If you are a new company director and you’re unfamiliar with Self Assessment, it is important to be aware of Income Tax and National Insurance tax rates and thresholds, dividend tax, and the way in which you can pay yourself through a limited company.
Ideally, you should consult an accountant for the best professional advice and tax-saving strategies, but we’ll provide a brief overview of what you need to know to get you started.
Please note: The figures stated in this article apply to the 2020/21 tax year.
What tax does a company director pay?
Directors of limited companies are usually also shareholders. In fact, many small startup companies are one-person operations, whereby the only person who owns, manages, and works for the company is the single director employee. Whatever the setup, the following taxes may apply:
As a company director, you are classed as an employee for tax purposes, so you will have to register your company as an employer and operate PAYE as part of your payroll. You will be required to pay Income Tax and Class 1 National Insurance through PAYE on the wages you receive from the company.
No Income Tax will be due on the first £12,500 because this is your tax-free Personal Allowance for the 2020-21 tax year. Above that amount, you will start paying tax on your earnings.
Employer’s National Insurance
The company will have to pay 13.8% Class 1 Employers’ National Insurance if your income (and/or wages of any other employees) is greater than £732 per month. In such instances, where you employ no one else through the business but yourself, your company cannot claim the £4,000 Employment Allowance.
No Employers’ National Insurance is payable on the first £12,784 if your company is eligible to claim the £4,000 Employment Allowance
Employee’s National Insurance
You will have to pay 12% Class 1 Employee’s NI on wages between the Primary Threshold (£792/month) and the Upper Earnings Limit (£4,167/month).
The rules on dividend tax changed at the beginning of the 2016/17 tax year on 6th April 2016. Previously, there was no tax personal tax liability on dividend income for basic rate taxpayers – dividends are paid from profits after the deduction of 19% Corporation Tax, so the company had already paid tax on this income.
As a result of these new rules, it’s not quite as tax-efficient to take a low salary and higher dividend payments through a limited company as it once was, though it is a far simpler system. The notional 10% dividend tax credit, which most people struggled to understand anyway, has been abolished and replaced with a £2,000/year tax-free dividend allowance. Above £2,000, you will have to pay varying rates of tax on dividend income received from your company:
- 7.5% within the basic-rate tax band (up to £37,500)
- 32.5% within the higher-rate tax band (£37,501 – £150,000)
- 38.1% within the additional-rate tax band (above £150,000)
Dividend income is still paid from post-tax profits, so your company will continue to pay 19% Corporation Tax on these profits before you pay yourself dividends. The idea behind the changes is to discourage people from setting up a company simply to pay less tax, by taking most of their income as dividends rather than a wage.
Instead, the government hopes to incentivise company owners to receive dividends through shares held in ISAs and pension schemes. Also, they want you to pay more tax.
Either way, you’re still better of setting up your business as a limited company, rather than operating as a sole trader. You just have to be strategic with your tax planning and remuneration, which any decent accountant or tax advisor will be able to assist you with.
Class 2 National Insurance
Whilst not applicable to directors who are not shareholders and who do not have additional income on top of their salary, it’s worth mentioning this one for clarity. Class 2 National Insurance is paid through Self Assessment by people who work for themselves, earn income that is not taxed through PAYE, and/or who do not pay Class 1 NI through PAYE.
Class 2 National Insurance is payable when you start earning above £6,475 per year. You need to pay Class 1 or Class 2 NICs to protect your entitlement to state pension and benefits, so it’s really important that you are making one of these contributions, depending on whether you are employed or self-employed.
If you receive any other form of income from the company or elsewhere (i.e. dividends from shares, a director’s loan, rental income, etc), you will have to register for Self Assessment, to report this income and pay any additional tax and National Insurance you may owe on it.
The same rule applies if you are not a PAYE employee of the company, and only receive shareholder dividends from the business. In such instances, you must register for Self Assessment, file an annual tax return to report your income, and pay any necessary dividend tax and voluntary NICs on your earnings.