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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 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.
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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.
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:
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.
In this case you don't need to complete an Employer Annual Return but you do need to tell HMRC that you won’t be sending one in. To find out how to do this, read the later section ‘Notifying HMRC if you have no Employer Annual Return to make’
If you are 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 can file a P38A online and HMRC recommends that you do it this way.
Alternatively you can file on paper by downloading and printing a copy using the link at the end of this section, printing from your Employer CD-ROM or ordering the form from HMRC’s Employer Orderline. You will not get a penalty for not filing a P38A online.
Almost all employers are required to file their Employer Annual Return (P35 and P14s) online. The only employers who can file on paper are:
If you wish to file on paper on the grounds of your religious beliefs or you employ a carer, follow the ‘Online filing exemptions’ link below to find out how to claim exemption.
If you file your return on paper when required to file online, HMRC may charge you a penalty.
If you haven’t had to maintain any form P11s during the tax year you don’t need to complete an Employer Annual Return – but you do need to tell HMRC that you won’t be completing one. If you don’t, they may send you unnecessary reminders or penalty notices.
You can let HMRC know either:
Whichever method you use to contact HMRC, you’ll need to provide the following information.
If you’re an employer:
For information about how and when to complete a form P11D(b), follow the link at the end of this section.
If you’re an agent:
Agents wishing to notify online must be registered for the PAYE Online Service for agents.
HMRC strongly recommends you notify them online that you have no return to make using the links below. Not only is it quicker, cheaper and easier than writing or calling but also HMRC will confirm via email that they have received your online form. They will also email you to tell you when they have acted on it. (If you notify by post or telephone you won’t normally receive any written acknowledgement.)
Please note that you will not be able to save the information you input during completion therefore it’s important that you have it all to hand before you start (see previous section).
It’s essential the information you provide is accurate and complete, as errors could mean your form is rejected or may require HMRC to contact you, which may delay your notification being processed. A common error to avoid is failing to tick one of the two boxes at the end of the form which relate to whether a form P11D(b) is due or not due.
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 Code 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 have an agent or bureau file online on your behalf, using the figures and records you provide to them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
If your return is rejected, you'll get the following message instead:
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.
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:
If you need to amend your Employer Annual Return after you've sent it to HMRC you must take the following steps:
Sending amended information means that your original return was either incomplete or inaccurate and could mean 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.
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.
You don’t need to keep a copy of the Employer Annual Return (P35 and P14s). But you do need to keep a copy of the records you used to prepare and file your return so that you are able to provide supporting evidence if HMRC asks for it.
If you file using the HMRC Online Returns and Forms service electronic records are automatically kept in line with normal PAYE record keeping rules. The guide 'Understanding and using PAYE for employers' gives more information.
Even if you keep paper PAYE payroll records you still don’t have to keep paper copies of your Employer Annual Return (P35 and P14s). If you do wish to keep paper records you can download a copy of the form P35 and forms P14 to record the information you wish to keep.