What is a Tax Reference Number? A UK Accountant's In-Depth Guide

What is a Tax Reference Number

In the world of UK taxation, your tax reference number acts as your financial fingerprint. It’s a unique code that links you, the taxpayer, with all your tax-related records held by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Understanding the different types of tax reference numbers and their importance is crucial for any individual or business operating within the UK tax system.

Types of Tax Reference Numbers:  Demystifying UTRs and PAYE References

Let’s break down the two primary types of tax reference numbers you might encounter:

  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR): Think of the UTR as your ID card for the Self Assessment system. Sole traders, partners in a business, company directors, and even some trustees or charities receive a 10-digit Tax Reference Number. It’s an absolute must-have for filing your annual Self Assessment tax return.
  • PAYE Reference Number: If you’re an employee, your tax reference number is associated with your employer’s PAYE (Pay As You Earn) scheme. It helps HMRC track your income tax and National Insurance deductions. Your PAYE reference usually consists of three digits (representing your tax office) followed by a series of letters and numbers unique to your employment.

Where to Find Your Elusive Tax Reference Number

Never fear if you can’t immediately put your hands on your tax reference number. Here are the common places it might be hiding:

  • Payslips: Your go-to source for your PAYE reference number. Look closely, as it’s often there.
  • P60: This annual statement from your employer summarises your pay and deductions for the tax year – and yes, it includes your PAYE reference.
  • P45: Your P45, received when leaving employment, also carries your PAYE reference number.
  • HMRC Correspondence: Dig up old letters, statements, or notices from HMRC. You might find your UTR or PAYE reference there.
  • Government Gateway Account: If you’ve ventured online with HMRC, your tax reference number should be in your Government Gateway account profile.

The Power of Your Tax Reference Number

Your tax reference number isn’t just a random string of characters.  It holds sway in various tax-related scenarios:

  • Tax Filing: Tax Reference Numbers are mandatory for self-assessment tax returns, and companies use them for corporation tax returns. Your PAYE reference lets HMRC match your income to the correct tax record.
  • HMRC Communication: Whether you’re calling, writing, or using HMRC’s online services, providing your reference number speeds up the identification process.
  • Refunds: Those welcome tax refunds? HMRC uses your tax reference number to ensure your money ends up in the right place.
  • Record Keeping: Keeping track of your past tax reference numbers can be helpful for historical references if required.

Lost Your Number? No Problem!

Don’t panic if your tax reference number goes missing. Here’s how to recover it:

  • HMRC Online Services: Your safest bet if you have an account.
  • HMRC Helpline: HMRC’s team can help you track down your number. Be prepared to answer security questions.
  • Scrounging for Documents: Check old tax returns, payslips, or other paperwork; you might get lucky.

In Conclusion

Your tax reference number is basically your tax ID within the UK system. Knowing what it is and where to find it makes dealing with HMRC a lot smoother. Sometimes tax stuff can be a real headache, and that’s where a good accountant comes in handy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the folks at TaxAce LTD Accountants are here to help.  Whether it’s getting your Self-assessment sorted or unravelling some tricky business tax situation, they’ve got you covered. Give them a shout and see how they can make tax time less stressful.

Important Note: Always keep your tax reference number safe and secure, just as you would with your National Insurance number or bank details.

Contabila UK - Founder and CEO -TaxAce - Iurie Bivol

Iurie Bivol


Entrepreneur and accountant with 15 years of experience in the UK.

Contabilitate UK - Senior Tax Assistant - Alina Costreie

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