Find out which employers are exempt from online payroll reporting

Guidance setting out who can report payroll on paper, instead of online, and how to apply.

Who is exempt from online filing

A small number of employers have the option of sending payroll submissions to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) either online or on paper. If you think you may be exempt and wish to file on paper, write to HMRC with full details for your application to be considered.

Religious grounds

Practising members of religious societies or orders whose beliefs are incompatible with the use of electronic methods of communication are exempt from online filing requirements.

Provision of care or support services at or from the home

If you are employing someone providing care or support services at or from your home, the following conditions must be met. The:

  • care or support services must be provided to the employer or a member of their family
  • recipient of the services must have a physical or mental disability, or be elderly or infirm
  • employer must be filing their return themselves, not having someone else (such as a relative or accountant) file it on their behalf

Who is considered unable to file online

In exceptional circumstances, where HMRC is satisfied that the following applies, they will provide an alternative channel for these employers to submit their PAYE returns. You:

  • will have significant difficulty in using an online channel
  • are unable to use an online channel

Exceptional circumstances

HMRC expects all employers - other than care and support employers and those with religious objections as mentioned above - to submit PAYE in real time online.

However there may be a small number of employers for whom HMRC accepts that it will be difficult to meet this online obligation. Employers:

  • with a disability which prevents them from using computers
  • who cannot access an internet connection, including ‘dial up’
  • who are elderly and are unable to use an online channel

There are also a small number of employees who are obliged to report their own PAYE to HMRC on behalf of their employer, such as UK employees working for an employer that is based abroad. HMRC expects these employees to file online except where exceptional circumstances apply, for example, where they are unable to or will have significant difficulty in filing online.

If you think you meet the above criteria, you should contact HMRC. They will send you information about:

  • how you can best access an online digital channel
  • responding to HMRC if, having followed their advice, you still have difficulties accessing an online channel

Each case will be considered on its own merits. HMRC will therefore expect you to demonstrate why you are unable to use an online channel to submit your returns to HMRC and why you can’t use a third party to submit PAYE in real time on your behalf.

Where HMRC is satisfied that the above criteria are met, they will advise you that you can deliver this information instead on paper and will send you the necessary forms for completion.

How to file on paper

Employers exempt from online filing, and those for whom HMRC has agreed that they aren’t required to file returns online, can file paper returns quarterly. Exempt employers may still choose to send PAYE information online in real time, if they do this they should advise HMRC to update their records, which will prevent paper quarterly returns being sent.

HMRC will send the forms and guidance to you - they’re not available from HMRC’s website. They are only available from the Employer Orderline to those employers who HMRC have agreed can use paper forms.

You should tell your employees that you are a paper filing employer. They’ll need to know this if they claim Universal Credit - as they will need to report their earnings to the Department for Work and Pensions themselves.

Where to get help

You can get help by contacting HMRC’s New Employer Helpline.

Published 12 June 2014
Last updated 1 March 2018 + show all updates
  1. Content updated to show current procedures.
  2. First published.