How Much Tax Do UK Limited Companies Pay?

The tax rules and obligations of limited companies in England and Wales differ from those of sole trader and partnership businesses. If you own a limited company then it is important to understand how tax is calculated to ensure ongoing compliance with the company tax regime. Limited companies pay Corporation Tax of between 19% and 25% depending upon how much profit they make each year. Furthermore, Value Added Tax (VAT) and employer’s National Insurance contributions (NIC) may also be payable to HMRC. In this article we will explain how much tax limited companies pay, the penalties for late payments and how to reduce company tax liabilities. 

Understanding the Basics of UK Limited Company Taxation

Corporation Tax is the principal tax for limited companies in the UK and is payable on taxable profit. Limited companies are legally required to register with HMRC for Corporation Tax within three months of starting their business activities. The corporation tax registration process involves sending details of the company’s structure, activities and accounting reference date to HMRC. The Accounting Reference Date (ARD) for new companies is the last day of the month in which the first anniversary of incorporation falls. For example, if a company was incorporated on 7th January 2023 then its first ARD is 31st January 2024. The company must then make its accounts up to 7 days on either side of its ARD.

How Corporation Tax Applies to UK Limited Companies

Corporation tax is payable on any profit made from the income of a limited company within a specific accounting period. This applies to profit made on income from trading, investment and capital gains. 

It is crucial for businesses to forecast and calculate accurately their taxable profits to ensure that they comply with HMRC’s taxation regime. This requires an understanding of the rates of Corporation Tax in addition to any eligible deductions, allowances and reliefs that can reduce how much tax must be paid overall. Working closely with a trusted professional accountant or tax advisor is essential in correctly calculating and reducing a company’s tax liabilities. 

The Current Corporation Tax Rate for UK Limited Companies

The current standard rates of Corporation Tax that apply to UK limited companies are as follows:

ProfitRate
Under £50,00019% (this is the “small profits rate”)
Between £50,000 and £250,000Marginal relief provides a gradual increase in Corporation Tax rate between 19% and 25%. HMRC provides an online calculator to work out how much marginal relief is available for Corporation Tax. 
Over £250,00025% (this is the “main rate”)

How to calculate your limited company’s taxable profits

Taxable profit is the amount of money made by a limited company minus any allowable business expenses such as stock, rent, utilities and wages. It is also important to note that limited companies in the UK pay Corporation Tax on all profits both from the UK and from business overseas. 

For the purposes of calculating taxable profits, allowable expenses are costs that a limited company pays either wholly or exclusively for the purpose of its trade. These may include, for example, rent, utilities, salaries, uniforms, IT costs and any other essential business expenditure. In addition, certain capital allowances may apply to reduce further the amount of Corporation Tax payable to HMRC. Capital allowances, including the Annual Investment Allowance, let businesses deduct the cost of certain assets – such as equipment and machinery – from taxable profits.

There are several steps in calculating a limited company’s taxable profits:

  1. Calculate the total amount of revenue for the tax year;
  2. Deduct the cost of any business expenses (e.g. travel, electricity, water and rent) and then:
  3. Deduct any pension contributions and gross salaries.

To ensure that your limited company’s taxable profits are correctly calculated, it is essential that you partner with a trusted accounting professional who can manage your annual Corporation Tax return. 

The role of Dividend Tax in Limited Company Taxation

The payment of dividends allows business owners and shareholders to take profits from a limited company, although tax must be paid on these amounts. Dividend tax is paid to HMRC only if the individual’s income exceeds their personal tax allowance (which is currently £12,570 p.a.). In addition to the standard personal tax allowance, those receiving dividends have also a dividend allowance of £1,000 p.a. (this applies in the tax period from 6th April 2023 to 5th April 2024). 

How much dividend tax must be paid depends on the total amount of dividends received in the tax year, as follows:

Tax bandDividend amountDividend tax rate
Basic rate£12,571 to £50,2708.75%
Higher rate£50,271 to £125,14033.75%
Additional rateOver £125,14039.35% 

Understanding VAT and How it Affects Limited Companies

Value Added Tax (VAT) must be paid by businesses with a turnover for the last 12 months of £85,000 (the VAT threshold) or more. Limited companies are also required to register for VAT if they expect turnover to exceed £85,000 in the next 30 days, even if this has not yet happened. In turn, VAT-registered limited companies charge VAT on their sales. 

VAT owed can be reduced by reclaiming VAT on allowable business expenses. There are also different VAT schemes, including the Flat Rate Scheme and the Cash Accounting Scheme, which offer businesses flexibility in how they manage their VAT obligations. 

The Affect of Business Rates on your Limited Company

Limited companies that operate from commercial premises, such as an office, shop, licensed premises, warehouse, factory or holiday rental home, should be aware of their obligations to pay business rates. Business rates are charged by and payable to local authorities, rather than HMRC, based on a “rateable value” (the open market rental value as of 1st April 2021). The rateable value is calculated by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and depends upon the property’s location and value. If you believe that your rateable value is too high then you should inform the VOA as soon as you can. 

Various business rate relief schemes also apply in England and Wales to reduce the amount payable. Such schemes include the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) for businesses with a low rateable value or other sector-specific reliefs. 

How to Pay your Limited Company’s Tax Bill

The deadline for paying Corporation Tax is nine months and one day after the end of the accounting period for the last financial year. For example, if the accounting period ends on 30th April then the corporation tax payment deadline will be 1st February of the following year. 

Corporation tax can be paid to HMRC by various methods including direct bank transfer, online payment, direct debit or at a bank or building society. 

Consequences of Late or Non-Payment of Company Taxes

Late or non-payment of taxes can have negative consequences for a limited company. Depending upon the circumstances, HMRC may levy penalties and interest charges, which may increase the total that is owed. HMRC provides options for businesses facing financial challenges, such as setting up payment plans or negotiating time-to-pay arrangements. 

The penalties for late payment are as follows:

Time after deadlinePenalty
1 day£100
3 monthsAnother £100
6 monthsHMRC will estimate the Corporation Tax owed and add a penalty of 10% 
12 monthsAnother 10% of any unpaid tax

One may sometimes appeal against a penalty for late payment if there is a reasonable excuse (e.g. serious illness or the death of a close family member).

Tax planning strategies for UK limited companies

Using all of the available tax reliefs and allowances and staying informed about changes in tax legislation can help businesses reduce their tax liabilities. Tax planning strategies may include:

  • Tax-efficient ways to extract profits.
  • Using research and development (R&D) tax credits.
  • Optimising capital allowances – e.g. using the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) and First-Year Allowances (FYA). 

Given the range of tax allowances and credits available for limited companies, it is important to seek the expertise of an accountant who understands the tax rules and will reflect these properly within your annual accounts and returns. 

Final Words

The company tax regime in the UK is evolving constantly. A corporate tax strategy that works today may not be effective in the future. Hence, it is important to review regularly how your tax is calculated and how this may affect important business decisions. Effectively managing UK limited company taxation involves having a solid grasp of Corporation Tax, VAT and business rates. It is also important to understand the wide range of allowances and deductions that can legally reduce how much corporation tax must be paid. Limited company owners also need to comply with their legal obligations to keep accurate financial records and ensure that filing and payments are completed by the deadlines given by HMRC. By partnering with a knowledgeable, trustworthy and expert company accountant you can relax in the knowledge that your corporation tax is fully in hand and as efficient as possible. 

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