An easy way to reduce a business’s tax bill – and also increase the amount of funds withdrawn from the business – is to put a family member on the payroll. Of course, the salary must be for genuine work (emphasis on this point!!), with any tax saving dependent on the overall tax position.
Such salary arrangements are most beneficial if they are in place from the start of a tax year, so right now is a good time to be looking at 2022/23.
When does this work?
Paying a salary to a spouse, partner or child at university makes sense if the recipient is not using their personal allowance. A tax-free salary can be paid, with the business or company receiving a corresponding deduction in calculating their trading profit. For a sole trader, the saving could be as high as 63.25% if caught in the personal allowance tax trap.
However, there will also be a saving if the recipient is using their personal allowance but has a lower marginal tax rate than their self-employed spouse, partner or parent. With a company, there is currently no advantage to taking a salary in this situation, but there will be from April 2023 when higher corporate tax rates come into effect.
One important point to remember is that the salary must actually be paid out for the work, so it should be payrolled and transferred into the family member’s personal bank account.
How much to pay?
There are two main restrictions:
- The amount of salary must be commensurate with the work done; HMRC will refuse a tax deduction if no work or little work is undertaken. Work will obviously depend on the recipient’s skill set, but bookkeeping, payroll, marketing, or website maintenance might be options; and
- Keeping the national insurance contribution (NIC) cost to a minimum. With employee and employer NICs set to be 13.25% and 15.05% respectively from April, these can easily wipe out any tax saving. An annual salary for 2022/23 of between £6,396 and £9,880 will mean no employee NICs and will also give the recipient a year’s contribution towards the State pension. Paying up to the annual personal allowance of £12,570 can work if employer NICs are covered by the employment allowance.
HMRC’s approach to allowing a deduction for salary paid to dependents and close relatives can be found here.
A caveat to anyone interested in this article’s content: do make sure you seek professional advice before embarking on this strategy, as getting it wrong could have severe consequences for you and/or your business.