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RTI payroll software: free options

17th Oct 2012
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With the RTI deadline less than six months away, many businesses are on the lookout for new payroll programs.

To cope with the challenge posed by real time information (RTI) for PAYE, most businesses will rely on their existing software suppliers. But recent activity on AccountingWEB has brought to light the demise of PAYExcel, and Sage’s intention to retire TAS Payroll.

With the payroll market in flux, many businesses, accountants and payroll bureaux are considering their software options. In a recent Any Answers thread, one member asked about  free RTI payroll software options. The normal answer might be to question whether it’s realistic to entrust such a business-critical task to freebie software, but AccountingWEB was surprised to find that there were several contenders.

The first of these was HMRC’s own Basic PAYE Tools, which the tax department stresses is only available for companies with nine or fewer employees. The program will calculate pay and income tax/national insurance deductions and report payroll information electronically to HMRC, including in-year tax code changes. But the software can't produce payslips or P45s, or record deductions that are not related to PAYE. So it may not be suitable for a multi-company payroll bureau. The HMRC website has a full list of limitations.

Below is a selection of free, RTI-ready software options, based on information provided by vendors and AccountingWEB members.

IRIS Payroll Basics

IRIS produces three other paid-for RTI programs, but in its enthusiasm for all things web-like it has embraced the “freemium” model where free tools are offered as lures to their more capable, paid-for siblings. This week IRIS launched its RTI Payroll Basics for companies of up to 10 employees.  Unlike HMRC's Basic Tools, it can print payslips and handle year-end and in-year online form submissions. The entry-level software and all updates will remain free, but IRIS is banking on more sophisticated users trying it out before opting for its other programs.


Payroo is a cloud payroll application that is also free in companies with less than 10 employees, but can cater for up to 5,000 employees for a fee of £3 per employee. Payroo can generate P45s and payslips as well as all statutory returns and notices. Each employee can sign into an individual account in the same way they might with internet banking.

On the downside, the free edition is accompanied by web adverts, but Payroo said this would not disrupt normal pay runs or interfere with data.

AccountingWEB members gave their views on Payroo in an Any Answers thread recently. Jlaaccounting encountered an issue with advance weekly pay for staff taking holidays, but was not impressed with Payroo's support for its free product. Patvanaalst experienced similar problems and commented, "I must admit, they don't quite have weekly pay set up very well."

Member pauljohnston found this worrying. "If it is upgrade season it would appear that one could not pay the salaries. Additionally if the payslips were produced by a bureau the RTI return would be made before payment to staff," he said.

Sage One Payroll

When asking about free options for payroll form 2013-14 on, dd_uk sought suggested Sage as a possibility. Sage does not offer a free product, but at £1 per user per month (£5 for five users; £10 for 10 users), Sage One Payroll comes close. Like Payroo Sage One Payroll is a cloud system and a 30-day free trial is available for those who want to test it out. As well as running payroll and submitting RTI data to HMRC, it will integrate the payroll with the companion Sage One web-based accounting program.  Sage emphasised that users would not be distracted by ads and promised full 24/7 phone support.

12Pay Payroll Express

12Pay is one of the suppliers listed in HMRC’s list of recognised suppliers offering free payroll software, but has not yet made it on to the RTI list. The company confirmed that it will have an RTI-compliant version of  RTI edition (Express, Premium, and Bureau) available on general release from November. Anyone on the pilot will be able to switch to 12Pay at that point, the company said. It is currently supporting a number of users on HMRC’s RTI pilot scheme, but was reluctant to seek a listing for the current version, as HMRC’s specification will change for 2013-14


Keytime is another supplier listed in HMRC's list of suppliers offering free payroll software not on the RTI list. However, they have said they will be offering a fully RTI-compliant free version of their current free software in time for next year. Freepay from Keytime will be limited to companies with less than 10 employees and have links to their paid-for software Keytime P11D. Their pilot launches in November, which gives people plenty of time to join in and be ready for when it goes live in April.


Replies (16)

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By carnmores
22nd Oct 2012 15:22

if you pay for what you get

you get what you pay for , if its NIL dont expect a top of the range product , please support small software house by paying for their software.

Thanks (2)
By aburt01
25th Oct 2012 11:45

adverts ...

...could more than make up for any payment I might make to a small software house.

HMRC system is great in my view because it's all clear, if basic. Simple payslips we already have to do and fortunately we don't often need to produce P45s

RTI, with it's "ON OR BEFORE payment" stipulation for the full payment statement, is not something to mess about at, esp once penalties begin. (2014?)

Thanks (0)
25th Oct 2012 12:02

you pay for what you get - not always

Brightpay offer free payroll software for up to 3 employees. It is the full version of the product and the free helpline is included. An unlimited employees license is also available free to charities. So sometimes you can get something for nothing and in this case it is an excellent product from a company with a social conscience.

I have used this software house for many years now, about 10 I think, they are a delight to work with. 

I recommended Brightpay to a friend who has a medium sized practice and he has now moved all his clients over to them and operates the software in house as well. 


Thanks (3)
By john1
25th Oct 2012 12:18

HMRC Basic PAYE Tools

I have recently compiled a P45 on Basic PAYE Tools and submitted Page 1 online to HMRC as required. Then printed the further 3-pages required to give to the employee. It is a standard function of the program. No problem.

Thanks (2)
By frankscotreid
25th Oct 2012 13:49

RTI software

I have been using 12 pay since i went solo in 2008

I think it's brilliant - very intuitive and built from the ground up in modern technology

You have to upgrade to get P35's but even then it's only £35 or so.

I'm sure they'll be ahead of the game for RTI - it's right up their street!

Thanks (0)
By ShayaClearBooks
25th Oct 2012 15:28

RTI on Clear Books

I work for Clear Books, a cloud based accountancy company. Our Open Payroll app will be RTI ready for £5 + VAT per month for up to 2 employees, then £2.50 + VAT for each extra employee thereafter. Check out

Thanks (0)
By lamidey
27th Oct 2012 10:19

Very helpful information

I've in the past pointed people to reasonably priced software since the HMRC tools don't do payslips and so on. Knowing there are some free products for micro businesses is very helpful.

Thanks for the article

Thanks (1)
By Adminsoft Accounts
02nd Jan 2013 15:53

RTI for free? Try rhis.....

I work for Adminsoft which develops the free accounts package Adminsoft Accounts.

This contains a payroll, which will be RTI compliant by February.  It's totally free, and has NO restriction on the number of employees!

Check out

Hopefully it'll be listed on HMRC's web site shortly.


Thanks (0)
By magpie92
18th Jan 2013 19:55

Suitable for a football club?

I'm the Finance Director for a non-league football club.  We have one full-time employee, but if you add all the players we might pay over the year plus the part-time bar staff, that number rises to anything between 30 & 45 employees.

Can anyone suggest the most appropriate (balancing functionality, usability & cost) RTI software for us?


Thanks (0)
Replying to Paul Scholes:
By GordonG
12th Feb 2013 09:21


Why not outsource your payroll services rather than worry about software and compliance.

We offer payroll services starting from 49p per payslip and cater for any type of industry and any pay periods.

Have a look at our website at and try our instant payroll quote or call me on 08454590270 for a free assessment and no obligation quote.



Thanks (0)
By jobeyu
10th Sep 2013 09:35


Thank you for sharing this article. I had great time reading this. I find it interesting. It is helpful to those who have a business and to those who plan to have a business.

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Thanks (0)
Replying to Adam12345:
By e07mary
15th Nov 2013 20:47

Payroll Software Reviews

Well, if you are going to buy a payroll software then make sure you are buying a software which handles these task, check printing, auto deposit, good for invoice payment etc. you can read reviews here this would help you a lot I would say.

Thanks (0)
By DanielWebb
17th Dec 2013 15:19

Cloud Payroll


GTax Payroll offers a free full version for a single-employee's company


Thanks (0)
By Krisa
06th Jan 2014 20:13

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Thanks (0)
By sam63
11th Feb 2014 17:11

Payroll software

Well, you can read reviews here

Thanks (0)
By The What Girl
06th Mar 2014 14:47


I have been using PAYROO for a couple of years now. Because i thought it were free, but mind you IT'S NOT FREE.

The worst bit is that they don't have any support for their users at all. No email, no telephone , nothing at all. 

I have been waiting for a response for over 2 months and there are a couple of glitches to their system that i have identified to date. 

The system is also not error free. In two occasions the wrong payslip was generated and correcting it was not possible , which also resulted in a tremendous backlog with HMRC in order to report the issue and rectify it.

But that wouldn't be such a huge issue should they have a basic customer service, but they don't!

They are not responsive and should you want to use it professionally this can cause many problems/issues with your employees and HMRC alike.


Thanks (0)