What is a tax reference number?

Each employer or pension provider has a unique set of digits used to identify their tax records with HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). These digits are a tax reference number. If you begin a new employment, then you will receive a new tax reference number. If you have two different employers, each will have a different tax reference number.

If you need to enquire with HMRC about your tax details, then you may be asked for your employer’s tax reference number to confirm your identity. In the UK, you can also provide your National Insurance Number (NINO) to confirm your identity when contacting HMRC.

Where do I find my tax reference number?

You can usually find your tax reference number on the payslip you should receive each time your employer pays your wages. If you have observed a recurrent number on your payslips from one employer, this is your tax reference number. You can also find the number on your End of Year Certificate, known as a P60. This form details your total annual income received, the income tax you paid on it, and your National Insurance Contributions deducted at the end of every tax year. In the UK, the tax year runs from 6th April to 5th April annually.  

If you choose to leave employment, then your employer will issue you with a form P45. This shows you how much tax you have paid on your salary so far in the tax year. It will also have your tax reference number on it.

What does a tax reference number look like?

A tax reference number consists of three numbers followed by several numbers, letters, or a combination of numbers and letters. The first three digits in a tax reference number identifies the tax office that deals with the tax of your employer. The remaining digits of your tax reference number identifies who your employer is.

The difference between a tax reference number and a UTR

A tax reference number and a Unique Taxpayer Reference number (UTR) are two different things. Not everyone has a UTR number. You are only provided with a UTR if you register with HMRC for Self-Assessment of your taxes. Usually, people who are self-employed or who have income from property or abroad register for a UTR to pay their tax. A UTR, which consists of a ten-digit number, is issued only once to each person who registers for it and they can use it throughout their lifetime.

Most people in the UK work for an employer and pay all their tax through their employer’s payroll system under PAYE (Pay As You Earn). If you are an employee, you will see your tax reference number on payslips and other tax documentation you receive from your employer.

Which is the correct HMRC reference number to use?

You may receive letters or documentation from HMRC with different tax reference numbers. When, for example, enquiring with HMRC about your tax details, it is important to have the correct reference number/s to hand. Each of your PAYE employers has a unique tax reference number which identifies their tax record and details to HMRC. If you want to enquire about tax details regarding your self-employed income, then you would use your UTR number.

Other HMRC services that you might make use of like VAT or Corporate Tax will each have their own separate reference numbers too. It’s important to keep a list of all your reference numbers and what they relate to so you can avoid any confusion in the future. 

What is a notice of coding?

Every year, HMRC issues a Notice of Coding for every PAYE employment or occupational pension you have. Also known as a form P2, it is usually posted at the start of the tax year by HMRC. The Notice of Coding informs you of what your current tax code is and the reasons as to why you have that tax code. Those reasons might include any job-related expenses like professional fees, flat-rate expenses, and company benefits. It tells you about any personal tax-free allowances you might have for the year, and how they might have been split between employments.

It is always important to double-check your Notice of Coding. If you spot an error with your tax coding, you should contact HMRC as soon as you can to avoid paying the wrong amount of tax.

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