So, you’ve decided you’re going to take the plunge and go self-employed. But how do you know what National Insurance you’ll need to pay? When you become self-employed, you become responsible for paying your NI and tax on your income, so you’ll need to be organised and maintain all of your records to ensure you know what you will need to pay. Unfortunately, this isn’t always straightforward as it can vary based on the industry of your employment and whether you are both employed and self-employed. So, we’ve outlined some of the key considerations for working out your National Insurance.

What National Insurance do I pay?

National Insurance Classes explained

When you are self-employed, there are two Classes of National Insurance that may apply to you.

Class 2 NICS

If your profits are £6,205 or more in the 2018/19 tax year, you will be required to pay Class 2 NICS of £2.95 a week.

Class 4 NICS

If your profits exceed £8,424 (up to £46,350), you will need to pay Class 4 NCIS which is 9% of your profits in the 2018/19 tax year.

For profits exceeding £46,350, you will be required to pay an additional 2% on the excess.

Paying voluntary National Insurance for state benefits

Exemptions and gaps within your National Insurance record

Some people within specific jobs may not be required to pay Class 2 NICS – notably those who run businesses in the land or property sectors. Alternatively, you may have what are known as gaps within your record of paying National Insurance – meaning you will not have made enough contributions over your working lifetime to qualify for a full State Pension. This could be for several reasons, such as having received low earnings from previous employment, made a small profit whilst self-employed or if you were unemployed without claiming benefits for a time.

If this is the case, all is not lost and you may still qualify for a State Pension by paying voluntary National Insurance. However, it’s best to seek professional advice as not everyone will benefit from voluntary contributions; we can provide you with the advice you need around the benefits of paying voluntary contributions.

How do I pay National Insurance?

The key difference in paying National Insurance when you’re self-employed is that you are now responsible for paying this yourself, rather than paying it automatically every month. To do this, you’ll need to complete a tax return (Self Assessment) at the end of the financial year.

We know that this can be daunting for many and deadlines aren’t everyone’s strong point – but don’t worry! That’s why we’re here; we can provide tax and accounting services to help see you through the whole year, not just around tax year end.

If you still feel confused after reading this, don’t worry. At accounting4contractors, we’re here to simplify these processes for you and allow you to focus on the everyday running of your business. If you’d like to discuss taxes or National Insurance with experts who understand the challenges of small businesses, get in touch with us today.

So you’re thinking of giving up the day job to become self-employed?

It’s a big and scary decision, but one that will have you buzzing with excitement.  You’ll be planning your logo and business stationery, mapping your website and dreaming up entertaining social media posts, but you also need to spend time on the structure of your business and knowing where to start in relation to accounts and tax can be daunting.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide for those starting out as self-employed.

A guide to starting out self-employed

Step 1: What kind of business are you starting?

You are likely to be familiar with the terms ‘limited company’ and ‘sole trader’, but it’s important to know the difference and how it will affect your business structure.

Quite simply, a sole trader is a self-employed business owner who is the sole owner of the company.  It’s a simpler way to start in business.  You need to keep a record of your income and expenditure and at year-end you declare your profits and pay tax and NI to HMRC under self-assessment.

A limited company will be registered with its own legal identity, that is separate to you, the owner, and any other stakeholders. You can be the sole owner of a business and still register as a limited company, this offers advantages such as protecting your personal assets, but does require greater compliance in relation to your accounting and tax affairs.

Are you going self-employed, but still working for a company part-time?

It’s important to note that if you are registering as self-employed, but still working part-time for an employer, you will need to pay tax through both PAYE (the standard when in employment) and self-assessment.

Step 2: Registering your business

Registering as a sole trader

If you’re setting up as a sole trader, you will need to register for Self Assessment with HMRC and file your tax return. It’s best to do this as soon as you can, as fines can apply if you fail to register your business within its second tax year. You can register yourself online, or appoint an agent, such as a4c, to register on your behalf.

Registering as a limited company

Setting up a private limited company will require you to have the following:

  • Your company name
  • An address for the company
  • At least one director
  • Details of the company’s shares, shareholders and any people with significant control over your company
  • A SIC code (determining what your business does)
  • A dedicated business bank account

 

During the registration process, you will also need a legal statement, signed by all shareholders, that agrees to the formation of the business, as well as written rules of the company that have been agreed.

Step 3: Starting up your business

Once you’ve informed HMRC that you’re self-employed, we would recommend that you set up a business bank account to ensure you manage business assets separately from personal affairs. You’ll also need to start keeping a record of your business expenses, income, outgoings and therefore your profits.

Whilst some business owners are confident in managing this themselves, some do not feel they can manage this independently, whilst others simply may not have the time. We can help! We provide a range of accountancy services to help you focus on running your business, from the day to day accounting support to supporting you with tax.

Step 4: Growth and compliance

You might need to pay VAT

Depending on your annual turnover, you will also need to determine whether you need to register for VAT. The threshold for VAT is £85,000 so, if you think your turnover will exceed this you must register.

There can be benefits to registering for VAT before you reach the registration threshold, such as the ability to reclaim VAT you’ve paid on your purchases, it can also help your new business to appear more established and perhaps more professional.

Get it covered!

You may be required by law to have certain insurance policies in place as a business owner, but having insurance policies in place will also provide you with peace of mind that you and your business are protected against unexpected issues such as damage or accidents.

The ins and outs of going self-employed can be difficult to get to grips with.  At accounting4contractors, we help a variety of business owners just like you.  From starting out, to tax planning and helping with the recording of income and expenses.

If you’d like to speak with experts in all things accounting, tax and expenses, contact us today to see how we can help you establish your business.

A company car is considered a taxable perk by HMRC.

Officially a company car is known as a Benefit In Kind (BIK), because there is a monetary value attached to your ability to use it privately. As a result, the value of the car is added to your taxable salary, you pay additional tax and the company pays Employer’s NIC.

The easiest way of calculating how much tax you will have to pay on a company car is to visit the HMRC website – https://www.gov.uk/calculate-tax-on-company-cars .

HMRC works out the amount of BIK tax you pay based on the amount of CO2 emissions a car emits. There are several emissions bands and each is allocated a percentage value which is multiplied by the car’s list price, HMRC refers to this as the P11D value. Additional percentage points are also added if the vehicle has a diesel engine.

How much company car tax will I pay?

The amount of company car tax you pay is dependent on your annual salary. For example, if you fall into the Basic Rate Income tax bracket, you’ll pay 20% tax on the car’s P11D value. Those in the High Rate Income tax bracket pay 40%.

Company car tax calculator example

Here’s how to calculate your company car tax in three simple steps:

  1. Take your company car’s P11D value (for example £35,000)

 

  1. Multiply this value by the car’s company car tax rate which is dependent on CO2 emissions (for example 19%) to get your BIK amount (£6,650)

 

  1. Multiply this BIK value by your personal tax rate – 20% or 40%. This will be the amount of company car tax payable.  So:

£35,000 x 19% = £6,550 (BIK amount) x 20% = £1,330 per year in additional tax

 

Remember that the company also has to pay Employer’s NIC.  Therefore:

£35,000 x 19% = £6,650 (BIK amount) x 13.8% = £917.70 per year in additional NIC

If the company pays for fuel there’s additional tax to pay on this benefit.  We normally assume that you will be paying for the fuel personally and reclaiming a mileage allowance on actual work journeys undertaken.  Note, the mileage allowance for company cars is at a reduced rate, depending on the engine size and fuel type.

Corporation Tax Savings

The company will own the car and therefore can claim capital allowances which would reduce Corporation Tax (the car would be eligible for writing down allowance of 8% of the cost price on reducing balance basis over a number of years).

Leased Vehicles

If you lease a ‘qualifying car’ for business purposes the company will normally be unable to recover 50% of the VAT charged.

A leased vehicle will also not be ‘owned’ by the business and therefore cannot be sold if the company needs to raise capital.

However, the company can claim the monthly lease payments as a business expense.

In short, when it comes to company cars, it makes sense for SMEs to choose leasing over ownership, because of the benefits of tax relief and VAT-reclamation.  However the monthly costs may be higher so it’s worth running comparison calculations to see which figures work the best for you.

Commercial Vehicles have different rules!

If you drive a van or pick-up truck then you may not have any additional tax to pay.  We have a different blog post on this topic here: https://a4cgroup.co.uk/news/van/

Get in Touch

When it comes to company cars, there is no ‘one size fits all’ and so we aim to give you as much information as possible so that you can make an informed decision based on your circumstances.

Of course, if you wish to discuss any of the information contained within this guide then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

You may have recently received a reminder from HMRC to make your second self-assessment payment on account for the 2017-18 tax year.  Every year at a4c we are asked what this means by very confused clients (who said tax doesn’t have to be taxing?).

Payments on account are advance payments made towards your personal tax for each tax year.  These are made on 31st January and 31st July.

How much you have to pay is based on your previous year’s tax return, with 50% being paid at each deadline.  So if your tax bill in 2016/17 was £8,000 then you will be required to make the following payments on account:

  • First payment on account 31st January 2018 £4,000
  • Second payment on account 31st July 2018 £4,000
  • Balancing payment (any extra tax due for 2017/18) due 31st January 2019

 

Everyone is required to make payments on account unless:

  • your previous tax return tax bill was less than £1,000; or
  • more than 80% of the tax you pay is deducted through PAYE

Can you reduce your payments on account?

Yes, if you predict that your tax bill in the next tax year is likely to be lower then you can apply for reduced or removed payments on account.

Beware though if your tax bill is not lower and payments on account should have been made then HMRC will charge you late payment interest.

How do you know what to pay?

The SA302 tax summary calculation for 2016/17 will show the first and second payments on account, payable 31st January 2018 and 31st July 2018. If a4c prepared your tax return then you would have been given a copy of this document along with your full tax return.

HMRC may also send a statement of your account in early July as a reminder of forthcoming tax owed.

IR35 Can't be IgnoredIR35 plays an important role in the lives of many of our contractor clients.

If you are a contractor then you need to be aware of this legislation as the cost of getting it wrong can be vast.

At A4C we have composed this IR35 Guide to help you understand how the rules may impact your contracting career.

What is IR35?

IR35 is properly known as the Intermediaries Legislations.

Introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was intended to counter tax avoidance by the use of so-called personal service companies (PSCs).  The aim was to prevent workers from setting up limited companies through which they could work as an employee whilst saving on tax.

What do HMRC look for?

They look to see if there is a hypothetical contract in place between the hirer and the PSC enabling disguised employment.

How does HMRC decide if a contract falls within IR35?

There are a series of employment status tests to see if your services have been engaged in a genuine self-employed capacity.

  • Can you hire someone else to do the work at your own expense?

  • Do you risk your own money?

  • Do you provide the main items of equipment for the contract?

  • Do you agree to undertake the contract for a fixed price regardless of how long the job may take?

  • Can you decide what work to do, how and when to do it and where to provide the services?

  • Do you regularly work for a number of different clients?

  • If you make a mistake do you have to correct unsatisfactory work in your own time and at your own expense?

If you can answer yes to the following questions then you should be fine, but may want to seek advice to be on the safe side.

Should you worry if your contract falls within IR35?

Operating through a PSC is not illegal and you can undertake contracts which fall inside IR35, but if you do you must pay full tax and national insurance.

Recent publicity surrounding ‘off payroll’ payments within the BBC, the student loan companies and service providers to the London 2012 Olympics means that the focus is back on IR35.  HMRC frequently asks are these individuals genuinely in business of their own accord or simply using these payment vehicles to avoid their full tax and NI obligations?

HMRCDo HMRC undertake investigations?

In recent years HMRC has raised a number of IR35 challenges, although it is well know that they have won very few.   Most likely because of the legislation being poorly written and hard for courts to apply.

As a result of this there has been significant investment in the way IR35 investigations are administered and therefore it is important that contractors know what IR35 is, whether they are caught by this legislation and the impact it could have, as the chances of winning future reviews are expected to swing significantly in HMRC’s favour.

On a positive note, HMRC has acknowledged that there is a lot of uncertainty in the contracting sector surrounding IR35.  They agree that it is clear who definitely falls outside of IR35 and those who definitely fall inside IR35 but there is a huge grey area in the middle.

In the 2012 budget the government announced that measures would be developed to improve IR35 and as a result new guidance is being given to help contractors identify if their contract is high, medium or low risk.  These bands are defined by new Business Entity Tests, there are twelve in total each awarding different scores:

  1. Business premises
  2. Professional Indemnity Insurance
  3. Efficiency
  4. Assistance
  5. Advertising
  6. Previous PAYE
  7. Business plan
  8. Repair at own expense
  9. Client risk
  10.  Billing
  11.  Right of substitution
  12.  Actual substitution

The scoring system tells you which band you fall into:

  • Less than 10 points – High risk
  • 10 to 20 points – Medium risk
  • More than 20 points – Low risk

 

So let’s think about what you need to get that peaceful night’s sleep…

Business premises

You can score a lovely 10 points if you have business premises which are not at your home or the client’s premises.  It doesn’t matter how swanky your barn conversion or German huf house is, if it’s at your home address you don’t get the 10 points.  Rent a desk in a serviced unit with supporting evidence to prove it and the points are all yours!

Client risk

You can score 10 more points if you were unable to recover funds for work completed within the past 24 months.  This bad debt should be around 10% of your annual turnover.  This one seems a little strange because if you manage your contracts professionally and only take those contracts you consider to be ‘good payers’ then you wouldn’t qualify for these points.  However if you frequently get asked to leave contracts for poor performance followed by unpaid invoices then you can assume you’ve got these points in the bag!

Billing

There are 2 points available if you invoice for your services and negotiate payment terms.

And so the list goes on…

A low risk rating by HMRC will give you a 3-year period of grace, assuming you told the truth and don’t change the business model.  You can obtain this formal rating by having your contract reviewed via the IR35 helpline and contract review service.

Conclusion

The lesson to learn from all of this is that HMRC do not say that hirers cannot engage contractor’s services ‘off payroll’; they accept that there is a valid need across the public and private sector.  Their concern is simply that the PSC’s are legitimate and organised formally.

For more information visit http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ir35/ or give us a call o:

01737 652 852

Following the recent economic climate many previously employed professionals who have found themselves made redundant have made the decision to switch to a future career as a contractor.  There are considerable work / life benefits in opting for this career path but it can seem a little daunting too if you have been an employee for most of your working life.

When starting out as a contractor you are likely to secure your first few contracts through a recruitment agency and therefore we have given you the following information relating to the payment options available to you.

contracting through a recruitment agency

1. PAYE through the agency

In this scenario you become an employee of the agency, which is the more traditional ‘temp’ model.  Tax and National Insurance contributions are deducted at source.  You will be paid weekly or monthly on submission of a timesheet.

This is suitable for short term assignments and is the route that most mainstream temporary workers adopt.  As an employee you are entitled to full statutory rights and benefits and can expect an approximate net take home pay of 66%.

2. PAYE through an umbrella company

Umbrella companies have been around for many years but are relatively unknown to most temporary workers.  Through this model you are employed by the umbrella company and as above Tax and National Insurance contributions are deducted at source (along with the umbrella’s fee).  With this route you are able to reclaim limited expenses which can help to reduce the tax and NI you pay.

This is a tax efficient route if you are only planning on taking very short term contracts or are only temping whilst looking for a permanent role.  Once again you are entitled to full statutory rights and benefits and can expect an approximate net take home pay of 72%.

3. contracting through a personal service company (PSC)

This is the traditional contracting route and allows you to trade through your own limited company.  The Company engages with a client (i.e. the recruitment agency or end client) providing your services, an invoice is submitted for the work carried out and you are responsible for managing your business and personal tax affairs.

As a limited company contractor you claim legitimate business expenses, pay yourself a low annual salary and take dividends on the profits generated by the business.  Dividends are free from National Insurance and as a result you can expect a net take home pay of around 85%.

what’s best for you?

Most contractors choose option 3, however operating through a personal service company is not a decision to be taken lightly.  As the director of the limited company you will have legal responsibilities and will need to commit to the long term running of your company with the intention of making a profit and paying all tax obligations as required.

We have plenty of experience helping contractors decide if this route is for them, including valuable guidance surrounding the IR35 legislation.

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge we can help you incorporate your company, register with the necessary authorities and put the processes in place to maintain compliant accounts from day one.

We will give you the tools required and simple instructions, all you need is a computer or laptop and a few minutes each week. You then pass your records over to us and we’ll do the rest.

To find out more give us a call on 01737 652 852 or submit an enquiry with your telephone number and we’ll call you back!

Are you claiming all the expenses you’re entitled to?

Monday morning, grab a coffee on the way to the station.  Purchase a trade magazine while waiting for a connecting train.  Post a letter on the walk into the office.

Sound familiar?

Work hasn’t even begun and yet you’ve already incurred expenses that can be reclaimed against your tax bill.  But how many of these little things do you forget to record?

A few pounds here and there soon add up and in our experience can amount to more than £5000 over the course of the year!

At a4c we have teamed up with Xero, beautiful accounting software, which allows clients to record expenses on the go.  Simply use your smart phone or tablet to photograph the receipt, enter the details of the expenses including the amount, a brief description and upload the picture.

Our team of accountants has real-time access to your accounts and can advise at the end of the month or quarter how much you need to take from the business to cover any personal costs incurred.  These payments are made free from tax and NI.

Expense examples

HMRC has a comprehensive list of acceptable expenses that can be claimed, but here is our reminder of the most common items:

  • Business mileage, when using your own vehicle can be reclaimed at 45p for the first 10,000 miles by car (different values for motorbikes / bicycles).  Petrol receipts are not needed but you must record the journey postcodes.
  • Car parking charges (not fines) can be reclaimed.  Receipts should be retained but minor values entered into a parking meter can be claimed without proof.
  • Clothing can be reclaimed but ONLY IF used for work and identified with a permanent logo or corporate embroidery.  Sorry you can’t claim for that sharp new suit!
  • Disability equipment can be claimed, as long as it is also available to all other employees with a disability.
  • Food & drink expenses (also known as subsistence) can be claimed for meals taken whilst away from your normal place of work (i.e. your registered office or principal place of work).  Receipts must be retained.
  • Homeworking can be reclaimed at £4 per week, without proof of costs.  If you predominantly work from home then this value can be increased with supported evidence.  See our dedicated working from home – expenses guide for more info.
  • Incidental expenses incurred when staying away from home can be claimed at £5 per night, without receipts, to cover the cost of laundry, phoning home etc.
  • Mobile phone calls can be reclaimed when they appear on an itemized bill. Note that if the phone is owned personally then line rental cannot be reclaimed.  (If you have a limited company then it is far better to have the mobile phone tariff through the business than personally).
  • Overnight accommodation – if you stay away from home on business then the cost of your hotel or B&B can be reclaimed.  Remember to keep the invoice as proof.
  • Public transport can be reclaimed for business related trips.  Either retain your ticket / receipt or ensure that your Oyster statement details journeys taken, dates and costs.
  • Postage costs for business related correspondence.
  • Stationery such as envelopes, pens, notepads and other minor office equipment.
  • Subscriptions and professional fees are classified as legitimate expenses, HMRC provides a comprehensive list of the approved bodies here https://www.hmrc.gov.uk/list3/index.htm
  • Tools can be reimbursed but only if the tools are used for work purposes only.
  • Training courses attended and paid for in line with work can be also be reclaimed.

 

The key point when it comes to claiming an expense is to ensure that the cost was incurred

“wholly, necessarily and exclusively”

in line with business duties and that you have the required proof, such as a receipt or invoice.

A4C – On your side

Supporting you in matters such as expenses and tax efficient ways of taking money from your business is just a small aspect of our service.

If you require further information give us a call on 01737 652 852 or use the enquiry form on the right.

The importance of InsuranceIf you are the director of a limited company then you really can’t afford to trade without purchasing insurance to protect your business and financial interests.

The level of cover you need will depend on your industry sector but a policy is often not as expensive as you might think.

Here are examples of policies you may want to consider.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

Professional indemnity insurance can help to protect you if claims are brought against your limited company by a client due to a problem with the work you have done for them.

  • This type of policy will offer compensation to correct a mistake
  • Or cover any legal costs due to negligence, such as giving incorrect advice or making a mistake in your work.

 

Free Insurance QuoteProfessional indemnity cover is often a contractual requirement and if you are a contractor undertaking assignments through a recruitment agency then it is likely that you will need to provide policy documentation before commencing work or being paid.

Public and Employer’s Liability Insurance

This type of policy will protect you against claims where injury or death has been suffered by third parties or employees, and claims where you are alleged to be responsible for damage to third party property.

Free Insurance QuoteThe cost of these policies is relatively low and if you have employees working for you then you really can’t afford to skip it.

IR35 Reviews

You may have read our IR35 Guide, or you are likely to have heard of IR35 from contracting colleagues or online forums, the fact is if you know about IR35 then you probably know that you cannot afford to avoid taking steps to protect yourself.

There are different insurance options available depending on your attitude to risk and budget.

Free Insurance Quote

Qdos CoQdos Consulting - Insurance for Contractorsnsulting

At a4c we have teamed up with Qdos Consulting, one of the best-known insurers in the market for contractors and freelancers.

For a free, no obligation quotation visit: https://a4cgroup.qdosconsulting.com/

Avoiding the “salary trap”

Many directors withdraw funds from their limited company using a low salary / dividend combination.  The benefit being a preferential tax position and no National Insurance to pay on dividends.  However be aware that it’s becoming more common for HMRC to argue that where a director uses the company account to pay a personal bill, it counts as salary.

How can you disprove this argument and save money in the process?

Here’s an example taken from our Accounting & Taxation periodical which you may find interesting:

Director’s loan

One of our subscribers, the only director and shareholder of a company, came under fire from HMRC because he used his company’s bank account to make payments to the building firm which was adding an extension to his home. The maximum he borrowed at one time was £12,000 and all the money was repaid during the same tax year and just two months after the company’s accounting year ended. Our subscriber’s accountant reported the arrangement as a loan although there was no formal paperwork to prove it.

HMRC’s salary trap

The tax inspector reviewing the company’s accounts took a different view to the accountant. He suggested that the payments were additional salary on which the company should have accounted for PAYE tax plus employees’ and employers’ NI. If the inspector was right, the extra tax and NI due would be significant.

Example

The company’s accounts were prepared showing that at the year end the director owed £12,000 to his company. The accountant’s view was that the £12,000 was an interest-free loan which gave rise to a taxable benefit in kind (BiK). The accountant worked out that the tax payable by the director on this would amount to less than £100. This BiK was reported on Form P11D and our subscriber declared it on his tax return.

Tax enquiry

Based on what he saw in the company’s accounts and Form P11D, the tax inspector started an enquiry and issued a demand for PAYE tax and NI on the £12,000 drawn by the director. This ran to several thousand pounds. Naturally, our subscriber appealed, but the inspector dug his heels in and pressed for full payment.

HMRC’s view

According to the inspector, his view is backed up by legislation which says any payment made by a company to or on behalf of a director that can be construed as “money or money’s worth” counts as pay and PAYE must be applied. We’ve seen this argument before and while it’s difficult to dispute the logic in practice, HMRC’s official guidance takes a partially different view.

Tip 1.

If an inspector suggests that payment of a personal bill by your company is subject to PAYE tax, firstly point them to HMRC’s guide for employers, Booklet CWG2 . This says that such an arrangement is a BiK and so not subject to PAYE tax. But the bad news is that it counts as salary for NI purposes meaning both employers’ and employees’ contributions are due.

Tip 2.

You can avoid NI by arranging for personal bills to be invoiced in your company’s name instead of yours. This dodges the “money’s worth” trap because when your company pays the bill it’s meeting its own debt not yours. What’s more, if you reimburse your company for the bills within three months after the tax year in which it paid them, you won’t be taxed on a BiK. In effect you’ll have had tax and NI-free use of company money.

CREDIT: Tax Essentials for Advisors

At a4c our view is to avoid the salary trap altogether and not pay personal expenses from your business account.  Keep your financial affairs and those of the business entity truly separate.

If you need additional funds for a building project at home or other unexpected costs then investigate whether declaring a dividend would be a more suitable option.

To talk through your choices don’t hesitate to give the lovely team at a4c a call on

01737 652 852

or email info@a4cgroup.co.uk.