An Umbrella Company is often where a freelancer will first dip a toe into the world of contracting. It is quick to register, requires very little administration and is particularly suitable for short-term contracts.
The Umbrella Company acts as your employer, so even though you are contracting, you are classed as a permanent employee in the eyes of HMRC. The Umbrella is responsible for all taxes, levies and deductions from your pay – you will only ever receive your net take-home pay. Because of this, there is little flexibility in how much you can take home (although in certain circumstances you can claim limited expenses to reduce your tax liability).
As well as their own margin, an Umbrella will deduct PAYE tax, National Insurance, Employer’s National Insurance and the Apprenticeship Levy. They are also responsible for pension and holiday pay deductions, as well as Student Loan payments. Once all this is taken care of, you can expect to take home 60-65% of your contract income, depending on your rate.
Watch out! Since all employers calculate pay in the same way, any Umbrella claiming to offer substantially higher take-home pay is likely to be non-compliant and putting you at risk of a tax bill in the future.
The figures above are an illustration only, using a series of assumptions based on common working patterns. Please find the assumptions here. Your actual take home pay will depend on a variety of factors – for a breakdown of these figures and a bespoke pay illustration, please call us on 01442 795 100 or email email@example.com.
Factors that affect your umbrella take home pay.
All compliant Umbrella Companies calculate your pay in the same way. If you see a take-home pay calculation that gives a noticeably higher figure than others, beware! It’s likely the Umbrella is either factoring in a large amount of expenses into your payment or operating a tax avoidance scheme. Although you will see the benefit in the short term, HMRC are aggressively pursuing users of tax avoidance schemes to reclaim unpaid tax and NICs.
The only factor that should affect your take-home pay is the Umbrella Company’s margin. This margin covers all the Umbrella Company’s operations – you should consider the following when looking at the margin:
How am I paid? Some Umbrella Companies offer same-day payments as standard, others don’t and will charge you extra if you want your money in your account the same day they process payment. As we run a payroll every single working day, providing cleared funds are received into our bank account by 9am, we will make payment to you the same day.
Is the margin fixed? Some Umbrellas use a fixed weekly margin, so you know exactly what will be deducted. Others charge a percentage of your invoice value – which can get expensive on higher rates!
What is the service like? Does the Umbrella promise a good level of service and do they actually deliver it? Do they provide a dedicated member of staff for your to deal with, or will you be explaining who you are and what you do every time you call?
Are they compliant? Don’t just take the Umbrella’s word for it – look for awards, accreditations and badges of compliance for peace of mind.
Are they established? A reputable, long-running Umbrella means your money is in safe hands. It is a sad fact that some fly-by-night Umbrella Companies have disappeared along with contractors’ hard-earned money, so don’t take a risk on an unknown operator.
Our award-winning sister company, Contractor Umbrella, are one of the longest-running and most respected names in the industry. If you’d like to know more, visit their website or give them a call on 01206 761 326.
If you think a Limited Company might be a more suitable option, have a look at our Limited or Umbrella guide, give one of our specialist contractor accountants a call on 01442 795 100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once established or committed to a long-term career in contracting, the vast majority of freelancers set up a Limited Company to handle their income. The main reason is simple – although requiring a bit more admin, the tax advantages mean that a much greater proportion of your hard-earned money ends up in your pocket.
A Limited Company is a separate entity to you – you act as sole Director of the company. With a good accountant, there are ample opportunities for tax planning. Income is typically split between salary and dividends, in a tax-efficient manner. There are also a wider range of allowable business expenses, which reduce your tax liabilities further – see our contractor expenses guide for more information.
A contractor operating through a Limited company can expect to take home 75-85% of their contract income – there is more variation depending on your circumstances and working patterns, but even with minimal expenses it is a more tax-efficient way of working.
Watch out! If you’re contracting in the public sector or working in the same manner as an employee, you could be caught by IR35 legislation. This can have a negative impact on your take-home pay.
For a guideline on what you could take home, check out our online pay calculator. For a bespoke calculation, or just for a bit more information, give one of our specialist contractor accountants a call on 01442 795 100 or drop us a line at email@example.com.