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Limited company tax basics for contractors

If you start trading via your own limited company, you will be liable to pay tax on any profits you make. In this guide, we look at the business and personal taxes you should be aware of as a contractor.

This article has been updated for the 2024/25 tax year.

1. Corporation Tax.

All companies pay taxes on their annual profits.

Corporation Tax rates increased in April 2023, as follows:

  • 19% on annual profits up to £50,000.
  • 26.5% effective rate on profits between £50,000 and £250,000.
  • 25% on profits above £250,000.

Your accountant will inform HMRC that your limited company has been formed (unless it is already active and you have paid corporation tax before).

Each year, your accountant will fill in your Corporation Tax return (Form CT600) and submit it online. You must pay the previous year’s tax within 9 months of your company year end date.

Limited company contractors who are caught by IR35 will pay themselves a ‘deemed salary’, comprising most of the company’s annual profits, so their Corporation Tax liability will be nil or very small.

Find out more in our Corporation Tax guide.

2. Value Added Tax

Most contractors register for VAT, even if they do not expect to breach the £85,000 turnover threshold in any given 12-month period. Depending on your circumstances, you can register for the standard VAT scheme or the Flat Rate scheme.

If you don’t expect to reclaim large amounts of expenses, you may well be better off by joining the Flat Rate Scheme. Instead of accounting for VAT on each transaction on the standard scheme, you apply a flat percentage to your turnover (14.5% for most contractors). In the first year of joining the scheme, you benefit further from a 1% discount to the flat rate – to 13.5%.

It is worth noting that, from April 2017, companies with very few expenses (‘limited cost traders’) pay a higher 16.5% rate, making the Flat Rate scheme unattractive to those affected.

Each quarter, you (or your accountant) complete a VAT return and submit it together with payment within one month of the end of the quarterly period. If you pay via direct debit, you benefit from an extra 7 days to pay.

Find out more about accounting for VAT.

3. Employers’ National Insurance

Limited companies pay Class 1 NICs on the salaries paid to their employees. As your ’employer’, your company pays 13.8% of the salary you draw at or above £175 per week (£9,100 per year).

If your company meets various requirements (it must not have a sole director-employee), then you can reclaim up to £5,000 of Employers’ NICs each year, thanks to the Employment Allowance.

However, even if your company is eligible, many directors draw down low salaries and are therefore unlikely to have much Employers’ NI to offset against the Allowance.

4. Employees’ National Insurance

Employees (including limited company directors) also pay Class 1 NICs on their earnings, as follows:

  • 8% between £12,570 and £50,270.
  • 2% on earnings above £50,270.

Read more in our guide to National Insurance.

5. Income Tax

Any salary you draw as a limited company director is subject to standard PAYE (Pay as your Earn) tax.

You pay income tax on any income received above the personal allowance threshold (£12,570 in 2023/24), according to the tax bands you cover (at 20% – basic rate, 40% – higher rate, and 45% – additional rate).

The higher rate tax band threshold is £37,770, so you enter the higher rate band when you earn more than the £12,570 personal allowance plus £37,700 = £50,270.

Earnings above £125,140 are taxed at the additional 45% rate.

If you earn above £100,000, the value of the personal allowance is removed by £1 for every £2 over this threshold.

6. Dividend Tax

Assuming you are not caught by IR35, you will draw most of the profit from your company in the form of dividends.

The first £500  are covered by a dividend tax free allowance, although they do still form part of your overall tax allowances. This allowance was reduced from £1,000 to £500 in April 2024.

Dividend income is then taxed at three rates – 8.75% (basic), 33,75% (higher) and 39.35% (additional). Any tax due is payable by the annual self-assessment process.

Read more about how dividends are taxed.

7. Other Taxes

Other taxes you may come across while contracting include Capital Gains Tax (if you realise a profit on any investments, including if you sell your company at some time in the future).

Partner Contractor Accountants

Last updated: 4th April 2024