Most people pay Income Tax through PAYE, which means that your employer takes Income Tax contributions before they pay you your wages. Income Tax is administered by a government department called HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
For more information about tax for students see:
How much Income Tax will you pay?
You have a ‘personal tax allowance’ which is the amount of earnings in a tax year on which you do not have to pay income tax.
Check gov.uk for information on Income Tax, including personal allowances for current and previous years. On gov.uk you can also estimate your Income Tax for the current tax year too.
When you start a job your employer should ask for ‘new starter information’ (previously called the P46 form). It's a sort of checklist which gives HMRC the information it needs to work out your PAYE code, or tax code. See https://www.gov.uk/tax-codes/what-your-paye-coding-notice-means
Most young people's tax code will be 1250L, which indicates they are exempt until they earn more than £12,500.
In each month that you work, your employer should not tax you on any earnings up to the value of one-twelfth of your annual personal tax allowance, which is £1042 (£12,500 divided by 12). Any monthly earnings above £1042 should be taxed at 20%. The tax free allowance is cumulative, so for example if you earned £842 in April, £200 of your unused tax free allowance would carry forward to May, and be added to the £1042 tax free allowance for that month, giving you up to £1242 tax free earnings.
Working more than one job at the same time
If you have more than one job at the same time, only one job should have your full personal tax allowance set against it. When you start another job, you will need to declare this information to your employer as part of their new starter checklist. Normally your employer at the second job will have to take basic rate tax at 20% from all of your wages.
Try to ensure that your personal allowance (probably 1250L code) is set against your largest source of earnings and basic rate on any secondary sources for earnings.
Watch for duplication of allowances as this could lead to an underpayment of tax.
However, if you know that over the whole tax year your total income from all jobs will still be below your personal tax allowance, you can either:
- pay Income Tax as you earn and then claim a refund at the end of the tax year (see 'claiming back overpaid tax' below); or
- contact HMRC and ask them to split your personal tax allowance between all your jobs
When you leave your job, your employer should give you a P45 or ‘leaver form’, which should show your PAYE code, your total earnings and how much tax you paid. This is explained here.
It is important to keep your P45 as you need to give part of it to your new employer, so they know what tax code to put you on. You also need your P45 to reclaim any overpaid tax.
At the end of each tax year, your employer should give you a P60 form, which shows your total earnings and tax paid in that tax year. Keep your P60 safe as you will need it if you want to reclaim any overpaid tax (see below).
Claiming back overpaid tax
The HMRC website has a tool you can use to check how much income tax you should have paid for a previous tax year, so you can see if you paid too much. You will need details of your earnings before and after tax, which you can get from your P60 form, which your employer will provide you with after the end of the tax year in April.
You need to wait until the end of the tax year to reclaim any overpaid tax. For instructions on how to do this, click here.
Claiming refunds for previous tax years
For previous years, you may be able to claim back any tax you have overpaid if you claim within certain time limits. You can check these time limits online.
If you've paid too much tax for previous years, HMRC will send you a P800 Tax Calculation and any refund you may be due by the September after the tax year. You do not need to send them your P60 certificate.
If you think you are due a repayment and HMRC has not notified you by the September after the tax year then you can telephone or write to tell them why you think you've paid too much tax.
In most cases you'll get back the tax you've overpaid as long as you claim on time. You can get more information and check the time limits on applying for a repayment of overpaid tax here.
Leaving the UK
If you are leaving the UK and not coming back before the end of the current tax year, and you have paid income tax, to claim back any overpayment you can either apply online or complete form P85 and send it by post.
If you have student or Tier 4 immigration permission (a “student visa”), your work restriction prohibits you from being self-employed in the UK. You can ignore this section.
You are self-employed if you run your own business or if you work on a freelance basis. You are also self-employed if you sell goods (including online trading) that you buy with the intention of re-selling them, or if you make items yourself and sell them, intending to make a profit.
If you are self-employed, you normally need to pay Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions, and fill out a Self-Assessment tax return. You may also need to register for VAT. You need to let HMRC know as soon as you start working for yourself. You can register online, by post or by phone. For information see: https://www.gov.uk/business-tax/self-employed
The QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre can also advise on self-employment and starting your own business, and there is information in this guide in the previous section ‘Making your own opportunities’.
Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.