It is just under one month before the deadline for real-time PAYE reporting on 6 April, and yet many small businesses are still not prepared for the biggest change to payroll legislation in over 60 years.

Recent research by YouGov for accounting, payroll and payments provider Intuit found that less than a third of small business owners have taken necessary steps to ensure their payroll processes are compliant.

To send PAYE information in realtime, HMRC recommends employers use real-time PAYE software (HMRC publishes a list of recommended software on its website) or ensure their payroll provider has updated its systems.

According to Intuit’s research, half of small businesses manage payroll in-house using either commercial software (32%) or HMRC’s basic PAYE tool (18%) and just over one third (37%) outsource the process to an agent, payroll bureau or service provider. One in 10 (11%) small businesses process payroll using manual methods, such as a spreadsheet package.

There are more than 1 million businesses in the UK with between one and 50 employees, according to BIS (Enterprise Directorate Analytical Unit).

To help small businesses navigate the changing payroll landscape, Intuit has created a bespoke real-time PAYE portal with free information, training and advice to ensure they have all the information and tools they need to be ready to report in realtime.

However, with the clock ticking and many thousands of businesses still not prepared for the change, Intuit has pledged to offer free real-time PAYE software to new customers for their first year.

Until 31 May, new customers subscribing to its QuickBooks accounting software will receive the real-time payroll completely free for 12 months, saving £240 over the year. QuickBooks’ payroll simplifies real-time reporting, allowing employers to automatically file their reports to HMRC with just a few clicks and saving them time each pay run.

The offer is in place across the crucial final preparation period when most small businesses will be updating their systems.

By lowering the cost barrier, Intuit aims to spur businesses that have delayed taking action to get ready and avoid getting caught out in April.

Lisa Turner, Intuit’s payroll specialist, said: “We are proud to be supporting employers as they get ready for real-time PAYE. The clock is ticking and 6 April will come around very fast, bringing with it the biggest change to payroll legislation in over 60 years.”