Dividends and salary: getting the balance right

If you’re considering setting up your own contracting firm by trading under a Limited Company, then taking a mix of salary and dividends is the most tax-efficient way to take income from the business.

Due to the implications associated with drawing a £Nil salary, many contractors choose to pay themselves a modest salary, topped up with dividends.

For instance, you could pay yourself a basic salary up to the limit of when NI contributions become payable – the threshold for the current 2018/19 tax year is £8,424. Yet, while it’s your decision to do this, remuneration at the NI threshold is lower than the National Minimum Wage.

As of 1 April this year, the National Minimum Wage for people aged 25 and up is £7.83 per hour which, when full-time hours are considered, works out at approximately £14,250 per year. Taking a salary at this level may be a better alternative to taking one below the NI threshold, as it will demonstrate your intention to operate a genuine commercial, contracting business. There is no advantage to withdrawing a salary in excess of this figure however, except in ‘special’ circumstances.

 

Drawing a £Nil salary

So, you may be wondering: Can I take all my income as dividends and not pay myself a salary? The short answer is yes, you can; however, doing this has a number of implications you need to be aware of. These include:

 

The effect on future entitlements

Paying yourself a £Nil salary will mean you do not pay any National Insurance. However, not paying NI contributions could affect your entitlements later down the line, including the state pension and a number of other state benefits.

 

Investigations by HMRC

If you’re not taking any salary from your business, it’s possible that HMRC will argue that the dividends paid or declared incorrectly are in fact ‘salary in disguise.’ In this case, HMRC will seek to tax the dividends as salary.

 

Corporation Tax Relief

Any salary that your company pays to you will qualify for Corporation Tax relief. This means that if your company pays you £8,424 it will save £1,600 in Corporation Tax.

This combined with the fact that this income is tax free for you, as it’s within your personal allowance, makes a nominal salary very tax efficient.

 

Finding a balance that’s right for you

Of course, striking the right salary/dividend formula will be entirely dependent on your individual circumstances – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Many factors will need to be considered, such as:

  • Your age
  • Likely length of career
  • Projected income levels
  • Views of pensions planning and saving
  • Family status
  • Income from outside the business
  • IR35 risk status
  • Cash requirements to fund lifestyle

 

With all these factors to bear in mind, it can really help to turn to the professionals to help in your decision, like the team here at Intouch. We’ll help you get your business up and running and can advise on how best to withdraw income from your company. If you’d like to find out more, call our experts on 01202 375293. And, in the meantime, take a look at our new guide on combining salary with dividends.

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Demystifying dividends: a beginner’s guide

For many full-time contractors, the opportunity to earn a higher salary is among their main reasons for making the move. That, along with the freedom and enjoyment that comes with owning their own business.

If you’ve decided to set up your own Limited Company, you want to be certain it’s created in the most tax efficient way. After all, you’ll be working incredibly hard for your money, so you don’t want any more going to the tax man than has to.

Dividends are a great way to maximise the income you take from your business. If you’re not too sure of what they are, here’s an introduction:

 

In a nutshell…

Dividends are essentially a method of taking income from your business. They are payments made to the company’s owners – aka its shareholders – from accumulated profits, after business-related payments such as Corporation Tax and VAT have been made.

The main rule for withdrawing dividends is that your company must have enough ‘retained profit’ in the bank to cover them. Withdrawing dividends from untaxed earnings is illegal and, if caught, you could land yourself in serious hot water with HMRC.

Any profit that remains once you’ve withdrawn the dividends can stay in the account, where the money will hopefully accumulate over time.

 

What are the advantages?

The main benefit of drawing dividends from your Limited Company is that you won’t have to pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs), regardless of your Corporate Tax or Personal Income Tax rates. That’s why many business owners choose to pay themselves a modest salary, topped up with dividends.

 

Are there any disadvantages?

The only real drawback to dividends is that there must be profit in the business in order to declare them. If it’s not turning a profit, you’re still able to pay yourself a salary or bonus, even if it means you declare a loss – a situation you hopefully won’t find yourself in.

Taking dividends is something that must be decided on by every company shareholder, which could cause issues if there were multiple shareholders or an outside investor. Yet, these cases are unlikely to apply to you.

 

Who can dividends be paid to?

Dividends are separate to bonuses and salaries and can only be paid to the shareholders in the business. Many contractors will name a spouse as their shareholder, with dividends split depending on how much share capital each person owns. This can lead to even greater tax efficiency.

 

How are dividends taxed?

Dividends are taxed as personal income. The first £2,000 of dividend income is free of tax under the dividend allowance, with further dividends taxed at the following rates:

Within the basic rate threshold (income between £8,425 and £46,350 for 2018/19) = 7.5%

Within the higher rate (income from £46,351 to £150,000 for 2018/19) = 32.5%

At the additional rate (income exceeding £150,000 for 2018/19) = 38.1%

 

Find out more

Now you’ve got a clearer idea of what dividends are, there are rules to be aware of when it comes to declaring and balancing them with your salary. We thought it would be useful to put together a guide on combining salary with dividends for people making the move into contracting.

If you feel like you might need a helping hand setting up your business, the team at Intouch can help there, too. We’ll pair you up with your own expert Personal Accountant, who will help with everything from incorporating your company with HMRC, to setting up a business bank account, to insuring your company. Make the first step by calling our team today on 01202 375293.

 

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

 

How to get started as a contractor – Infographic

If you’d like to know what happens once you’ve joined Intouch as a Limited Company contractor, then take a look at our infographic to see how easy the steps are…

Onboarding for newbies infographic

Drum roll please……Intouch runner up in 2015 Contractor UK Reader Awards

The Contractor UK Reader Awards

We are pleased to announce that we have won runner up in The Best Accountant (medium/small) category in the 2015 Contractor UK Reader Awards!

 

They are the only industry specific awards created by and voted for by the UK’s contracting community, which makes being placed extra special.

 

Paul Gough, MD of Intouch Accounting had the following to say upon hearing the news:

”We are delighted with the outcome of the 2015 Contractor UK Reader Awards. This award is so special to us, as it reflects the importance and high level of personal service and fantastic technology that our team provides to our clients. We extend our thanks to those who voted for us, this award is shared with you all.”

 

Another reason why Intouch clients are great!

We’d like to say a big THANK YOU to our clients who voted for us! Without you we wouldn’t have come second, so we’d very much like to thank you for the time you took to vote for us.

 

If you are serious about your contracting career and specialise in the IT sector, then the Contractor UK website is an excellent resource for industry news, insights and of course, their famous contractor forum, where you can talk to other contractors about anything and everything contractor related.

 

Recommend Intouch and receive £150 Amazon vouchers every time!

If you recommend a friend or colleague to Intouch Accounting, we’ll send you £150 of Amazon vouchers when they sign up. We’ll repeat this every time you refer us!

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

And the winner is…

And the winner is…

We recently ran a contractor insight survey with one of the UK’s top recruitment search engines for technology professionals.

 

The survey gave us a strong insight into the current contractor industry, from professionals who have either previously worked as contractors and are now back in permanent employment, or are currently contracting through their own Limited Company or using an Umbrella. The results from this survey will aid us in continuing to offer contractors the specialist advice, support and services they need in order to contract successfully.

 

Whilst we received lots of fantastic feedback, one lucky participant was picked at random to win £150 Amazon vouchers! We are pleased to announce that the winner is (drum roll please…..) Kulvinder Jhalli!

 

Kulvinder had this to say about winning, I’m so pleased to have won the vouchers! As a contractor it’s great to be able to give my feedback and feel like my opinions and experiences have been heard.

 

Congratulations to Kulvinder and a big thank you to everyone else who filled out our survey. We will be displaying the results in the upcoming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

 

Wishing you all a very pleasant and peaceful festive period and New Year!

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Can I get a mortgage as a contractor?

Can I get a mortgage as a contractor?

As a contractor, one of the most commonly asked questions is whether or not it is possible to secure a mortgage. Quite understandably, many contractors are unsure as to what their position is, given the fact that they’re not in permanent employment. It’s common knowledge that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to secure a mortgage following the Mortgage Market Review in 2014.

 

Yes, a contractor can secure a mortgage

As a very top-line answer; yes, of course a contractor can get a mortgage. Lenders aren’t there to prevent individuals from owning their home, simply to reduce risk associated with it. So it all comes down to taking the right route to ensure an application is made to a lender who understands contracting. In theory, so long as a contractor is able to provide two or three years’ worth of income details (for example, wage slips, accounts, dividends documentation) or, if operating as a sole trader, SA302s, it should be possible to secure a mortgage. However, unfortunately, it’s rarely that simple.

 

Many lenders do not understand contracting

One of the main problems in this area lies in that many lenders may not understand what a contractor is. Whether you’ve been contracting six months or six years, there ARE lenders out there who understand your situation and are happy to lend to you, so long as the standard criteria are met.

 

Different contractors operate in different ways

It’s important to understand that contractors can operate in different ways; sole traders or company directors primarily. With a company director for example, lenders will be looking at the combined salary and dividends drawn in a financial year, however this can cause problems for contractors who leave profits within the business. In this instance, it’s necessary to apply to a lender who will consider and take into account the company’s retained profits.

 

Many advisers are inexperienced
It is commonly seen, further to the above, that the majority of advisers in banks are inexperienced in dealing with anyone other than employed individuals, so when a contractor makes an application, they themselves are unsure as to what is and isn’t able to be assessed. This further backs up the justification for carrying out the research and finding a suitable lender who understands the trading style.

 

The bottom line is that a contractor will need at least one year’s accounts in order to be considered, however in reality, having two or three year’s accounts will make a larger number of lenders accessible.

 

Proving a steady income

So long as it can be proven that a steady income is earned and that, in the case of a director who pays a smaller wage and dividend, there are retained profits which can be taken into account, there’s no reason why a contractor should struggle to get approval on a mortgage. Our top tip here, however, is to speak with a specialist mortgage broker who fully understands the options available, has a track record of securing mortgages for contractors and that, as with all mortgage applications, the base criteria of affordability and the correct paperwork are met.

 

If you want any further information on getting a mortgage as a contractor, contact one of our team on 01202 375 562. Also, why not contact us to see how Intouch Accounting can help keep you compliant and maximise your income?

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Flat Rate VAT Scheme for contractors explained

Flat Rate VAT Scheme for contractors explained

Once a business reaches a turnover of £82,000 within a twelve month period, it is a legal requirement to register for VAT and subsequently, charge VAT (20%). Businesses who are registered for VAT must charge this to their clients and customers (most commonly at a rate of 20% but occasionally at either a reduced or zero rate), but may reclaim any VAT paid out on business-related goods and services (expenses).

 

For many contractors however, the level of VAT which can be reclaimed is minimal, often as a result of the ‘service’ offered being time, knowledge and experience. In most cases, the level of VAT paid to HMRC by a business equals the difference between VAT charged and VAT claimed back. However, under the Flat Rate Scheme, this is calculated at a fixed rate based on their activities.

 

Fixed Rate VAT

In short, the Flat Rate VAT Scheme means a contractor must pay only a fixed rate of VAT and may keep the difference. In this instance, under the Flat Rate VAT Scheme, the VAT paid out on goods and services cannot be reclaimed unless on certain capital purchases costing more than £2,000 (in one transaction).

 

Eligibility

To be eligible to join the Flat Rate VAT Scheme, the business must have turnover of  less than £150,000 per annum (excluding VAT). Whilst it is a legal requirement to register for VAT once turnover exceeds £82,000 in a twelve-month period, it is possible for businesses to voluntarily register when turnover is below this threshold.

 

How it works

Somewhat different to standard VAT accounting, on the Flat Rate Scheme, you’ll pay a percentage of turnover in VAT as opposed to paying the difference between the amount of VAT charged to clients, less the VAT reclaimed on purchases.

 

The Flat Rate VAT Scheme fixed rate does differ from industry to industry however, to offer a number of examples:

 

  • Computer and IT consultancy or data processing – 14.5%
  • General building or construction services – 9.5%
  • Management consultancy – 14%

 

Whilst this is by no means a comprehensive list of industries within which contractors are commonly seen, the above gives an idea as to how the rates can differ.

 

When calculating the VAT due, the fixed-rate percentage of the gross is taken. This is calculated on the value of sales (including VAT) multiplied by the percentage based on the business’ main activity. As an example, on a sale of £100 (which becomes £120 once VAT is added), an IT Consultant would pay £17.40 to HMRC (14.5% of £120).

During the first year of registration, businesses will  be entitled to an additional 1% deduction on the fixed rate.

 

What this means for contractors

As a contractor, it may often be the case that you have very few expenses in comparison to other businesses. In this respect, you may find that the scheme is perfect for you, although this can differ between individuals depending upon turnover and expenses claimed.

 

Benefits of the scheme lie not only in the fact that it is possible to profit from being VAT registered if there would be very little that could be claimed back under the standard scheme, but also that the admin associated with filling a VAT return is significantly reduced. As opposed to being required to submit information on the VAT charged out as well as putting together a claim back for VAT paid out, on the flat rate, the VAT payable can be calculated solely from knowing the revenue.

 

Whilst not for all businesses, if you’re turning over no more than £150,000 in a twelve month period and don’t find yourself claiming much back in the way of expenses, it’s something seriously worth considering; even if you’re not reaching the £82,000 threshold.

 

You can find out more information about the Flat Rate VAT Scheme on the Gov.uk website, or the VAT – Could you be paying too much? Flat Rate VAT? blog from Intouch Accounting. However, if you’d prefer a chat with one of our friendly and helpful advisers, why not give us a call today on 01202 375 562 or fill in our contact form and we’ll call you back.

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Mr Newspaperman: detention for shoddy homework

One month then payroll

Dear Mr Newspaperman,

 

Your recent article in the Guardian reminds me of an essay I wrote at school in Year 10. I too failed to do proper research and thought that sensationalism would save me from the wrath of people who know better. Alas in Year 10 the consequences were that I got a grade D for some shoddy work. You on the other hand have caused needless criticism of hardworking freelancers and contractors, who for a number of important reasons choose to operate their businesses through small companies.

 

Claiming tax relief for business expenses as a flexible worker is not exploiting a loophole, any more than your using any form of tax relief is a loophole. For your article to be taken seriously it needs to be factually and emotionally accurate.

 

Ever since I was born Her Majesty’s Government has given me an annual Personal Allowance to be used before I start paying income taxes, but does my accepting or using this allowance in times of austerity make me a tax dodger? Am I a bad person for using my tax free allowances? So what is the difference?!

 

If you or the other hacks in offices along the corridor, can show me that you don’t claim tax relief on items you are perfectly entitled to, for the reasons they exist in the first place, I will send you £1.

 

The other thought that struck me is that rather than reporting a ‘scoop’ from an unnamed government source you are being used as puppet. A scaremonger designed to upset the economy and create unfair, unjustified, unwarranted, unhelpful, unnecessary and undefended animosity between different categories of worker. Well I am sorry to disappoint you. The UK contractor and freelancer workforce is stronger than that, they are bold and proud and like many others have placed their trust in Cameron’s boys and girls to steer the economy further into the Black.

 

If the flexible workers of the UK are let down it is not because they shirk hard work, neither is it because the vast majority do not fully respect tax legislation. It will once again be because the people advising David and George have failed to do their homework properly.

 

If I read your article as a Year 10 assessment, my advice would be to make sure you do more research in future, don’t get your words mixed up and worst of all don’t be so easily influenced by the other boys. The only level playing field they are used to is the topography in the grounds of their public school! 4/10.

 

Paul Gough

Another flawed proposal

 

This latest reported plan for ‘one-month-then-payroll’ has already received huge amounts of criticism from IPSE, FCSA and the contractor community at large. Of course, with the Autumn Statement less than two weeks away we will be posting our reactions and summaries with the issues affecting contractors. Now is a good time to make sure you have a contractor accountant you can trust – with Intouch Accounting you get everything you need to run your company efficiently, including unlimited advice from your Personal Accountant to make sure you’re up to date with everything you need to know and do.

 

Everything you need for one fixed fee. Call 01202 375 562 or email enquiries@intouchaccounting.com

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.