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How Does a Subcontractor Pay Tax, in the UK?

Updated: Feb 6


Overview of Subcontractor Taxation in the UK

The UK Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) plays a pivotal role in how subcontractors pay tax. This scheme, primarily focusing on construction work, requires contractors to deduct money from a subcontractor’s payments and pass it to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). These deductions are considered advance payments towards the subcontractor’s tax and National Insurance.


How Does a Subcontractor Pay Tax, in the UK

1. CIS Scheme and Subcontractor Registration

Under the CIS, both contractors and subcontractors have distinct roles and responsibilities. While it is mandatory for contractors to register for the scheme, it's optional for subcontractors. However, unregistered subcontractors are subject to higher deduction rates from their payments. Registering as a subcontractor, whether you are self-employed, a partner in a business partnership, or the owner of a limited company, can lead to lower deduction rates and easier tax management.


2. Deduction Rates and Gross Payment Status

A standard deduction rate of 20% applies for registered subcontractors. However, those not registered under the CIS face a higher 30% deduction rate. Subcontractors can apply for Gross Payment Status (GPS), allowing them to receive payments without deductions. To qualify for GPS, subcontractors must satisfy criteria related to turnover, business operation, and compliance with tax obligations.


3. Impending Changes from April 2024

Significant changes to the CIS are expected from April 2024, especially concerning GPS. Subcontractors will need to demonstrate compliance with VAT obligations to maintain GPS. Moreover, the grounds for immediate removal of GPS will include suspicion of fraud involving VAT, Corporation Tax, Income Tax, and Pay As You Earn.


4. Tax Responsibilities and Statements

Regardless of their registration status under CIS, subcontractors must fulfill their tax obligations. They are responsible for paying the correct amount of taxation and National Insurance contributions for their business. Monthly statements from contractors, detailing payments and deductions, are crucial for subcontractors to manage their accounts and fulfill tax responsibilities.


5. Sole Traders and Limited Companies Under CIS

For sole traders, the Self Assessment tax return is the primary method to report income and claim back any deductions made by contractors. Limited companies, on the other hand, claim back CIS deductions through their monthly payroll scheme and must maintain records of these deductions.


6. Impact of VAT Reverse Charge

Since March 2021, the construction sector has been under a VAT reverse charge mechanism. This system shifts the obligation to account for VAT from the supplier of construction services to the recipient, closely aligning with CIS regulations. Subcontractors need to be aware of how this impacts their VAT obligations and CIS processes.


Navigating the CIS as a subcontractor in the UK requires an understanding of the registration process, deduction rates, upcoming changes in 2024, and fulfilling tax responsibilities. While contractors handle a portion of the tax obligations through deductions, subcontractors must manage their accounts and ensure compliance with HMRC requirements. Staying informed and prepared for the changes in 2024 is crucial for subcontractors operating in the construction industry.


Detailed Tax Compliance and Management for Subcontractors in the UK


1. Understanding CIS Deductions and Reporting

Subcontractors under the CIS scheme experience deductions from their payments by contractors. These deductions, which count as advance payments towards the subcontractor’s tax and National Insurance, vary based on registration status in the scheme. For registered subcontractors, the standard deduction is 20%, while it rises to 30% for those not registered. It's imperative for subcontractors to ensure they receive deduction statements from contractors, as these are crucial for accurate tax reporting.


2. Managing Taxes as a Sole Trader or Partnership

For sole traders and partners in a business partnership, managing taxes involves submitting a Self Assessment tax return to HMRC. This process includes reporting the full amounts invoiced as income and any CIS deductions made by contractors. HMRC then calculates the tax and National Insurance due, taking into account these deductions. It's vital for sole traders and partnerships to maintain meticulous records of all income and deductions for accurate tax reporting.


3. Tax Compliance for Limited Companies

Limited companies under the CIS must claim back any paid CIS deductions through their monthly payroll scheme and not through the Corporation Tax return, as the latter can incur financial penalties. This process includes sending monthly Full Payment Submission (FPS) to HMRC and an Employer Payment Summary (EPS) detailing the total CIS deductions. HMRC will then offset these deductions against the company’s PAYE tax and National Insurance liabilities. It's crucial for limited companies to keep detailed records of amounts claimed back against the PAYE bill.


4. Annual Compliance Review and Changes in GPS

The HMRC conducts an annual compliance review to determine if subcontractors still qualify for GPS. The upcoming changes in 2024 will introduce VAT returns and payments into the compliance test for GPS. Subcontractors must ensure their VAT compliance to maintain or apply for GPS. The first compliance check for GPS holders will be brought forward to six months after application, and there will be a shift to digital applications for GPS.


5. Special Considerations for Overseas Businesses

Businesses based outside the UK but undertaking construction work in the UK must adhere to the same CIS rules. They should be aware of how to register and pay tax if operating as a contractor or subcontractor within the UK construction industry.


6. Keeping Up with Legislative Changes

Staying informed about legislative changes is crucial for subcontractors. The Autumn Statement 2023 announced that certain contributions between landlords and tenants will be taken outside the scope of CIS, effective from 1 April 2024. Additionally, the VAT reverse charge on construction services, effective since March 2021, has brought significant changes in VAT compliance for subcontractors.


For subcontractors in the UK’s construction industry, understanding and managing tax obligations under the CIS is essential. This includes staying compliant with CIS deductions, handling taxes as a sole trader, partnership, or limited company, and keeping abreast of legislative changes and compliance requirements. Adapting to the upcoming changes in 2024, particularly regarding VAT obligations and GPS, will be critical for maintaining smooth operations and ensuring tax compliance.

Strategic Tax Planning and Best Practices for Subcontractors


1. Navigating Changes in CIS and VAT Compliance

The 2024 updates to the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) and the incorporation of VAT compliance into the Gross Payment Status (GPS) criteria mark a significant shift in tax management for subcontractors. To navigate these changes effectively, subcontractors need to rigorously maintain their tax and VAT records, ensuring that all returns and payments are correct and submitted by their respective deadlines. This proactive approach not only safeguards their GPS but also positions them to respond quickly to any legislative changes.


2. Optimizing Tax Position with Gross Payment Status

For subcontractors, obtaining and retaining Gross Payment Status is a strategic advantage. It allows them to receive payments without tax deductions, which can significantly aid in cash flow management. However, with the new emphasis on VAT compliance for GPS, subcontractors must be vigilant in their VAT affairs. Ensuring accurate and timely VAT returns becomes not just a compliance issue but a strategic necessity to maintain favorable payment terms under the CIS.


3. Leveraging Digital Tools for Compliance and Efficiency

The shift towards digital applications for GPS and the introduction of automated compliance checks six months post-application underscore the importance of leveraging technology. Subcontractors should adopt digital tools and software to streamline their tax filing processes, maintain accurate records, and ensure timely submission of all tax-related documents. This digital adoption not only aligns with HMRC’s evolving processes but also enhances operational efficiency.


4. Staying Informed on CIS Refunds and Claims

Subcontractors must be aware of their rights and processes related to CIS refunds and claims. If they have overpaid taxes due to CIS deductions, they are entitled to claim refunds. This requires maintaining accurate records of payments and deductions and understanding the claim process. Regularly reviewing and reconciling their tax accounts helps identify any opportunities for refunds, ensuring they are not financially disadvantaged.


5. Preparing for Annual Reviews and Compliance Checks

HMRC's annual review of GPS status necessitates that subcontractors prepare thoroughly. This involves not only ensuring compliance with tax obligations but also having documentation and records ready for review. Subcontractors should periodically assess their tax affairs, seeking advice from tax professionals if necessary, to ensure they meet all requirements for maintaining their GPS.


6. Best Practices for Financial Health

Adopting best practices such as regular financial reviews, engaging with tax advisors, and staying updated on tax legislation are essential for the financial health of subcontractors. These practices enable them to make informed decisions, optimize their tax position, and reduce the risk of non-compliance penalties.


For UK subcontractors, 2024 brings significant changes in tax regulations under the CIS. Navigating these changes requires a strategic approach to tax planning, leveraging digital tools for efficiency, staying informed on CIS refunds and claims, and preparing for compliance reviews. By adopting best practices and staying adaptable to legislative changes, subcontractors can maintain a favorable tax position and ensure the financial health of their businesses in the dynamic UK construction industry.


Subcontractor Tax Calculator


How Subcontractor Pays Tax in the UK - A Step by Step Guide

Navigating the tax system as a subcontractor in the UK involves more than just understanding the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). It's about practical steps in managing your tax affairs efficiently. This guide will walk you through the essentials, avoiding repetition from previous discussions.

Step 1:

Record Keeping Start by diligently maintaining financial records. This includes invoices, receipts, bank statements, and CIS deduction statements. Good record-keeping is not only mandatory but helps you track your financial health and prepare for tax submissions.

Step 2:

Understanding Personal Allowances and Tax Bands Be aware of your personal allowance – the amount of income you can earn before you start paying Income Tax. Also, understand the different tax bands, as your tax rate depends on which band your income falls into.

Step 3:

Accounting for Business Expenses Identify and record allowable business expenses. These can reduce your taxable profit. Common examples include costs of tools, equipment, and business-related travel. Understanding what qualifies as an allowable expense is crucial for accurate tax computation.

Step 4:

Dealing with Invoices and Payments Issue invoices for your work and ensure they include all necessary details. When you receive payments, record them against the respective invoices. This will help you keep a clear track of income for tax purposes.

Step 5:

Understanding and Handling VAT If you're VAT-registered, you need to account for VAT on your invoices. Understand the implications of the VAT domestic reverse charge for construction services, ensuring you're charging and reporting VAT correctly.

Step 6:

Preparing for Self Assessment Tax Returns Gather all your financial records, including CIS statements, at the end of the tax year. Use these to fill out your Self Assessment tax return. Ensure you declare all income and claim any allowable expenses.

Step 7:

Making Payments on Account If you have a tax bill exceeding a certain limit, you may need to make payments on account. This involves paying part of your next tax bill in advance. Be prepared for these payments to manage your cash flow effectively.

Step 8:

Understanding National Insurance Contributions As a self-employed individual, you'll need to pay Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance Contributions, depending on your profits. Understand how these contributions are calculated and paid.

Step 9:

Exploring Tax Savings Options Consider legitimate tax-saving options. This could involve contributing to a pension scheme or other tax-efficient investments, which can reduce your taxable income.

Step 10:

Staying Updated on Tax Changes Tax laws and rates can change annually. Stay informed about any updates or changes that might affect your tax liabilities. This could involve subscribing to tax newsletters or consulting with a tax professional.

Step 11:

Seeking Professional Advice If you're unsure about any aspect of your tax responsibilities, consider consulting with a tax advisor. Professional advice can be invaluable in navigating complex tax issues and ensuring compliance.

Step 12:

Dealing with HMRC Enquiries If HMRC contacts you for any reason, respond promptly and accurately. If they inquire about your tax affairs, having well-maintained records will make it easier to address their queries.

Conclusion Paying taxes as a subcontractor in the UK involves a series of steps focused on accurate record-keeping, understanding tax regulations, managing invoices and expenses, and staying compliant with HMRC requirements. By following these steps, subcontractors can ensure they meet their tax obligations efficiently and avoid potential pitfalls.

Can Subcontractors under CIS Hire Their Own Subcontractors and If They Can, How Does It Affect the Tax Payment

Subcontractors under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) in the UK can indeed hire their own subcontractors. However, this arrangement impacts their tax payments and obligations significantly.

When a subcontractor hires another subcontractor, they assume the role of a contractor for CIS purposes. This means they are now responsible for making CIS deductions from the payments to their hired subcontractors. The rate of these deductions depends on the registration status of the hired subcontractors. Registered subcontractors are subject to a 20% deduction, while unregistered ones face a 30% deduction. However, if the hired subcontractor has Gross Payment Status (GPS), no deductions are made.

As a 'contractor' in this context, the subcontractor now has additional responsibilities. They must verify their hired subcontractors with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), using the subcontractor’s Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) and National Insurance number. This verification process helps determine the correct deduction rate for each subcontractor. After making deductions, these amounts must be paid to HMRC as advance payments towards the hired subcontractor's tax and National Insurance bill.

The subcontractor who has now become a contractor also needs to provide payment and deduction statements to their hired subcontractors. These statements detail the amounts paid and the deductions made, and must be issued within 14 days of the end of each tax month. They must also file monthly or quarterly returns to HMRC, declaring the details of payments made to subcontractors and any deductions withheld.

From a tax reporting perspective, the original subcontractor will need to include in their tax return the total sales income, which is the amount invoiced, not just the amount received after CIS deductions. This includes amounts for labor, materials, and any other costs. The amount of tax deducted under CIS should be included in the tax return, allowing HMRC to account for these advance payments in the overall tax calculation.

In summary, a subcontractor hiring their own subcontractors under CIS transforms into a contractor for tax purposes, with a responsibility to make CIS deductions, verify subcontractors, provide payment statements, and report these transactions to HMRC. This change in role requires careful management to ensure compliance with CIS regulations and accurate tax reporting.


Can Non-UK Residents Be Subcontractors Under the UK's CIS and How Does It Affect Tax Payments in the UK?

Yes, non-UK residents can operate as subcontractors under the UK's Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). However, there are specific registration and tax payment processes they must adhere to.

Registration Requirements for Non-UK Resident Subcontractors

Non-UK residents intending to work as subcontractors in the UK must register for the CIS. The registration process varies depending on the business structure:

  1. Sole Traders and Partnerships: Follow the same CIS rules as UK-based contractors and subcontractors.

  2. Limited Companies: Must register before commencing work. This process can take up to 6 weeks and requires certain documents, including a tax clearance certificate from the company's home country and a completed form 64-8 if an agent is working on their behalf.

Tax Implications for Non-UK Resident Subcontractors

Under the CIS, non-UK resident subcontractors are subject to the same tax deductions as UK-based subcontractors. This includes:

  • 20% tax deduction for registered subcontractors.

  • 30% tax deduction for unregistered subcontractors.

  • No deductions for subcontractors approved for gross payment status.

The withheld amounts by the contractor are paid to HMRC as advance payments towards the individual's income tax and National Insurance contributions for the relevant tax year.

Filing Tax Returns

Non-UK resident subcontractors are required to complete a Self Assessment tax return, similar to UK residents. They must include their total sales income, which is the amount invoiced, and not just the amount received after CIS deductions.

Claiming Tax Refunds

In cases where the amount withheld is greater than the actual tax and National Insurance liabilities, non-UK resident subcontractors can claim a refund. The claim process involves sending payment deduction statements to HMRC, which must include various details such as the subcontractor's name, address, UTR, full name, and address of the contractor, among others.

Key Points for Non-UK Resident Subcontractors

  • Ensure compliance with UK tax laws by timely registration for the CIS.

  • Keep accurate records of all payments, deductions, and business expenses for tax purposes.

  • Be prepared to handle the complexities of the UK tax system, possibly with the help of a tax professional.

In conclusion, while non-UK residents can work as subcontractors under the UK's CIS, they must navigate a specific set of registration requirements and tax obligations. Maintaining compliance with these rules is crucial to avoid any legal or financial complications.


How Can A Contractor Tax Accountant Help A Subcontractor With Tax Payment

How Can A Contractor Tax Accountant Help A Subcontractor With Tax Payment?

Hiring a contractor tax accountant can be immensely beneficial for subcontractors in the UK, particularly those working within the complexities of the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). Here are the key ways in which a tax accountant can assist:

  1. IR35 Compliance and Off-Payroll Working Rules: An accountant with expertise in IR35 can ensure compliance with these complex tax laws and regulations, helping subcontractors structure their contracts and financial affairs to avoid falling inside IR35, thereby minimizing tax liabilities and potential issues with HMRC.

  2. Utilizing Modern Technology and Tools: With the advent of Making Tax Digital, accountants using modern accounting software like FreeAgent or Xero can significantly streamline financial processes for subcontractors, ensuring efficiency and compliance.

  3. Time-Saving and Increased Efficiency: By handling financial management tasks, an accountant can free subcontractors from the time-consuming aspects of bookkeeping, tax filing, and compliance, allowing them to focus more on their core business activities.

  4. Financial Expertise and Compliance: Professional accountants provide expert advice on maximizing deductible expenses, navigating the tax landscape, and ensuring compliance with HMRC and Companies House requirements. They also offer strategic financial planning to align with the contractor's long-term goals.

  5. Risk Mitigation and Peace of Mind: An accountant not only reduces the risk of financial errors but also serves as a safeguard against potential HMRC inquiries. Accurate and up-to-date financial records maintained by an accountant minimize risks associated with non-compliance and discrepancies.

  6. Tax Efficiency: A contractor accountant can guide subcontractors on the most tax-efficient structure for their business, ensuring full compliance with HMRC regulations and helping them optimize their tax position.

  7. Guidance Whenever Needed: Accountants provide ongoing support and advice on financial and tax matters, helping subcontractors navigate complex financial decisions and maintain financial stability.

  8. Reduction in Errors: The meticulous attention to detail by an accountant significantly reduces the risk of errors in financial records and tax processes, ensuring accuracy and consistency in financial reporting.

  9. Meeting Strict Deadlines: Accountants help ensure that all financial documents and tax filings are prepared and submitted on time, thereby avoiding penalties for missed deadlines and maintaining a smooth financial operation.

  10. Specialized Services for Construction Industry: Accountants specializing in construction and subcontracting provide tailored services like company formation, HMRC registrations, VAT and PAYE filing assistance, and advice on tax-efficient structures and remunerations.

In summary, a contractor tax accountant offers invaluable support to subcontractors in the UK, particularly in navigating the complexities of tax laws, optimizing financial processes, and ensuring compliance and efficiency in all aspects of financial management. This partnership not only enhances the subcontractor’s financial health but also provides peace of mind and stability in their professional endeavors.


FAQs about "How Does a Subcontractor Pay Tax In the UK?"

Q1: Can a subcontractor under CIS claim travel expenses?

A: Yes, if they are wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business.

Q2: What happens if a subcontractor under CIS doesn't submit a tax return?

A: They can face penalties from HMRC for failing to submit a tax return.

Q3: Are subcontractors required to pay VAT on top of CIS deductions?

A: Yes, if they are VAT-registered. CIS deductions are separate from VAT obligations.

Q4: How do subcontractors verify their CIS status to contractors?

A: Through their Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number provided by HMRC upon registration.

Q5: Can subcontractors under CIS offset business losses against other income?

A: Yes, business losses can be offset against other income in certain circumstances.

Q6: Is it mandatory for subcontractors to use accounting software for CIS?

A: No, but it is advisable for ease of record-keeping and compliance.

Q7: What is the deadline for subcontractors to register for CIS?

A: There is no specific deadline, but they should register before they start working as a subcontractor.

Q8: Can subcontractors under CIS hire their own subcontractors?

A: Yes, but they must then act as contractors under CIS for their subcontractors.

Q9: How do subcontractors reclaim overpaid tax under CIS?

A: Through their Self Assessment tax return or by contacting HMRC directly.

Q10: What are the consequences of not complying with CIS rules?

A: Penalties can include fines and being removed from the CIS scheme.

Q11: Can non-UK residents be subcontractors under the UK's CIS?

A: Yes, but they must follow specific rules for registration and tax payments.

Q12: How does CIS affect a subcontractor's eligibility for certain tax credits?

A: CIS deductions can impact the income assessed for tax credits.

Q13: Are materials purchased by subcontractors subject to CIS deductions?

A: No, CIS deductions are made on the labor portion of the invoice only.

Q14: Can subcontractors appeal against CIS deductions made by contractors?

A: Yes, if they believe deductions are incorrect, they can appeal to HMRC.

Q15: What records must subcontractors keep under CIS?

A: Records of all payments, CIS deductions, expenses, and invoices for at least 6 years.

Q16: How does CIS interact with the Construction Reverse Charge VAT?

A: CIS and the Reverse Charge are separate; subcontractors need to understand both systems.

Q17: Can subcontractors under CIS opt for quarterly tax payments?

A: No, CIS deductions are handled on a per-payment basis by contractors.

Q18: What role does a subcontractor's tax code play in CIS?

A: Tax codes are not directly relevant in CIS; it's more about deduction rates.

Q19: Can subcontractors under CIS get refunds for over-deduction immediately?

A: Not immediately. They must wait for the end of the tax year or file a claim.

Q20: Are there any specific insurance requirements for subcontractors under CIS?

A: While not CIS-specific, appropriate business insurance is generally recommended.






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