't complete - so HMRC won't consider it to have been successfully filed. This means that you may be charged a penalty.

Amended information doesn't have to be filed using the same format you used for your original return. For example, even if you used commercial payroll software to file your return, you could send an amendment using HMRC's free 'Online Return and Forms - PAYE' service.

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If an agent files online on your behalf

If you use an agent to file your return, you must keep a written record confirming that the information they've filed on your behalf is correct. Any written confirmation - such as a letter or email - is acceptable.

You can download a sample form P35 to record and confirm the information you've agreed with your agent - but if you do this, make sure you don't send it to HMRC as they will then consider you to have filed on paper, and almost all employers are now required to file online. HMRC may therefore charge you a penalty for failing to file your return online if you send in this paper P35.

Go to form P35

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More useful links

PAYE at the end of the tax year

General guidance on PAYE online filing

Use HMRC's PAYE Online demonstrator

Contact the HMRC Online Services Helpdesk

Check whether any service issues are currently affecting PAYE Online

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