Forty two

September 11, 2012

How many employers are there in the UK?

Well, the Federation of Small Businesses says there are about four and a half million small businesses in the UK and about a quarter of them are employers. So let’s suppose there’s one and a half million, plus another few thousand of the very largest businesses not covered by the FSB.

HMRC makes it rather more: 2,351,620 to be precise, if you add up the figures for employers on the timetable for rolling out RTI (figure 6 on page R25 of their latest annual report.)   This seems more plausible: there are nearly thirty million people in work, after all.  And HMRC ought to know: they’re the ones who are implementing radical changes to the way that all employers have to operate the PAYE system, moving them over to RTI.  So they have planned for the numbers in their table:

  1. Control group and first stage pilot.  Around 320 employers.
  2. Pilot: around 1300 employers
  3. Extended pilot: around 250,000 employers
  4. Main migration: around 2.1 million employers.

Please check my adding up, but I make that around 2,351,620 employers altogether, right?

I’m a bit worried about that.  Principally, that it’s all a bit quiet, and those two million three hundred and fifty one thousand, six hundred and twenty employers aren’t going to know about, let alone be ready for, RTI coming at them like a steam train.  After all, the government has abolished its own advertising agency and radically cut down the amount it spends on getting information to us.  And, serendipitously, it seems I’m not the only one, because Steven Timms asked David Gauke how much money HMRC had set aside to publicise the changes

The answer seems to be, well er… none, actually.

Or rather, communication is part of the overall cost of RTI, which the Minister helpfully tells us may amount to £108 million.

Do the math with me here. Counting just the small businesses covered by the FSB (and not the large ones where, so far, most of the education and support has been targeted) and not including the people who have employees but who aren’t businesses, like people with nannies and people given budgets and told to go off and employ their own careers…

The smallest number of businesses likely to be affected by RTI is, well, for the sake of the mental arithmetic let’s say that a quarter of the FSB’s four and something million amounts to ONE million employers.

On whom HMRC can spend 108 million quid?  Ok then – lets say changing HMRC’s computer, building the free software for micro business employers and doing all the other techie stuff only came to 8 million. It won’t, is my guess, but you see where I’m going with the numbers.

That gives HMRC 100 million to spend on education and communications for 1 million businesses.

A hundred quid each?

That won’t get you one person from each business going on a course, or even having a couple of phone calls with HMRC’s helpline. Its… It’s peanuts.

Divide that theoretical hundred million by the HMRC number of 2,351,620 and you get … £42.

(Well, OK, £42.52, but still.  You really couldn’t make it up.)


  1. Very clever.


    • Really? You learn something every day! Um… Why?

  2. Because it’s English. Not American (Americans can’t cope with with the singular/plural thing)
    Full word is mathematics.

  3. Easy to add a notice about this in the regular notices the tax man sends out. Virtually no cost to that.

  4. […] somewhere but I haven’t come across it yet – anyone?  (maybe they’re upping the £42 they can spend on each business for RTI by another, erm, sixteen quid […]

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