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Last updated: 23 Jan 2024

Upload HMRC PAYE files

Basic PAYE Tools is a free software package HMRC provide for small employers to run their payroll. This is available on Windows, Linux, and OS X.

It’s updated annually at the start of April with ‘uprated’ tax rates and thresholds for the new tax year. These updates are critical for employers as if they’re using the wrong version their employees could end up paying the wrong amount of tax. Sometimes HMRC release minor updates during the tax year but these are less regular.

HMRC should submit the ticket to request updates to the exe files at least 2 weeks before the new versions are scheduled to go live. If you get a request with a tighter deadline than this, contact the ‘green’ content support team through their Slack channel.

As part of the initial tranche of ministerial department migration their upload site was switched off. However, we don’t currently allow exe files or other executable binary types to be uploaded to GOV.UK. Therefore we determined the quickest course of action to meet the user need of keeping their desktop software up to date was to manually upload and host the files ourselves, bundled inside ZIP files.

This document describes the process by which this is actioned.

The way the updates work:

  • Binaries are provided for Windows, OS X and Linux
  • Deltas of the binaries are also provided for partial updates
  • The software hits a manifest file (realtimepayetools-update-vXX.xml) to determine which files to download. This manifest contains the version number and partial paths to each of the available binaries. This manifest URL is hard-coded in the desktop software and only changes with each major version.
  • The software downloads the relevant binaries from our asset host and updates itself
  • There is also a mainstream content item and a Welsh translation which should be updated to link to the full downloads of the new versions

Where are the files?

The files are stored in S3, along with the rest of our uploaded assets.

The process for uploading new versions of the app

The manifest file version vXX is given as an example. You should confirm the version number to use with HMRC because it must match the URL hard-coded into the previous version of the software.

  1. HMRC submit a ticket via Zendesk (example)
  2. Check that GOV.UK content teams are aware of the ticket. They may need to request further tickets to be raised to cover the content updates.
  3. Download all zip files and XML file in the ticket Note - make sure you’re in the production context for kubectl - don’t use integration or staging to test. There’s a test procedure on production.
  4. Create a directory for the files to go into:
   kubectl exec -ti deploy/asset-manager -- mkdir /tmp/hmrc-paye
  1. Get the name of the pod, something like asset-manager-74765b58bb-hhcr - it will be the one that isn’t -freshclam- or -worker-:
   kubectl get pods | grep asset-manager
  1. Upload the new files:
   kubectl cp <local zip file path/name> apps/<pod identified above>:/tmp/hmrc-paye
   kubectl cp <local xml file path/name> apps/<pod identified above>:/tmp/hmrc-paye
  1. Upload the ZIP files into Asset Manager
   kubectl exec -ti deploy/asset-manager -- "rake govuk_assets:create_hmrc_paye_zips[/tmp/hmrc-paye]"

The command should take a few seconds to run, and the output will look something like this (it can be safely ignored): > /home/yourname is not writable. > Bundler will use `/tmp/user/2899/bundler/home/deploy’ as your home directory temporarily.

  1. You should be able to access your zip, e.g. at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/uploaded/hmrc/payetools-rti-[version-and-os].zip You may also see some “high memory for asset-manager app” alerts in the meantime.

  2. Now upload the manifest, but with “test-” at the start of the filename:

   kubectl exec -ti deploy/asset-manager -- "rake govuk_assets:create_hmrc_paye_asset[/tmp/hmrc-paye/realtimepayetools-update-vXX.xml,test-realtimepayetools-update-vXX.xml]"
  1. Purge the cache for the test file.

  2. Reply to the Zendesk ticket, providing the test-*.xml URL of:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/uploaded/hmrc/test-realtimepayetools-update-vXX.xml

  1. Wait for HMRC to confirm that it (and/or its suppliers) have tested the file and would like to proceed. Pass the Zendesk ticket over to content support by reassigning it to 3rd line--GOV.UK Content and adding the green team tag, business_defence_environment. In your handover comment, link to the mainstream content item (publisher link) and Welsh translation (publisher link). The content team will prep these pages with the new links, file sizes and version number, ready to publish at the launch time.

  2. When the launch time comes (which should be specified in the Zendesk ticket), re-load the test file to the production path:

   kubectl exec -ti deploy/asset-manager -- "rake govuk_assets:create_hmrc_paye_asset[/tmp/hmrc-paye/realtimepayetools-update-vXX.xml]"

If the SSH connection fails, or if the file is missing, the machine has likely been rebooted and you’ll need to repeat some of the earlier steps to copy the XML file onto the machine again.

  1. Purge the cache for the new file.

  2. Reassign back to the content team to publish the content items. They will then resolve the Zendesk ticket.