PAYE: paying HMRC: what reference should I use?

If an incorrect payment reference is used, HMRC cannot tell where to allocate payment and an automatic late payment tax penalty will apply. 

What reference do I use? 

If you pay on time you just need to use the 13 digit Accounts Office reference number.  This can be found on the letter HMRC sent when you first registered as an employer.

Early or late payments

If you pay 14 days or more before / after the 22nd of the month you need to add a suffix to explain to HMRC which period the payment relates to. 

Add 4 numbers to the end of your 13 digit reference number to tell HMRC what year and month the payment relates to:

  • 2 extra digits for the tax year (e.g. ‘18’ for 2017/18, ‘17’ for 2016/17)
  • 2 extra digits for the month (e.g. ‘01’ for month 1 from 6 April to 5 May)

One-off payments: PAYE settlement Agreements and Penalties

  • The reference number to use should appear in the format ZA123456789012 on the payslip sent to by HMRC (don't use this one it is just an example).
  • If no reference or payslip is provided contact the tax office.


  • From December 2017 HMRC advise that you will not be able to pay PAYE at the Post Office using Transcash.

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