An Employer Reference Number (ERN) is a unique set of letters and number used to identify your business. Also called your employer PAYE reference on tax forms, you’ll be given an Employer Reference Number when you first register as an employer with HM Revenue and Customs.

Your Employer Reference Number will consist of a 3 digit HMRC tax reference number and a reference number that’s unique to your business. It’s split into two parts and will look like this: 123/AB12345.

How to find PAYE reference number

You’ll be provided with your ERN in your employer’s welcome pack, which you’ll receive when your register as an employer. You’ll also find your ERN on communications received from HMRC.

You don’t have to apply for an employer PAYE reference – you’ll automatically be issued one when you register as an employer.

If your business has separate PAYE schemes over multiple locations, then you may have been issues multiple Employer Reference Numbers. It’s therefore important that you keep track of these PAYE reference numbers across your different structures.

When I need an Employer Reference Number?

Your ERN can be used in several ways. Employees may ask you for it, as they’ll need it when applying for Student Loans or tax credits. You should include it on employee payslips, P60s, P11Ds and P45s.

If you purchase employer’s liability insurance, then you’ll need to use your ERN to identify the times at which an employee worked for you should a case be made.

You’ll also need your Employer Reference Number when you’re contacting HMRC about Income Tax and National Insurance. In particular, you’ll need it when you’re completing your end of year PAYE return to ensure everything is filed properly.

End of year returns are most commonly rejected due to invalid or absent ERNs, so it’s important you store this number safely through the year.

I’ve lost my Employer Reference Number

If you can’t find your original employer’s welcome pack, then you should be able to find your Employer Reference Number on other material from HM Revenue and Customs – including P45s and P60s from your employees.

When you don’t need an employer PAYE reference number

You might not have to register under PAYE, and therefore you won’t get an Employee Reference Number, if your employees:

You’ll also be exempt if your business is based in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Using PAYE reference number for insurance

If you make an insurance claim, your Employer Reference Number will be used by the Employer’s Liability Tracing Office (ELTO). They’ll use your PAYE reference number to identify when the insurance claimant worked for you and whether you were insured at the time.

Your PAYE reference number will help establish that the business had appropriate insurance when any claimant was employed by you, even if this is in the distant future. Once you can prove this, the insurer would pick up the compensation bill instead of you. You should therefore share your ERN when you’re arranging your policy with your insurance broker.

Employment Liability insurance is a legal requirement for most businesses with employees, so it’s a good idea to involve your PAYE reference number and secure yourself for future.

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