As an owner of a limited company, often the most tax-efficient way of paying yourself is through a mix of a small salary and dividends. The small salary is usually set to minimise income tax and National Insurance.
For the 2020/21 tax year a tax-efficient salary would typically be between £8,788 and £12,500 for the majority of people. For guidance on choosing the best salary for your directors, take a look at our guide on choosing a tax efficient salary.
By taking a small salary, you ensure that your National Insurance contributions are up to date and you are tax efficient by taking the rest of the profits you make as dividends.
What are dividends?
Dividends are a distribution of profits by a company to its shareholders. Dividend payments must be taken after corporation tax on the company profits is accounted for.
Why are dividends tax efficient?
Dividends are taxed at a lower rate than salary and do not incur National Insurance.
After the company pays 19% Corporation Tax, in the 2020/21 tax year, a basic rate tax payer (with a personal taxable income* of £50,000 or less) will pay 7.5% Income Tax on the dividends received over £2,000; a higher rate tax payer (with a personal income* of more than £50,000) will pay 32.5% Income Tax on the dividends received over £50,000.
As dividend income is added to your other taxable income and taxed last, you pay tax on dividend income based on your highest income tax band. As you have a dividend allowance of £2,000 you will only be taxed on amounts above this allowance.
The tax to pay on income (including the dividends you pay yourself) is calculated at the end of the tax year via your self assessment tax return and paid by you personally.
When can you pay dividends?
You can distribute dividends any time and at any frequency throughout the year, providing there is enough profit in your company to do so. You need to ensure that all the dividend payments are covered by the company profits net of corporation tax. So what does this look like from a contractor or consultant’s point of view?
Income (minus the VAT if you are VAT registered) from contracts outside of IR35**
Less Expenditure (salary, employers NIC, all business expenses)
= Taxable profit
Less Corporation Tax @19%
=Maximum dividend available for distribution to shareholders
**A note on IR35 – Dividends cannot be taken on contracts falling within IR35. You must take all the income earned from these as salary. For more information on IR35, look at our IR35 guide. Any income from contracts falling inside IR35 must be treated separately.
Most contractors and small business owners pay dividends frequently throughout the year. All you need to do is ensure that the dividends you distribute are covered by the profits net of expected Corporation tax and that you leave enough cash within the business as operating capital to meet your future outgoings.
How do you pay dividends?
Every limited company has to ensure that they document the declaration of dividends appropriately. Here are the typical steps that are required before a dividend can be paid. This can be onerous if you have to produce the documentation yourself.
- Calculate the company profit available.
- Hold a director’s meeting and produce minutes documenting the dividend payment decision.
- Print and retain the minutes.
- Produce a dividend voucher detailing the dividend payment.
- Declare the dividend.
You can create a dividend and download the minutes and dividend voucher detailing the payment with a few simple clicks. Then all you need to do is make the payment to the shareholders.