What is a BR tax code and what does it mean?

In the world of UK tax codes, understanding each variation is crucial for both employees and employers. Among these, the BR tax code holds a special place, particularly for those with multiple income sources or unique employment situations. This guide delves into the essentials of the BR tax code, shedding light on its meaning, application, and impact on your payroll.

As an employer, correctly applying tax codes like BR is key to accurate payroll processing and compliance with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) regulations. For employees, knowing about the BR tax code is vital to ensure that you’re taxed appropriately, especially if you have more than one source of income. Whether you’re an employer processing payrolls or an employee checking your payslip, understanding the BR tax code is an indispensable part of financial literacy in the UK.

Join us as we explore the nuances of the BR tax code, providing clarity and guidance to navigate this aspect of the UK tax system with confidence.

What is the BR Tax Code?

The BR tax code is commonly used by HMRC in the UK. It stands for ‘Basic Rate’ and is applied to all income without any personal allowance. Essentially, this means that all income taxed under this code is taxed at the basic rate – currently 20%.

Unlike other tax codes that might factor in personal allowances, such as the 1257l tax code, the BR code applies the same rate of tax to all income. This code is typically used for secondary sources of income, like a second job or pension.

How the BR Tax Code Works

The BR tax code is a critical component of the UK tax system, and understanding its mechanism is essential for both employers and employees. Here’s a deeper look into how this tax code operates:

  1. Flat Rate Taxation: The BR code applies a flat 20% tax rate to all income. Unlike other tax codes, it doesn’t take into account your tax-free Personal Allowance. This means that no matter how much you earn, every pound under the BR code is taxed at this basic rate.
  2. Application on Income: Primarily, the BR tax code is used for secondary incomes. For instance, if you have a main job where your Personal Allowance is used up, and a second job, your income from this second job will usually be taxed under the BR code. Similarly, pensions or company benefits might also be taxed under BR, depending on your overall tax situation.
  3. Cumulative vs. Non-Cumulative Taxing: The BR tax code operates on a non-cumulative basis. This means that each payment is taxed individually without considering previous earnings or tax paid in the tax year. This approach is different from cumulative tax codes, where tax calculations consider your earnings and tax paid throughout the tax year.
  4. Impact on Paychecks: For employees, it’s important to monitor paychecks to ensure that the BR tax code is applied correctly. If your only source of income is being taxed under BR, you might be overpaying tax, as you’re not receiving the benefit of the Personal Allowance.
  5. Adjustments and Refunds: If at any point, it’s determined that you have overpaid tax due to the BR tax code, you may be eligible for a tax refund. This can occur if you change jobs within the tax year, cease to have multiple jobs, or if there was an initial misunderstanding of your tax situation.
  6. Employer’s Role in Implementation: Employers need to apply the BR tax code based on HMRC’s instructions. It’s crucial for payroll departments to stay updated with any tax code changes that HMRC issues for their employees to ensure accurate tax deductions. HR Software solutions like SkyHR can be instrumental in streamlining this process, ensuring compliance and reducing the likelihood of errors.

Understanding how the BR tax code works is key to managing your finances effectively, whether you’re an employer processing payroll or an employee evaluating your tax deductions. It’s a part of ensuring that everyone pays the right amount of tax, in line with HMRC’s regulations.

Common Reasons for Being Assigned the BR Tax Code

Understanding why an individual might be assigned the BR tax code is crucial for both employees and employers. Here are some common scenarios that lead to the assignment of this tax code:

  1. Second Job or Additional Income Source: The most frequent reason for being assigned the BR tax code is when you have more than one source of income. If your first job uses up your Personal Allowance (the amount you can earn tax-free), any additional job or income (like a part-time job, freelance work, or a pension) typically gets taxed at the basic rate, hence the BR code.
  2. New Employment Without a P45: Starting a new job without providing a P45 from your previous employer can result in an interim BR tax code. This situation occurs because the new employer doesn’t have the details of your earnings and tax paid during the current tax year, so they tax all income at the basic rate until they receive the correct information.
  3. Temporary Tax Code: Sometimes, the BR tax code is used as a ‘temporary’ measure by HMRC. This can happen if there’s confusion over your tax details when starting a new job or changing your circumstances. The aim is to ensure you’re paying some tax, with the expectation that it will be adjusted once your situation is clarified.
  4. Company Benefits: If you receive company benefits (like a company car or medical insurance), these might be taxed separately under a BR tax code. This is particularly common when these benefits use up your Personal Allowance, or when your salary alone uses up your Personal Allowance.
  5. Pensions: For retirees with multiple pensions, the BR tax code is often applied to secondary pensions. This is because your primary pension or state pension might already use your Personal Allowance.
  6. HMRC Error or Oversight: In some cases, being placed on a BR tax code could be due to an error or oversight by HMRC. This might happen if HMRC is not aware of your current employment situation or if there has been a misunderstanding of your income sources.
  7. Non-standard Employment Situations: Those with more complex employment arrangements, like freelance or contract work across multiple jobs, might find themselves on a BR tax code. It’s essential in these cases to keep thorough records and communicate with HMRC to ensure you’re on the correct tax code.

It’s important for both employees and employers to be aware of these scenarios. If you believe your tax code is incorrect, or if it doesn’t reflect your current employment situation, you should contact HMRC. Employers should ensure they provide HMRC with up-to-date information about their employees’ employment status to help avoid any tax code inaccuracies.

Implications of the BR Tax Code for Employees

The assignment of the BR tax code can have several implications for employees in the UK. Understanding these impacts is crucial for financial planning and ensuring you’re not overpaying on your taxes.

  1. No Personal Allowance: The most immediate impact of the BR tax code is that it does not take into account your Personal Allowance. Normally, everyone in the UK is entitled to earn a certain amount of income tax-free. However, under the BR code, you are taxed at the basic rate of 20% from the first pound you earn.
  2. Potential Overpayment of Tax: If the BR tax code is applied to your only or main job, you may end up overpaying tax. This situation can occur due to administrative errors or if your circumstances change, like leaving a job but the tax code not being updated.
  3. Checking Payslips: It’s crucial for employees to regularly check their payslips and ensure that their tax code is correctly applied. Discrepancies or misunderstandings about your tax code should be rectified as soon as possible to prevent financial loss.
  4. Implications for Take-Home Pay: The BR code can significantly affect your take-home pay, especially if it’s incorrectly applied. Without the benefit of the tax-free Personal Allowance, you’ll see a higher percentage of your income going to taxes, which can impact your budgeting and financial planning.
  5. Responsibility to Notify HMRC: If your tax situation changes – for instance, if you no longer have multiple sources of income – it’s your responsibility to notify HMRC. They can then adjust your tax code accordingly, potentially reducing the amount of tax you pay.
  6. Seeking Tax Rebates: If you’ve been on the wrong tax code, especially the BR code when it wasn’t applicable, you may be eligible for a tax rebate. It’s important to contact HMRC to review your tax situation and claim any overpaid tax back.
  7. Understanding Tax Code Changes: Anytime your tax code changes, HMRC will send you a notification. Understanding why your tax code has changed and how it impacts your income is essential. If the explanation is unclear or you think it might be incorrect, contacting HMRC or seeking advice from a tax professional is advisable.
  8. Impact on Financial Planning: For those on a BR tax code, especially in cases where it’s applied to a primary source of income, there may be a need for more careful financial planning. The increased tax liability could affect savings, investments, and overall budgeting.

By being vigilant about their tax code and understanding the implications of the BR tax code, employees can ensure they are not paying more tax than necessary and can manage their finances more effectively.

Employer Responsibilities Regarding the BR Tax Code

Navigating the complexities of tax codes is an integral part of an employer’s responsibilities. Understanding and correctly applying the BR tax code is essential for compliance and ensuring the accurate processing of employee payroll.

  1. Accurate Application of Tax Codes: Employers must apply the tax code provided by HMRC for each employee. If HMRC assigns a BR tax code to an employee, it’s the employer’s responsibility to apply this code correctly to the employee’s payroll, ensuring the right amount of tax is deducted.
  2. Updating Payroll Records: Whenever an employer receives a new tax code notice from HMRC for an employee, it’s crucial to update the payroll records promptly. Delays in updating can lead to incorrect tax deductions, either underpaying or overpaying tax on behalf of the employee.
  3. Informing Employees: Employers should inform employees when a BR tax code is applied to their income. Clear communication helps employees understand their payslips and the amount of tax they’re paying, and allows them to raise any concerns or queries they might have about their tax code.
  4. Providing Support and Guidance: It’s helpful for employers to provide support to employees who have questions about their tax code. While employers cannot offer tax advice, they can guide employees on how to contact HMRC for tax code queries or corrections.
  5. Handling Multiple Jobs: In cases where an employee has multiple jobs, employers need to be particularly careful. If an employer is aware that they are not the employee’s primary employer, applying the BR tax code correctly becomes even more crucial.
  6. Dealing with Tax Code Changes: Employers should be prepared to handle changes in tax codes throughout the tax year. Regularly checking for updates from HMRC and having a flexible payroll system that can easily accommodate these changes is important.
  7. Utilising HR and Payroll Software: Advanced HR software solutions like SkyHR can significantly streamline the management of tax codes. These systems can automatically update tax codes, ensure accurate tax deductions, and maintain records, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring compliance.
  8. Educational Initiatives: Proactive employers may choose to educate their teams about the basics of tax codes and their implications. This can be particularly beneficial in workplaces with a large number of employees on varying tax codes, including BR.
  9. Regular Audits and Compliance Checks: Conducting regular audits and checks of the payroll system can help ensure ongoing compliance and correct application of tax codes. This proactive approach can prevent potential issues with HMRC and provide assurance that employees are taxed correctly.

By fulfilling these responsibilities, employers not only comply with tax laws but also foster a transparent and supportive work environment. Accurate handling of tax codes like BR is vital for maintaining trust and ensuring that employees’ rights and financial well-being are protected.

Correcting Mistakes with the BR Tax Code

Dealing with tax code errors, especially concerning the BR tax code, is an important aspect of payroll and personal tax management. Both employers and employees have roles to play in identifying and correcting these mistakes.

  1. Employee Vigilance: Employees should regularly review their payslips and tax codes. If you notice that you have been assigned the BR tax code and believe it to be incorrect, you should first approach your employer to discuss the issue. Sometimes, a simple misunderstanding or administrative error can be quickly rectified by your employer.
  2. Employer’s Initial Review: Upon receiving an enquiry from an employee about a potential tax code error, employers should first review their payroll records and the instructions received from HMRC. If the employer finds an error in their application of the tax code, they should correct it in their payroll system and inform HMRC if necessary.
  3. Contacting HMRC: If the employer verifies that the BR tax code was indeed issued by HMRC, the employee may need to contact HMRC directly to resolve the issue. Employees can do this via the HMRC helpline or online services. It’s important for the employee to have their employment details, including P60 and recent payslips, available for reference.
  4. HMRC’s Role in Correction: HMRC will review the employee’s tax situation when contacted and, if a mistake is identified, will issue a new tax code. This new code should be communicated to the employer to adjust the payroll accordingly.
  5. Retroactive Adjustments: In cases where the BR tax code has led to an employee overpaying tax, once the correct tax code is applied, the employee’s tax account will be adjusted. This could result in a tax refund or altering tax codes in the future to account for the overpayment.
  6. Record Keeping and Documentation: Both employers and employees should maintain accurate records of all communications and actions taken to rectify a tax code issue. This documentation can be crucial in case of disputes or for future reference.
  7. Educating Employees: Employers can play a proactive role by educating their employees about the significance of tax codes and the process of addressing discrepancies. This can be facilitated through workshops, informational resources, or guidance sessions.
  8. Using Efficient Payroll Systems: Employers should use efficient payroll systems, such as SkyHR, which can quickly adapt to changes in tax codes, reducing the likelihood of continued errors and simplifying the process of correcting them.
  9. Continuous Monitoring: Both parties should continue to monitor tax codes and payslips after corrections are made to ensure that the issue has been fully resolved and that no further errors occur.

By understanding the process of correcting tax code mistakes and by being proactive in their approach, both employers and employees can ensure that tax affairs are managed accurately and efficiently, safeguarding against unnecessary financial loss and ensuring compliance with HMRC regulations.


As we’ve explored, the BR tax code is an integral part of the UK tax system, especially for those with multiple income sources or in particular employment scenarios. Its correct application is essential to ensure both compliance with HMRC regulations and the financial well-being of employees.

For employees, the key takeaway is vigilance. Regularly reviewing your payslips, understanding the tax code applied, and promptly addressing any discrepancies is crucial. The BR tax code, while straightforward in its flat-rate approach, can lead to complications such as overpayment of tax if not applied correctly. Always remember, if your circumstances change – for instance, if you no longer have multiple jobs – it’s your responsibility to inform HMRC. This proactive approach can lead to a more accurate tax code being applied and potentially result in a tax rebate if you’ve overpaid.

Employers, on the other hand, bear the responsibility of accurately applying the tax codes as instructed by HMRC. Mistakes in tax code application can result in financial inconvenience to the employee and potential issues with HMRC. Utilising efficient payroll systems like SkyHR can significantly reduce the risk of such errors. Additionally, being a source of information and support to employees regarding their tax codes can foster a trusting and transparent workplace environment.

It’s also worth noting that tax regulations and codes are subject to change. Both employees and employers should stay informed about any changes announced by HMRC, as this could affect tax codes and payroll processes. Regular communication with HMRC and utilising resources available for tax code education can aid in this endeavour.

In conclusion, the BR tax code, when correctly understood and applied, ensures that the right amount of tax is paid by those with multiple incomes or specific tax situations. For employees, it’s about understanding your payslip and being proactive in managing your tax affairs. For employers, it’s about accurate and efficient payroll management, supporting your employees, and staying compliant with tax laws.

By demystifying the BR tax code and embracing a collaborative approach between employers, employees, and HMRC, we can all navigate the complexities of the tax system more effectively, ensuring fairness and accuracy in the world of taxation.

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