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HMRC internal manual

PAYE Manual

Employer returns: employer return - quality checks: checks prior to recording receipt of a return

An employer / contractor is expected to submit an annual return for each income tax year for which an employer scheme is in operation. For all returns that pass the quality standard checks, the date of receipt of that return or return part must be recorded on the Employer Business Service (EBS) using Function RECORD RETURN RECEIPT.

Details of how to deal with enclosures are in the Action Guide ‘Opening employer return’ at PAYE40046.

Note: Any date stamped on the front of the return must be crossed out using green ink and sent back to the submitter if any return fails the quality standard checks. For more information, see subject ‘Correction of failed returns’ at PAYE40035.


Submission of returns in parts

From April 2005 an employer, or their agent, operating a PAYE scheme can submit their annual return forms P35 and P14 in parts using different channels

  • Internet
  • EDI
  • Paper


  • Magnetic Media

Each individual part must pass the quality standard checks.

If an employer intends to send the whole return by paper, then the return must be submitted as a complete return and not in parts.

Incomplete / incorrect returns

All paper returns received must pass certain quality checks. The appropriate checks to be made will depend on the year, submission type and scheme type. Returns may be regarded as incomplete / incorrect where any of the following apply

  • The return form is incomplete
  • The return is unsigned
  • The P35 return submitted is not the correct version for that tax year
  • The forms P14 submitted are not the correct version for that tax year
  • The return submitted is not an official P35 employer annual return
  • Substitute forms are unapproved versions
  • A paper form P35 is received without all the forms P14
  • Forms are unreadable for any of the following reasons

    • Faint print
    • Misaligned boxes
    • Carbon smudges
    • Small font size
    • Hole punches
    • Defaced form
  • Information is missing from the P35
  • Forms P14 are not acceptable for any of the following reasons

    • NINO missing. (If NINO missing date of birth and gender must be given. Temporary NINOs are not acceptable)
    • Names missing
    • NIC boxes not completed (where appropriate)
    • Pay column not completed
    • Use of sticky labels or correcting fluid
    • Forms P14 not split
    • Forms P14 glued or stapled together
    • Forms P14 not de-sprocketed
  • Forms P14

    • For years 1999-00 and 2000-01 forms P14 have entries in boxes 1e and 1f but have no entries in boxes 1a, 1b, 1c or 1d
    • For years 2001-02 to 2008-09 forms P14 have entries in boxes 1d and 1e but have no entries in boxes 1a, 1b, or 1c
    • From 2009-10 forms P14 have entries in boxes 1e and 1f but have no entries in boxes 1a, 1b, 1c or 1d

Note: With the exception of either of the following which are acceptable

* NIC table letter B - it is not compulsory to have an entry in Columns 1a - 1c
* NIC table letter C - it is not compulsory to have an entry in columns 1a - 1c or 1f
  • From 2002, Class 1A NIC information is included on the return or form(s) P14 (with the exception of P35(TAS) returns)

Photocopied returns

Photocopies of the official P35 can only be accepted where

  • It is identical to the official form


  • The return bears the signature, in ink, of the relevant person

We cannot accept photocopies of the completed forms P35 where

  • The signature is also photocopied

Photocopies of forms P14 are not acceptable because they cannot be read by the scanning equipment at NICO.

Quality checks

It is essential that all returns are quality checked on the date of receipt.

The immediate identification of any errors or omissions means that the return can be sent back promptly to the employer / contractor for correction. For more information see ‘Record failure’ at PAYE40055. This will

  • Give the employer the maximum amount of time to correct the forms and send them back to the processing office before the due date, and avoid any penalty action under S98A(2) TMA 1970 arising from the late submission of a return


  • Save extra work in the processing office at a later date if forms P14 are rejected by NICO

In some cases the errors found on the return (see below) may be repaired within the receiving office.

Errors found on the return

When the return is received it must pass the quality standard checks.

The return or return part may include the details required to quickly correct the error. Any errors, which can be easily repaired, can be corrected using green ink.

Any returns which are incomplete or illegible must be returned to the submitter.

NICO rejection of forms P14

Where unacceptable forms P14 are not identified prior to processing and are sent to NICO they will be returned to the processing office. When this happens it is the responsibility of the processing office to liaise with the employer and then repair the forms P14 themselves. These forms must not be returned to the employer for repair.

Note: The machines used to scan forms P14 can only read details on approved forms and photocopies are not acceptable.