A quarter of small firms are unaware that the biggest change to PAYE for 60 years is coming into force in just six months’ time, according to a new survey.

The Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) poll of 1,700 firms found that only 16% of respondents were fully aware of the Real Time Information (RTI) programme - a new way of reporting payroll – while 25% had never heard of it, despite it being critical to the success of Universal Credit.

Designed by HMRC to gather regular information about employees, RTI aims to simplify reporting new starters and leavers as well as make the payroll process simpler. It will also support the payment of Universal Credits to those who receive them.

The survey also found that more than 60% of firms have not had any communication from HMRC about the changes.

John Walker, nation chairman FSB, said: “With only six months until RTI is due to be implemented, the FSB has real concerns that not enough businesses are aware that it is just around the corner.

“Without adequate communication and education from government, small firms won’t be able to prepare. It just isn’t fair if they’re then penalised for not complying.”

Sanjeev Vadhera of North East Convenience Stores said: “We have received almost no information from government, only from our own accountants who have been proactive in communicating the changes to us. It’s just another example of significant changes to business that has been inadequately conveyed to the small business – similar to changes to pensions.”