Recovery of underpaid PAYE

Problems paying your tax? guide


If you have earnings from employment and/or any pensions from previous jobs, then tax is normally taken off under the PAYE system. This should collect the right amount of tax from most people each year.

However, the tax you paid may not be correct  where, for example:

HMRC’s system enables HMRC to bring together information from employers, pension providers and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). After the end of each tax year, HMRC checks that the correct tax amount of tax has been collected for each taxpayer.  This is necessary as PAYE is simply an efficient method of tax collection, not one that always achieves a perfect answer of collecting the tax that is due.

The Tax Calculation forms (P800) are sent to taxpayers as a result of these annual calculations and bring together the information HMRC has about taxpayer’s circumstances and sources of income.

The exercise is not meant to apply to anyone who submits self-assessment tax returns. If you normally submit a tax return and have received a P800 calculation, you should contact HMRC.

If you have untaxed income, such as rental income, included in your PAYE code, you should take care to check that any estimated amounts have been adjusted.

People who are particularly at risk

Some people are at more risk that their tax bill may be incorrect. You may be particularly at risk if:

If you earned over £50,000 in the tax year and were part of a household which received Child Benefit, you may be liable to pay the High Income Child Benefit Charge. If HMRC is aware of the position, you should be in self assessment. But if HMRC is not aware that the High Income Child Benefit Charge applies to you and you receive a P800 calculation, you will need to take advice.  For an overview, see

Annual Tax Summaries

HMRC sends out annual Personal Tax Summaries to most employees. These are for information only – to show you how the tax you pay has been spent. They are not demands for payment or tax calculations – see

If HMRC say you have not paid enough tax

If HMRC’s calculation shows that you have underpaid tax of:

Self assessment return for PAYE underpayment

It can be confusing if HMRC issues tax returns, or a notice to file tax returns, for a PAYE underpayment as it is often incorrectly assumed that Self Assessment returns are never required where an individual’s only sources of income have been subject to PAYE. In fact HMRC may issue Self Assessment tax returns to enforce the debt where the underpayment has not been settled.

Where possible it is better to resolve matters with HMRC before tax returns are issued as once they are, there is the risk of late filing and payment penalties and interest.

As from 2016/17 HMRC have been rolling out ‘simple assessment’  which avoids the issue of tax returns in this situation – see

The system for collecting tax under Self Assessment is explained in section 2.

Points to consider:

Check the calculation

Make sure that the figures for income and tax paid for employment and pension income, taxable state benefits, benefits in kind, work expenses and personal allowances are correctly shown. This is particularly important if you have more than one source of income. Check the figures against information from your employer, pension provider and the DWP – such as year-end summary forms, P60; form P45 if you have changed jobs during the year; form P11D if you had benefits in kind like a company car. There is guidance on how to do this on the website at

If you need guidance or find any error, call HMRC on 0300 200 3300.

Error or delay

There may have been a mistake or delay for which you should not be held responsible. The official guidance ( says that HMRC must collect the unpaid tax from your employer or pension provider if they have failed to operate PAYE correctly. This could be where they used the wrong tax code, or failed to process a form P45 or use the New Starter Checklist correctly when you joined them. Phone or write to HMRC for confirmation that they have checked for any such employer error.

If you think tax was underpaid because of a mistake or delay by HMRC, you can ask them to consider writing off some or all of the tax. It must have been reasonable for you to have thought that your tax code was correct, and HMRC must have delayed using information for at least 12 months from the end of the tax year in which it was received.


If a tax debt between £50 – £2,999.99 is to be collected through PAYE, and this will cause hardship if it is all done in a single tax year, you can ask HMRC to spread the collection over two years, or in exceptional cases, three years instead.

If the debt is £3,000 or more, there are two alternative ways to get more time to pay, and avoid getting tax returns, but you must contact HMRC without delay:


Check any refund

If you have paid too much tax, HMRC will automatically send you a refund. It is still important to check the calculation since, if HMRC has made a mistake, they could ask for the money back later on.

If you are still unhappy with the position

If you are unhappy at being asked to pay tax when you consider that you are not at fault, you may consider making a complaint to HMRC (see ). This opens the door for you to take the matter to the Adjudicator’s Office the independent body which deals with complaints about HMRC.

You many like to consider if HMRC’s handling of your case has been in line with their service standard ‘Your Charter’. See

What to do next

You may need professional help to look at all the options. There is at some additional guidance on the HMRC website

If you think anything is wrong, you should contact HMRC on 0300 200 3300.

If you are on low income, and are unable to resolve matters with HMRC, you may contact TaxAid for advice . Pensioners on low income should instead contact Tax Help for Older People



Pay As You Earn