A simplified worked example
It’s important to be clear about what is company money and a company tax liability, and what is personal money and a personal tax liability. Let’s consider a simple example. To make the numbers easier to follow, we’ll also assume that corporation tax is 20% and that personal income tax is charged at 33% on dividends and 40% on salary. That’s close to the real situation for people who already have a mainstream job, and are also running a freelance business through their own limited company.
Do remember, that you and your company are separate legal entities. Each has its own assets and liabilities (money in the bank, and tax bills) and that it can often be the case that your company owes you money, or you owe your company money. Keep corporate stuff corporate and personal stuff personal. Maintain two tax reserves properly and then you’ll never get a shock when it’s tax payment time.
Mr Klavier is a music teacher at a good school with a good salary. He is already a higher rate tax payer even without having a business on the side. His business “The Piano Man Ltd” is a company, and it provides private tuition on a one to one basis in the evenings and weekends. All the fees go into the business bank account, and the company makes about £10,000 per year. The costs are negligible and so we can make a reasonable assumption that the company profit is £10,000 or as near as makes no difference. The company tax position looks like this:
|Corporation tax at 20%||
Every year “The Piano Man Ltd” makes a profit of 10,000 and pays corporation tax of 2,000. If Mr Klavier does nothing else, then his company value increases by 8,000 every year until he shuts it down. The money stays in the company bank account. That way, the tax rate is effectively 20% all of the time, and there is likely to be a capital gains tax bill right at the end when the company is dissolved. Compared to income tax, capital gains tax is a cheap tax.
However, at the discretion of the directors (Mr Klavier is the sole director and the sole shareholder) a decision can be made to pay out some (or all) of the distributable profit as a dividend. A dividend is a reward to the shareholders for the original investment they made into the company. Normally, dividends are declared on a quarterly or annual basis. See the introduction to dividend vouchers for more detail.
This year, Mr Klavier decides to take all 8,000 of the distributable profit as a dividend. The 8,000 is transferred from the business bank account of The Piano Man Ltd to the personal bank account of Mr Klavier. As long as the company has enough money left to pay its own corporation tax bill, that’s OK. In real life you wouldn’t want to cut it that fine!
Knowing that he is a higher rate taxpayer, Mr Klavier needs to set aside something for personal income tax. Knowing that the dividend tax rate is 33%, he puts 2,667 of the 8,000 into a personal savings account and will pay that to HMRC later.
Using the dividend method, Mr Klavier is left with 5,333 as personal income. The overall effective rate of tax is about 47%. That’s more efficient than taking a salary from his company. The dividend rate of income tax is lower than the salary rate of income tax, because it allows a small measure of compensation for the fact that the company could only pay out a dividend, after the company had already suffered corporation tax.
Knowing that his company normally has 10,000 of income every year, Mr Klavier could decide to pay that out as a salary, and his company will need to set up an employer’s payroll account with HMRC. Salary paid to directors and employees is subject to PAYE at source, and the amount deducted each month includes national insurance (employer contribution at 13%), national insurance (employee contribution at 12%), and income tax (at the salary rate of 40%). Salaries are taxed at a higher rate than dividends. At first glance, that works out as 65% of some number. However, it’s a little better than that because the employer contribution of 13% has to be figured in before the headline rate of salary can be announced. A company with 10,000 available can offer a salary of only 8,850. That’s because 13% of 8,850 is 1,150 and this takes up the full quota of this company’s available cash. The employer contribution (the 13% NIC) disappears to HMRC before the commonly understood figure for salary can be established.
Then a smaller figure (the regular salary of 8,850) is subject to employee NIC at 12% and to income tax at 40%.
|Employer NIC at 13%||
|Employee NIC at 12%||
|Income tax at 40%||
The good news is that there is no 20% corporation tax to pay, because the company has no profit. The company income was 10,000. The allowable expenses (the gross salary) came to 10,000 and the remaining profit is NIL.
Using the salary method, Mr Klavier is left with 4,248 as personal income. The combination of income tax and National Insurance contributions leads to an effective rate of tax of 58%.
Additionally, the government will silently thank Mr Klavier for swelling the coffers of The Exchequer.
20% or 47% or 58%
If you roll up all of the company money in the business bank account, you can pay no more than 20% corporation tax. However, there will be some capital gains tax to pay when you finally stop trading. Be warned, HMRC does not like you doing this, because you are not be commercial. They are right, the Companies Act 2006 requires you to run your business on a commercial basis, and businesses are generally not in the business of sitting on mountains of cash waiting for the director/shareholder to retire.
So you should extract a commercially viable figure. As dividends or as salary. You probably need to do that anyway, in order to live! You need personal money. The company money is not your money.
Do you want to pay a combined tax bill at an effective rate of tax of 47% or 58%? Will the government use your extra tax payments wisely?
More importantly, if you go down the salary route, do you want the extra admin of running an employer’s payroll account and making monthly remittances of PAYE to HMRC? Or, perhaps incurring the cost of engaging a payroll bureau to do the admin for you?
By running a payroll you can do tedious admin, pay more tax overall, and impede your cashflow.
It’s your call, it’s your business and you are the director/shareholder. What does your business plan say about remuneration? What does your strategy say about maintaining corporate and personal tax reserves?