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Single European Payments Area (SEPA) - frequently asked questions

To help you with any queries you may have about SEPA, we’ve put together a list of common questions.

What is SEPA?

The single euro payments area (SEPA) is an initiative of the European banking industry to make all electronic payments across European countries as easy as domestic payments are now. SEPA will standardise euro electronic payments across Europe.

SEPA comes into full effect on 1 February 2014, changing the way euro electronic payments are processed across Europe. It will mean that you can make and receive payments seamlessly to any euro account within SEPA.

As part of the switch to SEPA, Irish bank sort codes and account numbers are replaced by new bank identifier codes (BIC) and international bank account numbers (IBAN).

You should receive your BIC and IBAN codes from your bank.

The Irish payment services organisation (IPSO) offer a conversion service, which converts your account number and sort code into a BIC and IBAN at

For more information about SEPA, visit

SEPA compliance in Payroll

Sage has been working closely with relevant authorities to make sure that your payroll software is completely ready for SEPA banking.

You’ll find that the changes in Payroll are minimal. As long as the necessary BIC and IBAN codes are in place, you should find the transition to SEPA seamless. If SEPA bank details are missing or invalid, a warning prompt appears on the Summary window and in the relevant employee records.

What are BIC and IBAN codes used for?

The BIC identifies the relevant bank or financial institution.

The IBAN identifies the account throughout the EU and European economic area (EEA). Existing bank account numbers are incorporated into new IBAN codes.

EU and EEA banks are legally required to provide their customers with an IBAN for each of their bank accounts.

When is the switch-over to BIC and IBAN?

From 1 February 2014, all electronic financial transactions in euros within the SEPA region must use BIC and IBAN codes.

The BIC and IBAN codes are included on current bank statements. You can also request your BIC and IBAN codes directly from your bank.

What information is in a BIC code?

A BIC has between 8 and 11 characters, containing:

  • Institution code

    A four letter code that’s unique to each financial institution.
  • Country code

    A two letter code that identifies the country in which the financial institution is located.
  • Location code

    A two character alphanumeric code that identifies a locale within the relevant country, such as a city, province or time zone.
  • Branch code

    An optional three character alphanumeric code which identifies a subdivision of the financial institution in the relevant country.

What information is in an IBAN code?

An IBAN can contain up to 34 alphanumeric characters. A typical Irish IBAN contains between 22 and 27 characters.

The IBAN contains:

  • Country code

    A two letter code that identifies the country where the relevant bank or branch is located.
  • Check digits

    A two digit code that helps to confirm the integrity of the basic bank account number (BBAN).
  • Basic bank account number (BBAN)

    An alphanumeric code of up to 30 characters. Each country has a BBAN format of a specific length. The BBAN incorporates a bank’s identification code.

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