How does tax change when you become a contractor?

Chris Andreou

May 18, 2021

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Contractors

As an employee, you pay your taxes via Pay-as-You-Earn (PAYE). 

Through the system, income tax and Class 1 National Insurance contributions (NICs) are deducted from your salary before you receive it. Your employer will pay Class 1 NICs of 13.8% on salary you earn above the secondary threshold (£8,840 per annum for the 2020/21 tax year).

If you're contracting through an umbrella company, there won't be changes in how you pay your taxes. Just like permanent employees, your taxes are paid through PAYE.

How you pay your taxes changes if you choose to contract through your limited company. Here are the different taxes you need to be aware of:

  • Corporation tax: Tax levied on your company’s profits. The corporation tax rate is 19% for the 2021/22 tax year
  • Income tax: As a limited company director, you may need to pay taxes on the salary and dividends you draw from your business. We cover dividend taxes in greater detail in our guides on understanding dividend taxes and taxes, rates and allowances you need to know.  
  • National Insurance contributions: Limited company directors may also be classed as employees. If you’re paid a salary over the lower profits limit, you’ll have to pay Class 1 NICs as an employee. The company will also pay Class 1 employer’s NICs on salaries the directors receive.
  • VAT: Depending on your turnover, you may need to register and pay VAT.

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Is a contractor an employee? Guide

Is a contractor an employee?

Contractors can be self-employed, a worker or an employee. Those who are employed through an umbrella company or an agency could be considered a worker or an employee.

If a contractor is a sole trader or runs a limited company, he or she will then be considered a self-employed person.

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How do I pay an employee? Guide

How do I pay an employee?

If you're paying an employee for the first time, you'll need to set up payroll. You need to take the following steps:

  1. Register as an employer with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and get a login for PAYE Online.
  2. Choose payroll software to record employee's details, calculate pay and deductions, and report to HMRC.
  3. Collect and keep records.
  4. Tell HMRC about your employees.
  5. Record pay, make deductions and report to HMRC on or before the first payday.
  6. Pay HMRC the tax and National Insurance you owe.
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How do I pay a Limited Company Pension? Guide

How do I pay a Limited Company Pension?

If you're operating as a sole trader, you can contribute to a personal pension scheme.

If you're a limited company director, you can make pension contributions as an individual (as an employee), as well as through your company (as an employer). For the latter option, your pension contributions are paid directly from your business bank account.

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How do I become a contractor? Guide

How do I become a contractor?

To become a contractor, you need to:

  • Do your research: The first step you'll need to do is to conduct in-depth research, and think through various important factors-from finances and tax implications, to lifestyle and business opportunities-to ascertain if becoming a contractor is the right decision for you.
  • Decide on how you'll operate: As a contractor, you may operate as a sole trader, through your own limited company, or work with an umbrella company or recruitment agency.
  • Develop a business strategy: Strategic planning isn't set in stone-but working out a plan is still helpful, as it is a way for you to consider multiple perspectives, identify potential opportunities and pitfalls and conceptualise back up plans you could fall back on.
  • Get your business finances and insurance sorted out: Setting up a business bank account, registering a company, determining the level of accounting support you need and investing in business insurance are important aspects you need to sort out before you begin contracting.
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Can I pay myself on an ad-hoc basis? Guide

Can I pay myself on an ad-hoc basis?

NA

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What are Directors Loans? Guide

What are Directors Loans?

A director's loan is defined as money taken from your company that isn't either of the following:

  • A salary, dividend or expense treatment
  • Money that you've previously paid into or loaned the company

A Director's Loan Account (DLA) is a record of all transactions between the company and its directors. It records not just the money owed by the directors, but also the money owed to them.

Director's loans can be used:

  • when you need to access money in your company-apart from what you take out as a salary, dividend or expense treatment-for personal reasons.
  • for a variety of purposes, such as covering the costs of a home repair bill, travel plans or any unforeseen personal expenses that may arise.
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What is the optimal salary for a Company Director? Guide

What is the optimal salary for a Company Director?

The optimum salary for a contractor to pay themselves in the current tax year is dependent on their overall income throughout the period.

In the instance there is no other income to be considered, it is generally recommended that salary is paid in line with the Secondary National Insurance threshold which is currently £732 per month (20/21).

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What is a contractor? Guide

What is a contractor?

A contractor is a professional that provides skills and services to a specific client under set terms. The terms can be for a set number of hours, a certain time frame or duration of a project.

A contractor is responsible for their own dealings and has discretion over the work they carry out.

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Contractor Business Services UK Guide

Contractor Business Services UK

Firstly, we'll start with the services that we provide which covers the critical things you'll need to start and operate your contracting business.

For those just getting started, we provide free company registration on Companies House. This is typically done within 24 hours of submitting your details to Forma. It can take under 5 minutes to provide all your details and we'll just need a proof of ID and proof of address for each of the company directors.

We cover all of your key company filing requirements like annual accounts, confirmation statements, corporation tax and ensuring you meet all filing deadlines.

We also help with your annual Self Assessment which is a requirement for all company directors.

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How to Become a Contractor Guide

How to Become a Contractor

So, you're thinking of becoming a contractor.

There's probably one of three reasons driving this:

You've received a Job Offer

You've just received a job offer, and now need to decide on whether to set up a limited company, umbrella company or become a sole trader (or you may not have the choice in deciding).

You're in the right place.

This guide will walk you through the best company structure for you, accounting support, VAT, business services you need to consider and finding new opportunities.

You want to increase your pay

You'd like to increase your pay by switching from permanent roles to interim/ contractor roles.

Contracting can be very lucrative.

You'll need to be comfortable with a certain level of risk (short notice periods), increased monthly admin (as a Limited Company) and less benefits than being an employee (paid leave, sick days).

However, you'll earn more, get greater flexibility and hopefully grow a consulting business.

Project Flexibility

Getting multiple requests for your services? Amazing.

Setting yourself up as a contractor through a Limited Company means you can start expanding your client base rapidly and work on different projects a few days a week.

You can still set this up as a current PAYE employee of a company, and this can be a great stepping stone to launching your own business.

Let's talk about the right business structure for you.

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Contractors - should I be paying myself salary and dividends? Guide

Contractors - should I be paying myself salary and dividends?

As a contractor, how you pay yourself will vary depending on whether your contract is subject to IR35.

  • Contract subject to IR35 (inside): Salary
  • Contract not subject to IR35 (outside): Salary, dividends + reimbursing any expenses you have paid for out of your own pocket

We've provided a more detailed explanation in our Forma Help Center resource.

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What are Director's withdrawals? Guide

What are Director's withdrawals?

As a limited company director, there are three ways in which you can withdraw money from your company:

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How do I repay a Director's loan account? Guide

How do I repay a Director's loan account?

There are various ways to repay a director's loan.

  • Dividend: A dividend can be declared, and the money can be used to pay off the loan instead of being transferred to the director's personal account.
  • Cash repayment: A repayment is made by transferring money into the company account.
  • Expenses or salary: The loan can be paid off using other money to the director, such as the director's salary or expense reimbursements.
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How/ when do I pay myself Dividends? Guide

How/ when do I pay myself Dividends?

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How do I pay a Contractor? Guide

How do I pay a Contractor?

You can pay an independent contractor by an hourly or daily rate, or by the project through the contractor's preferred payment method. You won't need to withhold taxes, as they are responsible for paying their own income and National Insurance contributions.

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What is a Contractor? Guide

What is a Contractor?

You've been thinking about making the leap from employee to self-employed. If contracting is one of the options you're considering, this article is for you.

We'll run you through the basics, including what it means to be a contractor, how it differs from full-time employment and the type of business structures that contractors typically choose.

Contractors are self-employed individuals who provide services to a business. Generally, they're highly skilled, and are hired for projects that require specialist skills or to bolster a team during busy periods.

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PAYE, P60's and Paying Yourself Guide Guide

PAYE, P60's and Paying Yourself Guide

  • What is PAYE
  • PAYE when self employed
  • When to register for PAYE
  • Sole trader taxes
  • Sole trader income tax calculations
  • Limited company dividends & salary
  • Dividend tax rates
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How to calculate holiday pay for overtime and commission payments Guide

How to calculate holiday pay for overtime and commission payments

"What are the rules around holiday pay?" is a common question often asked by employers.

It can be confusing, as regulatory changes mean that employers now need to consider additional elements when working out an employee's holiday pay.

Simply put, employers now need to include regular commission and regular overtime payments when calculating an employee's or worker's holiday pay.

This is explained in further detail below:

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What is a directors loan account? Guide

What is a directors loan account?

As a limited company director, you can access the money in your company bank account through a facility known as a director's loan.

This can come in handy in instances when your personal finances are in need of a boost, yet taking out a director's loan is a decision that requires careful consideration. That's because there are tax and accounting implications, and it's best to speak to an accountant so that you fully understand the consequences.

But before you dive into the details, you'll need to have an understanding of the basics-such as what a director's loan account is, what the loan can be used for, tax rules you need to be aware of and more.

Here's where our guide comes in:

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How do I pay national insurance? Guide

How do I pay national insurance?

How you pay your National Insurance contributions depends on your employment status.

If you're an employee, your National Insurance contributions are deducted from your wages before you receive your salary. Your contributions are reflected in your payslip.

If you're a limited company director, you may also be an employee (at your own company). As such, you pay Class 1 National Insurance through your PAYE payroll.

If you're self-employed, you pay Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance depending on your profits. The majority of self-employed workers pay National Insurance through Self Assessment.

If you're employed and self-employed, your Class 1 National Insurance will be deducted through your wages. You may also need to pay Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance depending on your self-employed profits.

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