There are certain conditions to meet when you claim for Trivial Benefits as business expenses. Please note, there are two good aspects when you claim for these through your company:
you receive the benefit of the allowance on a personal basis; and
your business saves tax on this at the same time.
Trivial benefits are a recent entry into the UK tax system. They were first brought in on 6 April 2016. Indeed, Trivial Benefits cover the scenario where a business makes rewards to its directors and staff. The allowance is tax-free, and I would advise that you claim for this, if you qualify. What’s more, it is also an excellent way to reward directors and employees throughout the year.
Most importantly, this expense is not well known. Lots who can claim overlook to do this. Many contractors, due to a lack of awareness, do not even know that this allowance exists.
HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) guidance
HMRC state that a business can provide trivial benefits to an officer of a `close’ company. An `officer’ means a director or secretary. The term `close’ company means companies that have five or fewer shareholders. In real life, most contractor companies will have nowhere near five shareholders. Therefore, most will qualify for this tax-deductible allowance.
There is some further official guidance from HMRC. This guidance states that if the total provided does not exceed £300 over the tax year, it is tax-deductible. Also, you need to retain invoices or receipts for all Trivial Benefits that you claim during the tax year.
To be exempt from tax and NI, the Trivial Benefit will need to meet the following four conditions:
The cost of the trivial benefit is no more than £50 in total inclusive of VAT
It is not cash or a cash voucher that you can exchange for cash
The payment is not a reward for any work or performance
The amount is not part of any work type of duty
There is nothing new about an employer that provides its staff with benefits such as a gift at Christmas. Employers sometimes provide a free meal to celebrate a member of the staff’s birthday or another special event. Some employers also provide free tea and coffee for their employees while they are at work.
What to bear in mind
Under the rules, you can afford to spend a bit more on yourself and your staff without having to pay tax on this.
Gift vouchers up to £50 are ok to claim, providing that you cannot exchange the voucher for cash.
Please note, you need to make sure that you do not go over the limit. If you do go over this, even by a small amount, the total cost will be taxable through the employer’s payroll.
It is also crucial to note that trivial benefits are not the same as benefits in kind (BIK). BIK applies when your employer provides you with some form of benefit. The BIK could be a company car, motorbike or van. It could also be medical insurance, dental cover, a director’s loan, or other benefits.
Please also remember, if you would like to make a payment of a trivial benefit, it is not in place of any work payment.
What’s more, the £300 limit mentioned above applies to an officer of a `close’ company. Where a business provides a benefit to the director’s family member or household, we need to treat this as being provided to the officeholder. This is then part of their annual exemption.
You should adhere to the limits and exemptions. If you do, the employer will receive a Corporation Tax (CT) deduction on the cost of the Trivial Benefits.
How you can claim for these as a UK contractor
If you work as a contractor through your own UK business, this is one allowance that you should claim. You can claim for this each year as long as you follow the above guidelines. Please make sure that it is not cash or a cash voucher (a cash voucher is a voucher that you can exchange for cash).
Also, please make sure that it is not more than £50 each time. The annual allowance is £300 per director. Therefore, you can claim for the £50 up to six times a year, each year. The amount will save CT at 19%. You also receive the benefit of what items that you spend this on. Please also make sure that you obtain the receipts each time that your business pays for a Trivial Benefit.
Even now, three years on from the intro of this tax-free expense, many are not aware of it. It is not well known, and as a result, many business owners that can claim this do not do so. There is no definitive list that covers what your trivial benefit can cover. Therefore, as long as you bear in mind the exemptions above, it can be for any cost.
Therefore, if you are a contractor who runs your own UK company (with five or fewer shareholders), please think about claiming for this in the future.
When you run your own UK company, how can you maximise your basic rate tax band in 2021/22? Also, at the same time, how can you also be tax-efficient? In this article, I am going to take a look at how you can do this. This article has helped plenty of UK contractors understand a lot better how to do this and a good accountant will guide you here. Maximising your basic rate tax band is also one of my handy tax tips for contractors and small business owners.
Firstly, it seems that the above is not always very well understood. Secondly, when I take on new clients, this is something that they do not always understand. On many occasions, their previous accountant did not explain this to them very well. What’s more, the method to work this out is not too awkward if you have the right info to hand. In conclusion, once you have read this through, you should be aware of how you can maximise your basic rate tax band. You should also be aware of how to be more tax-efficient when you run your own UK business.
If you are new to running your own company, a tip of mine is that it makes sense to claim for all of your genuine business expenses over the course of each year. This includes both a) rechargeable expenses to your client and b) non rechargeable ones. Expenses help to lower your company’s tax bill. Salaries are also regarded as expenses and these also help reduce company tax therefore from the outset you should consider what your salary is going to be and could also consider employing your spouse if they are going to be helping you run your company.
One thing that does come up quite often from directors is how I can be tax-efficient? Well, the answer is you need to know:
What the current tax bands and allowances are.
How the above will interact with taxable income.
What the current tax rates are
How you apply the above to different sources of income
In summary, the tax bands and allowances and, indeed, tax rates all change over time. Therefore, if you would like to maximise your basic rate tax band be tax-efficient, you need to know how your tax bands work and how your income is taxed.
Recent tax changes in the UK
Although we are looking at how to maximise your basic rate tax band, let us have a look at some other recent UK tax allowance changes.
One recent change was the complete overall of the UK dividend system. Before April 2016, the dividend that individuals received was 9/10ths of the gross, and you received a 10% tax credit. However, from April 2016, the government scrapped this and brought in the tax-free dividend allowance of £5,000, and this stayed in place for 2016/17 and 2017/18. In the next tax year in 2018/19, the government chose to reduce this allowance to £2,000, and this is still the case for 2021/22.
A further example of a recent change is before April 2016 interest income was tax at source (20%). However, after April 2016 you now receive interest tax-free but:
Basic rate (20%) taxpayers –they can earn £1,000 interest per year with no tax (therefore this gives a max tax saving of £200 compared with the time before this)
Higher rate (40%) taxpayers –they can earn £500 interest per year with no tax (therefore this gives a max tax saving of £200 compared with the time before this)
Additional rate (45%) taxpayers -they can earn £0 (they do not receive a tax allowance)
A brief history
First of all, the personal tax allowance and basic rate tax band usually change every year. Most important, over recent years, the personal allowance has been increasing. Meanwhile, the basic rate tax band has been increasing too. However, this was not always the case, as is shown in the table below.
First, please note, in recent tax years in the UK, there have been different allowances and tax rates that apply in Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland also have their tax allowances and tax rates, but these currently align with England.
Please also note, in recent times, the government brought in separate rates and tax bands for savings. These will indeed need taking into account if you have sizeable savings.
Basic Rate tax band
Total that can you can earn before higher rates tax applies (this is the level of income where you would maximise your basic rate tax band in previous years)
In the future, the personal tax allowance and basic rate tax band will carry on evolving. What’s more, when you are running your own business, it is good to know what you can earn to maximise your basic rate tax band and what tax you will need to pay upon this and indeed how to be tax efficient.
2021/22 tax year
When you maximise your basic rate tax band, you could take the full £50,270 earnings and stay within your basic rate tax band. Please note, your company needs to be earning enough profit to pay you the £50,270.
Therefore, the maximum that an individual can earn in 2021/22 before paying higher rates tax is £50,270.
To sum up, when you run your own business, you can take your earnings as a combination of salary and dividends. This blend of income enables you to be tax efficient. When you are employed, you do not have this option.
To maximise your basic rate tax band and take-home pay and also be tax-efficient at the same time you could:
Take an annual salary of £9,564 -please note this is enough to count as a qualifying year for UK state pension purposes. The £9,564 equates to £797 per month
Take total annual dividends of £40,692. In turn, this equates to a dividend of £3,391 per month
As a result, if you add together the £9,564 annual salary and the £40,692 annual dividend, this would give total earnings of £50,256. This way is the most tax-efficient mix if you have your own business, and your total income is just under £50,270.
When looking at how to maximise your basic rate tax band, the personal tax allowances that are available to you in 2021/22 are as follows:
Your tax-free personal allowance is £12,570
Your tax-free dividend allowance is £2,000
Working out the tax and take-home pay
When you maximise your basic rate tax band, in working out which tax bands cover which types of income you need to note:
Your personal allowance covers the £9,564 salary that I show above.
First, you need to take your personal allowance of £12,570. Next, deduct from this the £9,564 above. The result is £3,006, and therefore £3,006 worth of your dividends are also covered by your personal allowance.
Finally, take the dividend figure above of £40,692 and deduct the £3,006 and £2,000 above and this leaves £35,686. If you multiply this by the basic rate tax rate on dividends (7.5%), it gives £2,677.
In conclusion, the tax-efficient result is the £2,677 will be your personal tax bill that will be payable via your Self Assessment tax return at a later date.
Monthly earnings and tax savings
When you maximise your basic rate tax band, as shown above, this will result in:
First, you can take a monthly salary of £797;
Second, your monthly dividend is £3,391;
But, you will need to save £2,677 divided into 12 = £223.08 per month to cover your personal tax that you will need to pay later on. Personal tax is payable to HM Revenue & Customs via your Self Assessment Tax Return;
In short, £797 plus £3391 minus £223.08 = £3,964.92 net earnings each month -you have maximised your basic rate tax band;
To sum up, this will leave the director’s gross income just under £50,270 pa.
Please note, when you maximise your basic rate tax band, you might have other income. Such income could include rental profits, bank interest, or other dividends. Therefore, the above will need working out again to ensure that you are tax efficient.
Higher rates tax
You can maximise your basic rate tax band as described above, however, if you as an individual, personally earn more than £50K:
Dividends that fall in the higher rates tax band, i.e., above £50,270, are taxable at 32.5%.
Also, if you earn above £100,000 as your personal taxable income, you start to lose your personal allowance the more that you earn. You will effectively lose £1 or your personal allowance for each tax-adjusted £2 that you make above this.
Finally, the tax rate will increase to 38.1%. It will apply to dividends above a personal taxable income of £150,000.
My article above shows the position quite well for 2021/22 in terms of how to maximise your basic rate tax band and, at the same time, be tax efficient. However, you would indeed need to do further workings if you have any other sizeable sources of other income.
There could also be further things to consider if you live in Scotland and are subject to the Scottish tax bands.
Going forward, I will continue to update this article in the future when the UK tax allowances, tax bands, and rates change.
Furthermore, besides showing how you can maximise your basic rate tax band, there are many other good reads on this website. These cover how salary, dividends, expenses, profit, and other areas work. They also include different ways of how you can be tax-efficient and what to watch out for when running your own business.
As an aside, if you have worked at several different employers in the past and have various pension schemes, something that you may be interested in is pension consolidation.
First of all, per HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) guidelines, a business expense is allowable where:
the cost incurred is `wholly, exclusively and necessary’ for your business
What’s more, this means that you will incur the cost directly in line with your company’s business engagements. The above also means that this should not include any personal element. In contrast, with certain expenses such as phone or computer use, you may incur a personal element. As a result, when such amounts are only minor, HMRC will accept this.
Your contractor accountant can guide you with regards to what you are able to claim. If you are ever unsure you can check this with them.
Benefits of claiming for your business expenses
There are also two benefits to reclaiming expenses that you pay for out of your own pocket:
Your company saves tax at 19% on these against its annual Corporation Tax bill
Your company can refund these to you so that you are reimbursed after paying for these costs
Recording your expenses
When you incur business expenses as part of your daily work, you should record these. Key to note, you will need to do this on an ongoing basis. Also, you can collect this data in the form of a receipt or invoice and record it in your accounts system. What’s more, if you use an online accounting system such as Freeagent, you can take photos of the receipts and store these online.
Have a read of my article coveringtax tips for contractors for handy tips you should know when you have your own business (this is a member only article and you can read it if yousign up as a member). This includes my latest advice for best tax planning ideas.
Recharging your expenses
When you run your own business, you will incur the `usual’ running costs. As part of your contract work, you may also be able to recharge your expenses to your client. Please note, this is one area that can often confuse business owners. Therefore, when you recharge expenses, please note you need to make sure that you claim these back as business expenses from your own company.
Keep your receipts
As mentioned above, you should obtain and retain receipts or invoices for business expenses wherever you can. You can obtain this when you buy a product or service from a shop, store, or business. When you buy something online, you might receive this via email, or you can download it from the website where you buy this. Finally, invoices or receipts should be in your business’ name rather than in your name.
What else to consider
Duality of purpose
As a business owner, you need to be aware of any expense that has a `duality of purpose.’ HMRC use this term where there is both a business and a personal element to a cost. Such an expense could include a trip abroad which is part business and part holiday. When there is any suspicion from HMRC that the expense may not have occurred if it were not for the personal element, they could disallow it.
What can you claim
The types of business expenses can range across lots of different categories. They can also be paid by either the company bank account or your personal funds e.g. personal bank account, personal credit card or personal cash. The important thing is to ensure sure that you claim for all of them! Therefore, I have drawn up a detailed list below.
It may also be worth you considering registering for VAT. In recent times, the VAT Flat Rate scheme (this is a sub-scheme of VAT registration) was more tax advantageous however, now, the `normal’ VAT scheme is better for most contractors. Under this, you will be able to reclaim the VAT on your costs.
The types / category of expenses
Your company will incur business expenses of a travelling type nature when you visit your main worksite or different client sites. You may also incur these when you travel to other locations for business reasons. Such costs could include when you go to interviews or perhaps when you visit the bank or accountant. Also, this could be when you attend training courses and seminars or make trips to buy company supplies. The types of costs that you may incur will include:
Personal Incidental Expenses when you are staying away from home overnight for work reasons. These are also known as PIEs. The rate that you can claim is £5 per night in the UK and £10 per night outside the UK. This rate is set by HMRC at a level to cover sundry type costs. These will include phone calls home, coffees, laundry, newspapers, etc. ***
Motor vehicle / bike expenses
If you use your personal car or motor vehicle for business reasons, you will incur business expenses in relation to this. Your business can claim:
Mileage allowances for business journeys in your private car. HMRC sets the rates that you can claim, and these are 45 pence per mile for the first 10,000 business miles travelled in a tax year and 25 pence per mile for each mile after that.
You can claim for mileage for travel in your private motorbike or bicycle. The rates that you can claim are 24 pence per mile for a motorbike and 20 pence per mile for a bicycle ***
Motoring expenses using fixed-rate allowances (e.g., claim for the distance travelled)
*** Please note travelling and motor expenses are subject to the `two-year rule.’
Salaries are also business expenses and your company may pay salaries and costs related to this. These may include:
Your company may incur office type costs as business expenses. These may include:
Postages and stationery, business cards
Use of home as office. Under HMRC’s present allowed rates, you can claim for £4 per week. You may be able to claim for more than this in some cases. If you claim for more, you need to show that your extra household expenses cost more per week as a result of running your business from home.
If you have a company computer, you may incur costs with the use of this. These costs may comprise of:
An annual eye test and the cost of basic glasses, if you require these when you are at work
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions, if these relate to your work
Taking out insurance may be necessary for your business and if this is the costs will be business expenses. Normally, your contract will state which insurances you need to take out. The types of policies that you may require are:
Relevant Life insurance. This policy can be as much as 50% cheaper when you pay via your company compared to you paying for this personally.
Income protection. This policy will provide you with an income if you cannot perform your contract work for some time.
Accountancy and legal costs
While you run your own business, you will incur accountancy costs in relation to this. You may also, from time to time, incur legal costs for your company. These are both business expenses, and they include:
Accountancy fees. Normally, a monthly payment plus any one-off fees
Legal and other professional fees which are related to business issues
There may be many other types of costs that your company incurs and are genuine business expenses. These might consist of:
Entertaining costs -these can be for the entertaining of past, present, or potential future clients. These costs are not tax-deductible. Certainly, though, it is better if your business pays for these rather than you pay for them yourself.
Bank charges and interest that you incur on the business bank account.
The annual £13 fee that you pay to Companies House when your business files the Confirmation Statement each year. Any other Companies House fees that you incur when you make specific changes. Most changes do not incur a fee, but a few do, such as when you change the company name and one or two others.
Trivial Benefits -these cannot be more than £50 each time. Please note only directors and employees of `close companies’ can claim these. The amount that you can claim is £300 per year for each director and employee.
Business clothing -you are only allowed to claim here if the clothing is part of a uniform or is protective clothing for your work
Business gifts -you can claim for up to £50 for each gift, but these are subject to certain conditions.
An annual event -the outing can be a meal out or a similar excursion. It may include your annual Christmas dinner as well as other events throughout the year. The available claim is up to £150 per employee per year.
Relocation costs -you can claim up to £8,000, but this is subject to certain conditions.
Depreciation -this is the value of an asset that is written off as an expense.
The list above includes most types of business expenses that you may come across. However, there may be some that I have missed. Depending on your type of business, there may be other types of expenses that you can claim.
As mentioned, you should take note of any expenses that you incur when you run your own business. You should also obtain an invoice or receipt each time you commit a cost for your business. Your contractor accountant can guide you if you are ever unsure.
As a final note, I have written many articles on most of the expenses that are listed above. Please have a look at these for more detailed reads on what you can actually claim. My articles also cover any rules that you need to be aware of as a contractor or small business owner.
If you are working as a contractor and running your own company there may come a time when you are looking for contractor mortgages. When you do this, it does not have to be difficult. What’s more, you will need to obtain the right advice. Further to this, it is best to speak to a specialist who understands how you work. Regular mortgage advisers and brokers are less well versed in how Contractors earn their income and many do not offer mortgage for contractors. Therefore, it is often the case that they are not able to package your income for your mortgage application correctly.
Other policies for contractors
Two other policies that are specifically for contractors and may be worth considering are:
Now, back to mortgages. A contractor Mortgage Adviser will calculate your income by:
taking your day or hourly rate, and
multiplying this by how many days or hours you work a week
Then, once they calculate your weekly income, they will multiply this by how many weeks you work a year. Usually, this will be between 46 and 48 weeks per year. The resulting figure deemed to be your annual salary.How much you can borrow for your contractor mortgage depends on your ‘affordability basis.’ In the simplest terms, mortgage lenders will take into consideration your income and your outgoings. As a rough guide, you can look to borrow anywhere from 3 to 5 times your annual gross income.For example, if your day rate is £500 and you work five days a week, your annual salary will be around £115,000 to £120,000. In turn, this means that you can roughly borrow £345,000 to £600,000. It will depend on how many weeks you work in a year.
The evidence that you need for a Contractor mortgage:
Please note, the types of ID that you will need when you apply for a contractor mortgage are:
A contract extension (if you have less than three months remaining on your contract)
Three months of business bank statements
Typically, a mortgage will last around 20 to 25 years. The same will apply with a mortgage for contractors. However, this can vary due to several factors. These include age, retirement plans, and monthly mortgage repayments. When you set up your contractor mortgage, you will decide the term (the length of the mortgage) according to your chosen repayment plan. The longer the term is, the lower the monthly repayment will be.You can still apply for a contractor mortgage, even if you have just started contracting. There needs to be evidence that you are in the same line of work, and you are in the same industry. It is key that you get an AIP (agreement in principle) from a mortgage lender before you start house hunting. What’s more, an AIP is based upon a credit search and your income details, and this indicates how much they would lend to you. Although not set in stone, an AIP is a helpful guide and assurance for an agent. To sum up, it helps show that you can afford the property that you are viewing.
The different types of contractor mortgages:
First-time buyer Mortgage:
If you are a first-time buyer and are looking for your contractor mortgage, you are in a good position as many Government-backed schemes can help you purchase your first home.
Help to Buy ISA. By saving into a Help to Buy ISA, the Government will boost your savings by 25%. The maximum bonus you can receive is £3,000.
Help to Buy Equity Loan. By applying for the Equity Loan, the Government will lend you up to 20% of the cost of your newly built home. You will only need a 5% deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest.
Shared Ownership. The Shared Ownership scheme is a cross between buying a home and renting. You can own from a quarter to up to three-quarters of a property. As part of this, you will rent the remaining part of the property from the Government at a reduced rate.
Right to Buy. A Right to Buy scheme allows tenants who rent their homes from the local council to buy their home at a discount. The size of the discount depends on the area and the property type.
When considering a contractor mortgage, if you are looking to move to another property, or if your current mortgage deal has come to an end, you can consider Remortgaging. This process is switching onto a new mortgage deal, whether it be with the same provider or a different lender. In doing so, you could save money in the long run. You could also request to borrow more for home improvements.
Buy to Let Mortgage:
Buy to Let mortgages are available for contracting landlords. These will allow them to borrow money to buy properties to let. It is important to note, though, unlike normal mortgages, buy to let mortgages are on an interest-only basis. In turn, this means that for each month of the mortgage term, you will only need to pay interest on the loan. The amount that you have borrowed will have to be paid back at the end of the term. It can be good in the short term as your outgoings will be less each month. It is key, though, that you have a plan in place to pay off the loan or refinance at the end of your mortgage term.In contrast, with a ‘normal’ mortgage, your monthly repayments will cover the interest and a portion of the debt. As a result, over the mortgage term (and assuming you meet every repayment), the value of the loan will be paid back.
If you are a contractor and you are looking for a contractor mortgage or further mortgage advice, please feel free to speak to our trusted partners, Broadbench. Please note, the link above has currently expired and a new one will be replacing this very shortly.
Finally, I also have lots of other contractor tips that may be of interest to you.