Be aware that, when checking the details of a new employee, many more will now provide you with a letter showing their NI number, rather than a plastic card, as these are being gradually phased out in a move that is expected to save up to £1m each year.

As from 10 September 2010, those who request a replacement NI Number card have been sent a letter, rather than a new card. As from last month, HMRC has stopped issuing plastic cards to adults. Where a new NI number is issued by the Department of Work & Pensions to adults, this is provided on a letter. Those approaching the age of 16 will continue to receive a card until autumn 2011, after which the plastic card will be replaced completely by a printed letter.

Note that HMRC is currently consulting on proposals to integrate income tax and NICs following recommendations by the Office of Tax Simplification, aimed at simplifying small business taxation. On 11 July, the government issued a ’call for evidence’ document, to help identify the burdens of operating two different systems. The deadline for responses is 19 September 2011, and proposals for reform will be published for consultation later in 2011. For further details, see