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What is a BR Emergency Tax Code?

Published: 19 January 2024

So what’s the BR tax code? Or ‘emergency tax’ as you might know it.

For a start, ‘emergency’ isn’t something to get too bent out of shape about. Sure, you’ll want to sort it, but don’t panic – it’s a common enough issue for CIS workers.

In this pitstop guide to the BR tax code, we’ll have a full rundown of everything you need to know.

And if you’re interested in other tax codes, read our UK Tax Codes Explained article.

What is a BR tax code?

BR stands for Basic Rate. Your employer will put you on a BR tax code if they don’t have the details needed to work out how much tax you should pay on your wages.

You can tell you’ve been placed on emergency tax by having a look at your payslip. This will have any one of the following on it:

  • 1257 W1
  • 1257 M1
  • 1257 X

Work on the BR tax code and you’ll be taxed at the basic rate (20%) for every penny earned. It means you aren’t using any ‘personal allowance’ and could end up paying too much tax. This is because you don’t have to pay anything to the taxman for the first £12,570 of what you earn.

Why you may have a BR tax code

There are a few reasons why you might have a BR tax code, like:

  • You’re employed via Pay As You Earn (PAYE), after working self-employed
  • Your new employer hasn’t received your P45 from your old employer
  • You receive taxable state benefits (e.g. state pension)
  • You’ve started (or stopped) getting employment benefits (e.g. company car or van)
  • You’re starting your very first job

Is BR an emergency tax code?

Yes. But like we said, don’t get too hung up about the word ‘emergency’. Plus, it’s a temporary measure – HMRC will update your tax code when they’ve got the info they need to put you on the right tax code.

How much tax will you pay on a BR tax code?

20%. This is the basic rate of tax in the UK.

Loads of people are taxed at the basic rate, but being placed on the BR tax code means your employer hasn’t factored in your personal allowance – in other words, how much you can earn without paying any tax (usually £12,570 a year).

So, chances are that you’re due a tax rebate.

How to change your BR tax code

If you’ve changed jobs, make sure your new employer gets your P45 ASAP – then they’ll be able to put you on the right tax code.

But if, for whatever reason, you can’t get hold of this – e.g. if you’ve switched from being self-employed to employed – get HMRC on the phone (call 0300 200 3300 or head to the gov website).

So, to recap: the BR tax code – also known as emergency tax – is a temporary tax code given to you when your employer doesn’t know how much tax you should be paying in that tax year.

And when you’re on emergency tax, you’ll be taxed at the basic rate from the word go, so you might be due a tax refund.

For more info or to find out if you’re due a tax refund please get in touch.

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