What is a PAYE Tax Reference Number?

Every business that registers with HMRC as an employer is assigned an employer PAYE tax reference number.

The employer PAYE tax reference is typically made up of a three digit HMRC office number and a unique reference number specific to each employer.

In the sense that it’s a unique identifier used by HMRC it’s similar to a national insurance number for individuals.

Even though the PAYE tax reference number isn’t unique to you as an individual it is still important because it relates to the income you receive from your employer.

Knowing where to find your employers PAYE reference number is useful in a number of different tax related circumstances.

Why would I need a PAYE reference number?

The employer PAYE reference number is necessary for many different reasons for both employees and employers.

Some of the most common circumstances when an employee will need their employers PAYE tax reference number include:

Claiming a tax rebate: When you apply for a tax rebate under PAYE using a P87 form it’s mandatory to include your employer’s PAYE reference number. If you don’t HMRC state they will usually reject your P87 claim form.

The P87 form is used when you need to claim tax relief on work related expenses like mileage tax relief or uniform washing allowance.

If you have had more than one employer during the period of your claim you will need to provide the PAYE tax reference number for each employer.

You will also need to enter your PAYE tax reference number on the employment page(s) of a tax return if you are claiming a PAYE tax rebate through self assessment.

Self assessment: When you are completing a self assessment tax return and you have earned income from a PAYE source like employment you will be asked to enter the PAYE tax reference number in the employment section of your return.

Paying back student loans: Your employer deducts student loan payments from your salary before sending it to the student loan company (SLC). If you need to contact the SLC or HMRC about your student loan having your employers PAYE reference number is expected.

Claiming tax credits: When claiming tax credits you are asked to enter your current employers PAYE reference number.

What does a PAYE tax reference number look like?

A PAYE tax reference number normally starts with three numbers which relate to a specific HMRC office and then a series of numbers and letters which are unique to the employer.

An example of what a PAYE tax reference number could look like is: 123/W55567

The term PAYE stands for pay as you earn which is the name of the system HMRC uses to collect tax and national insurance from employees.

Where do I find my employers PAYE tax reference number?

There are a number of ways to find your PAYE tax reference both online and offline so you don’t have to ask your employer or HMRC.

Some of the best options for finding your PAYE tax reference are:

Online using your personal tax account or the HMRC app

Both the HMRC app and personal tax account services provided by the government can be used to find your employer PAYE reference number.

You should find the PAYE reference number in the PAYE income tax history section.

If you’ve never used the app or personal tax account services you can follow the instructions in our HMRC app and personal tax account guides to set one up.


Sometimes your employer may choose to include your PAYE reference number on your payslips. It is important to note that there is no legal requirement for employers to include your PAYE reference on payslips.

P60 end of year certificate

A P60 is provided to you by your employer at the end of the tax year, which runs from April 6th to April 5th. It provides a breakdown of the tax and national insurance contributions deducted from your salary throughout the year.

P45 details of employee leaving work

If you need a previous employers PAYE reference number your P45 will include it. The P45 is given to you by your employer and details your pay and tax information for the tax year in which you left that employer.

If all of the above fails you can ask your payroll department or contact HMRC (the tax office) directly.

I am an employer where do I find my businesses PAYE number?

When running your own business your employer’s PAYE reference number (also known as ERN or employer reference number) is needed for various purposes.

One important example of when your PAYE reference number is necessary is when you complete your end of year PAYE returns as part of your payroll obligations.

In case you misplace it you can easily locate it on correspondence or emails from HMRC regarding PAYE. Additionally it will be mentioned on any P45’s or P60’s issued to former or current employees.

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