Main taxes that apply to small businesses

Small businesses face a number of taxes that they – and their directors – must pay. Here’s our guide to the small business taxes you should understand.

Small businesses in the UK are subject to a number of taxes, depending on the performance of your business and the activities it carries out. Make sure you know which ones your business must calculate and pay to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) so you’re not caught out. Missing tax deadlines can lead to a hefty fine from HMRC, as well as interest on any overdue taxes. From Corporation Tax to VAT, here are the main taxes small business owners should know.

Corporation Tax

Corporation Tax is paid by limited companies only and is calculated as a percentage of a business’ profits or taxable income – generally, money the business makes after deducting all allowances, tax relief and expenses such as salaries.

Corporation Tax is self-assessed – the company works out how much Corporation Tax it owes and files the return with HMRC, along with payment for the tax it owes. Corporation Tax is due for payment nine months after the end of the business’s accounting period or year end.

Corporation Tax is currently set at 20% of company profits, with the government reducing this to 19% in April 2017 and 17% in April 2020.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

If your small business sells products and services, then it may need to start charging Value Added Tax, or VAT. This is a tax that applies to most products and services sold in the UK, although some products and services – such as publications – can be except or have a lower VAT rate.

In general, VAT is set at 20% of the price a customer buys the product or service. You can register your business for VAT at any time, but legally you must register your business for VAT when your turnover exceeds £85,000. VAT is charged to customers as a separate amount on an invoice, and is then paid to HMRC on a quarterly basis. Once registered for VAT, you can claim back any VAT the business pays on products on services.

National Insurance

If your business employs staff then you must pay National Insurance contributions. These are paid directly to HMRC when the business pays staff salaries, and include several classes of National Insurance.

As a director of a limited company, you’re treated as an employee and are liable to Class 1 NICs, and your company has to also pay Class 1 NICs as well. Employees pay 12% on earnings between £155 and £827, and 2% on higher earnings. Employers pay 13.8% on earnings above £156.

Sole traders pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from their income in the form of Class 2 and Class 4 NICs. Class 2 NICs are £2.80 per week and payable by anyone earning more than £5,965 per year from self employment. Class 4 NICs are paid on profits you make as a sole trader, and are calculated at 9% of all earnings between £8,060 and £43,000 and 2% on earnings above £43,000.

Income tax

As a sole trader, you must pay income tax based on the profits of your business. You’ll start paying income tax once your profit goes above your personal tax allowance, which is £11,000 in 2017.

If you’re a company director of a small business, you pay income tax on any salary you take from the business, and you’ll pay tax according to the same tax thresholds as any employee in a company. Income tax is usually collected via PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and paid directly to HMRC on the 22nd of each month.

Business rates

Depending on the type of business you run and its office location, your company may need to pay business rates. Business rates are usually applied if you operate your business from dedicated premises, such as a shop or office. Business rates operate like Council Tax, and different businesses may have to pay different rates – there are also lots of business tax relief schemes and grants available.

If you run your business from home and don’t have visiting customers, or have not converted part of your home for the dedicated business activity, then you should not generally have to pay business rates.

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