Summer Budget 2015: Changes to Dividend Taxation

2015 Budget aftermath: A look at what the dividend tax change means for contractors

Across the country, contractors are still reeling after the changes announced in the Summer 2015 Budget (see our full Summer Budget review here). In particular, the community has been awash with speculation and concern regarding the Government’s pledge to introduce a new taxation system for dividends taken from companies.

Under the current regime, there is a 10% tax rate for dividends but this is cancelled out by a 10% tax credit, meaning basic rate taxpayers receive dividend income tax-free. According to our man with a plan, Chancellor George Osborne, this system is “Arcane” and “Complex.”

The result of this thinking has been an overhaul of the current dividend tax system, with a new – and supposedly simpler – £5,000 tax-free dividend coming into play from April 2016. So far, so good you might say. However, with the introduction of this new limit comes the creation of three new dividend tax bands, which will apply to all dividend income in excess of £5,000 per year, as follows:

  • 7.5% (basic rate)
  • 32.5% (higher rate)
  • 38.1% (additional rate)


So what can you do about it? Well the first step is to make sure you understand the changes and what they mean for you and your business model. Let’s take a look.

Does it affect you?

The majority (around 85%) of UK taxpayers will, in fact, be safe from the changes thanks to the £5,000 tax free allowance. At normal rates of dividend yields, you would need to own £140,000 worth of shares before you hit that £5,000 sweet spot and the new dividend tax kicks in.

I predict the most affected community will be the middle income entrepreneurs. This will include freelancers and contractors trading through their own Limited Company (see our post on the advantages of contracting through a Limited Company), as well as any family owned businesses that have previously used dividends to reward shareholders, who may or may not also be employees.

The Government appears set on removing the incentive for incorporations that are motivated primarily to allow freelancers and contractors to save National Insurance by setting up as their own boss. It seems an interesting coincidence that the new 7.5% dividends tax works out at the same amount (roughly) as a basic rate taxpayer would save on National Insurance using dividends.

But this is a short-sighted strategy, for it is unlikely to deter people who should have been operating as a Personal Service Company (PSC) in the first place. Instead, it will add an extra tax burden to small and medium sized entities, which create jobs and wealth for UK plc.

I expect it will deter tax motivated incorporations for the vulnerable and lower paid contractors. However, is the likely additional ‘tax take’ from those individuals really worth the political criticism from attacking entrepreneurs?

“How can the Government get away with it?” you may ask. Well, the Chancellor has used smoke and mirrors to distract the business community with talk of a longer-term aim to allow further reductions in the rate of corporation tax. I’m afraid I don’t buy it. To me, this feels like a tax raid upon small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), micro and nano businesses set up by entrepreneurs in the UK.

How will the changes affect your income?

For contractors and freelancers who earn up to the basic rate ceiling and take a salary of £8,000 and £31,000 dividends, their tax bill will rise by around £2,000.

While this is not an insignificant sum to be taken lightly, the reality could be that the impact is still less damaging than the sacrifice of other perks if a contractor returned to PAYE status. To me, the advantages of contracting – both in the immediate and long term, such as planning for retirement and pension funding – far outweigh the initial financial hit of this dividend tax change.

So as you can see, this is not just an issue for the contracting elite. It affects any business where the owners are also employees. For this reason, I believe this latest raft of changes is an attack on all small family and close company businesses, not just one man band contractors.

If you are unsure about how the changes will affect your income, it would be wise to speak to your accountant sooner rather than later. 

Remember the benefits of going solo

Contractors considering jumping ship and heading back into permanent employment would be well-advised not to make a hasty decision they may later regret.

At times like this, it can be tempting to start reviewing your business structure or how your company directors are paid. But my advice is this; Keep calm, and talk to an accountant.

In the same way share valuations can go up and down, taxes tend to ebb and flow with the political agenda. It is therefore crucial not to panic and make knee jerk reactions without first doing the sums and remembering the reasons why you went solo in the first place.

There are still benefits to be had by keeping your business model simple, remaining as your own boss and weathering the changes. It might turn out to be just a storm in a teacup.

What should you do next?

If you don’t already have a contractor accountant, now would be a good time to appoint one. I assume most advisers will be very busy in the run up to 5 April 2016, working out if large dividends should be paid before the rules change, along with which family members should be added to the share register.

The contractor landscape can be daunting enough as it is, so why not give us a call on 01202 375491 and let our team of expert contractor accountants guide you through the choppy waters left in the wake of this Summer’s budget?

In the meantime, watch out for more discussion on this issue over the coming weeks on the Intouch Accounting blog. To subscribe, simply fill in your details below so you can receive the latest industry advice, comment and analysis direct to your inbox.


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.

What’s left for contractors?

What’s left for contractors?

The Summer Budget dealt a heavy blow for contractors who are rightly feeling pretty bruised after Wednesday’s announcements. Chancellor George Osborne seemed intent on delivering very little to inspire confidence in the contractor market. Our post-Budget blog picked out the opportunities and challenges contractors are now faced with.

Some commentators have speculated that the Government is making a stand against ‘tax-motivated incorporations’ in an attempt to move all contractors back to PAYE and boost the coffers but we also know the job market is shifting towards a flexible workforce and the skills so many contractors offer are still sought throughout the UK. Their demand will be heightened as companies look to invest and grow without necessarily increasing headcount.

Here we look at the advantages of contracting through a Limited Company:

  • Control over what money you take out of the company and, therefore, the tax paid now so you mitigate the higher tax rates. There’s no doubt you’ll continue to pay much less tax than an Umbrella worker who must take all their income, even if they don’t need it. Working with your contractor accountant will help you ensure you have the most tax efficient income planning to suit your needs.
  • Leaving surplus money in the company will mean avoiding higher taxes. And when you are ready to release that surplus to yourself consider closing the company and releasing cash as a capital gain that suffers less tax than dividends.
  • Flat Rate VAT Scheme – this was introduced to make filing a VAT return easier for businesses where initial turnover is less than £150,000. Companies simply pay HMRC a flat percentage which means that part of the VAT charged to clients is retained by contractors.
  • More claimable expenses – it’s true that it seems very likely that the already planned clamp down on travel and subsistence expense claims for Umbrella workers is going to extend to personal service companies.  For Umbrella workers, the end of expenses, including accommodation, travel and subsistence, was previously announced in March 2015 Budget and so really is in sight. PSC contractors, however, will only be subject to the proposed rules if they are subject to supervision, direction and control (SDC). They can negotiate SDC individually with clients and the best outcome therefore remains available. But even if you lose tax relief you won’t be any worse off than Umbrella or permanent employees.
  • In a genuine twist to the Summer Budget HMRC released a consultation on draft legislation previously proposed in the March 2015 Budget.  Benchmark Scale Rates (BSR) are flat rate expenses that can be reimbursed as an alternative to actual expenses and are intended to ease administration. Previously contractors would have to request their use and often requests were accompanied by conditions that were difficult to manage for single person companies. The draft legislation places BSR on a statutory basis meaning that entitlement appears more accessible. Although guidance will follow before 6 April 2016 and we can expect some conditions to remain the use of BSR may soften the blow of other changes.
  • Multiple shareholders – as a company you should look carefully at the shareholders who receive dividends and in the right circumstances keep higher rate taxes to a minimum by careful planning of dividends and who holds shares in your company.
  • The positive connotations of being a Limited Company has many advantages when it comes to securing work, especially as many organisations, including government, will only employ contractors operating through a Limited Company.
  • If you’re intending to contract for the long-term you’re still most likely to be better off in real terms by forming your own Limited Company. The total long-term benefits (of which tax is only one) far outweigh the costs and administration in setting up and running your company.
  • Being your own boss and have complete control over your finances and your business, along with all the lifestyle enhancements that go with this. You choose how you organise your tax planning to reap the maximum net income for your work and how much you need to work to achieve your financial goals. Working with a contractor accountant makes this even easier!
  • Being outside of Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) can greatly help you when you are seeking work via some agencies. AWR regulations don’t apply to Limited Company contractors, like they do an Umbrella worker, so there will be less administration for  the agency.


There’s no doubt that having your own personal service company is still more lucrative than operating under an Umbrella. The extra 7.5% tax on dividends remains substantially less than the combined effect of Employee’s (12%) and Employer’s (13.8%) National Insurance suffered by Umbrella workers.


In times of uncertainty it’s perfectly natural to feel anxious or helpless. For now the contractor community must ride the storm and avoid knee-jerk short-sighted reactions. Contractors are a vital part of the UK workforce and economy and you have a voice. Here are some things you can be doing now:

  • Speak to your contractor accountant about how the recent changes will affect you. That way you can mitigate the potential pitfalls and take advantage of the opportunities.
  • Upgrade your accountancy service – don’t try and do everything yourself. Working with a specialist contractor accountant, you can safeguard your future and not let the Government dictate your working practices.
  • Don’t settle for second best – if you already have a contractor accountant but don’t feel you’re getting the best from them, explore what you can get from other providers. With Intouch you get the combination of online accountancy software and unlimited personal advice for an all inclusive fee of £92+VAT a month.


Intouch will be remaining very firmly part of the discussions and government consultations, actively representing the best interest of contractors. We are here to serve our clients and fight the contractors’ corner.


Contact us today to discuss joining Intouch Accounting.


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.