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.