The 50% Payment on Account Dilemma

It’s normal for some people to make tax payments on account every 6 months

If you’re self employed, or have lots of income from rent, dividends or investments, you may have become used to the pattern of making tax payments every 6 months.

However, the way the rules are structured, it normally comes as a bit of a surprise the first time you encounter the the “payments on account” regime. PoA for short. If most of your tax is paid under PAYE you won’t need to worry about this. The rule is twofold:

  • If your PAYE tax deduction (and any sundry tax deduction) is more than 80% of your total tax bill, then PoA do not apply.
  • If your total tax payment for the year comes to less than £1,000 then PoA do not apply.

In all other cases, individuals (but not companies) will have to pay an instalment of tax every 6 months, on 31 January and on 31 July. And that normally applies to people who are self employed or have lots of income from rent, dividends or investments. The best way to explain this is to give you an illustration, based around the chart below. Let’s say that. . .

  • your taxable income first arose in the tax year 2015/16
  • your 50% payments on account are based on the previous year’s tax bill
  • as the previous year’s tax bill (2014/15) was NIL, you made no PoA on 31 Jan 16 and 31 Jul 16
  • when your tax return was finalised, your 2015/16 tax bill came to £999 and you paid that on the normal due date of 31 Jan 2017
  • that amount was below the £1,000 limit and so your PoA for 31 Jan 17 and 31 Jul 17 were also set at NIL
  • and then you go and have a really good year in 2016/17

  • so good, that your 2016/17 tax bill comes to £8,888
  • now you’re caught
  • not only do you have to pay the 8,888 on the normal due date of 31 Jan 2018, but the PoA kick in at the same time
  • the first instalment of 4,444 for 2017/18 is due on the same day – 31 Jan 2018 – in this illustration that’s going to lead to a single payment of £13,332
  • and another £4,444 is going to be due on 31 Jul 2018
  • if the payments on account of £4,444 and£ 4,444 are not precisely right for 2017/18 then a TBA adjustment is made on 31 Jan 2019
  • that could mean more tax to pay, or a tax repayment
  • and the next 50% instalment will also be due on 31 Jan 2019, and so on

It sometimes looks like you have to pay 2 years worth of tax in the space of 6 months. It has often been said that “if you’re self employed you don’t pay tax for two years”. That’s sort of true, but then it all catches up with you and you end up paying two years worth of tax in the space of 6 months.

We know what you’re thinking and we’ve heard the message before. You can contact your MP here (use the search labelled “Find an MP by postcode”). We simply have to follow the rules!

The only way to keep things under control is to regularly put aside a tax reserve and to do your accounts and tax return soon after 5 April every year. Then there should be no nasty surprises.

Income Tax & Corporation Tax Payments

There are four methods for paying a tax bill

We recommend making payments by bank transfer as this is the best way to prove that the amount was paid and was paid on that date!

Method 1 – Internet Banking

If HMRC sent you a payslip it will state whether you need to pay Shipley or Cumbernauld.

If you have no payslip then the default position is to make personal tax payments to Shipley and company tax payments to Cumbernauld. There are a lot of cases which do not follow this pattern, but don’t worry about it. HMRC sometimes moves cases around to even out the workload.

Depending on your bank, they may already have HMRC Shipley or HMRC Cumbernauld set up on their system. If the bank does not have the precise account details already, then you will need to specify one of these two:

account name HMRC Shipley
sort code 08-32-10
account no. 12001020
ref – your unique taxpayer reference number (the UTR)

account name HMRC Cumbernauld
sort code 08-32-10
account no. 12001039
ref – your unique taxpayer reference number (the UTR)

These bank accounts do not work with the modern “faster payments” system which we are all now used to. It normally takes at least 24 hours for a payment to arrive. Do not pay on the last possible date, it will not arrive until the next banking day and that will make your payment late!

If it’s a personal tax payment add a capital letter K to the end of your 10 digit UTR.

12345 67890 K

If it’s a company tax payment, the 10 digit UTR needs to be followed by the “accounting period”. Please try to follow this format as HMRC is prone to getting payments, putting them in the wrong place, and then claiming that they didn’t receive it in the first place! Replace the letters NN here with the numbers which we provide in our email.

12345 67890 A001 NN A

If your tax liability is more than £10,000 you may find that you will exceed your bank’s limit on internet transfers. Two smaller amounts paid on two separate days should enable you to work around that problem.

Method 2 – Traditional Cheque and Payslip

Companies are compelled to pay corporation tax electronically with effect from 1 April 2011. You can still use cheques to pay personal taxes.

If you have a recent reminder, payslip and prepaid envelope, please use that when making your payment. Write out a cheque for “H M Revenue & Customs” and put your unique taxpayer reference number on the front and on the back! Post it in good time so that it arrives by the due date! Thanks.

Method 3 – Debit Card

Use a debit card and pay by phone. Call the Collector of Taxes on 0845 305 1000 and quote your 10 digit unique taxpayer reference number. Then ask for a payment reference number or authorisation code for this payment.

Method 4 – Covering Letter and Cheque

Companies are compelled to pay corporation tax electronically with effect from 1 April 2011. You can still use cheques to pay other taxes.

If you cannot use any of the above methods, please use the dialogue below as the basis for a covering letter (using your normal business letter headed paper) and send it with a cheque, to the Collector. Write out a cheque for “H M Revenue & Customs” and put your unique taxpayer reference number on the front and on the back!

The Collector of Taxes
Accounts Office B
Shipley
W Yorkshire
BD98 8AADear SirsI enclose a cheque in the sum of AMOUNT which represents tax due on DATE for the period ended YEAREND, under your ref REFNO.

Yours faithfully