How do I work out my tax?

Updated on 30 December 2020


If you are an employee, your employer takes income tax and National Insurance contributions (NIC) off your pay before paying you. Your employer sends the tax and NIC to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This system is called Pay As You Earn (PAYE). You need to be able to work out your tax, so that you can check your employer is deducting the right amount of tax from your pay.

Illustration of a woman at a computer surrounded by numbers
(c) Shutterstock / Aleutie

PAYE spreads your tax and NIC over the tax year. Your employer collects tax using a code number, provided by HMRC direct to your employer while a copy of the code number and how it has been calculated is sent to you. For further information see our page How do I check my coding notice?.

The tax collected under PAYE is an estimate, and is not necessarily the exact amount you are required to pay. However, for many employees there will be little or no difference between the amount of tax deducted under PAYE and the amount of tax actually due on their employment income.

How do I work out my tax?

Remember that the tax year runs from 6 April one year to 5 April the next, for example, the tax year 2020/21 runs from 6 April 2020 to 5 April 2021.

Working out your tax position is basically a four stage process, which we set out in the tax basics section. In stages one and two, you have to work out your taxable income and any allowances or deductions you are entitled to.

In this employed section of our website we provide further information on:

that relate specifically to employees.

To work out your tax (stages three and four), you also need to understand how much tax you pay through PAYE, so you need to be able to check your coding notice and understand your payslip.

You have to pay tax on any other taxable income that you have in the tax year too. So, if you have any other taxable income, you need to include this in your calculations.

If you live in Scotland and are a Scottish taxpayer, you will pay Scottish income tax on your employment income. Different income tax rates and bands apply to your non-savings and non-dividend income. There is more information in our pages on Scottish income tax. UK tax rates and bands apply to your savings and dividend income.

If you live in Wales and are a Welsh taxpayer, you will pay Welsh income tax on your employment income. The rates for Welsh income tax apply to your non-savings and non-dividend income. UK tax rates apply to your savings and dividend income.

Where can I find more help and information?

HMRC have online tools to help you check the tax you are paying in the current year and have paid in past tax years. These can be found on GOV.UK. In order to access some of these services you need to have a Government Gateway account.

Check out our list of other calculators, some of which deal with income tax and pay – including payslip checker, a minimum wage calculator and a company car and fuel benefit calculator.

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