Either way, we always remember that the key factor is to generate wealth and be able to access it as easily and as tax efficiently as possible. We keep this in the forefront of our mind when advising businesses owners, so that cash is not stockpiled in the wrong place whilst ensuring that clients have access to the funds in their business when they need it. Ideally, this is all done, without triggering unnecessary tax bills. But, to take money out of a profitable business, there are some fundamental principles to remember.
Principally, the business should have a separate bank account to the business owner and the money in this account isn’t yours until you ‘pay it’ to yourself. Business funds should be kept separate from personal finances and treated like they are someone else’s.
How the business was initially set up and funded will also have an impact on the remuneration plan we create for a business owner. At Cypher we generally deal with business owners of private limited companies. As a separate legal entity, limited companies not only protect their owners from certain liabilities, but stand to be more tax efficient than sole traders.
1: Director’s Loans v Share Capital
For start-up limited companies, the distinction between a director’s loan and share capital is something we spend quite a lot of time discussing. This is a concept that trips up so many new business owners so it is vital they get a handle on how their director’s loan works and why it’s so important.
A typical scenario might be that to set up a business and fund it for the first five to six months, a director or owner transfers a payment of around £15,000, into the company bank account. Generally, we would advise that they DON’T put this in as share capital (i.e. create 15,000 £1 shares), when they set the company up.
If a business owner invests their £15,000 in this way, this money belongs to the business; it is sunk, dead, and is not coming back to them until the company is closed down. Instead, what they should do is create a single £1 share and invest the remaining £14,999 as a director’s loan – a loan from them to the company. As and when funds are available, this loan can then be repaid, tax free, to the business owner.
If, once the business is profitable, they want to take funds out of their company, they have the option of taking dividends (the first £2k of which is tax free, the rest taxed at either 7.5% or more) or repaying the director’s loan.
Generally, the most tax efficient strategy comes from a mix of dividends and directors loan repayments. We do advise a note of caution here, as this is an area that can cause difficulty for some business owners.
If a business owner provides a start-up loan and then begins to draw on these funds, monthly as part of their remuneration package this is fine in itself, but, if the company stops making a profit, and the owner/director continues to take this same amount then the directors loan account could end up overdrawn (i.e. the business is now loaning money to the director!). This could result in a 32.5% Corporation Tax charge if it’s not managed correctly, so it’s really important to talk to your accountant about your director’s loan balance regularly.
2. Directors salaries
Business owners running a limited company must remember that the revenue and profits they generate are NOT their money, it is the company’s money until they pay themselves a salary or take funds out as dividends.
If a business owner intends to pay themselves or any other employees more than £113 a week, they should first register for a payroll scheme with HMRC. If you use Xero to run your business accounts you can use its inbuilt payroll module to create the payslips and file the monthly reports with HMRC.
If you would like advice on setting up a payroll scheme or with running your ongoing payroll then get in touch with our experts today
Typically, most directors’ start on a salary of around £9,500 a year, which we recommend businesses put through as payroll. This amount is below the threshold for personal tax, and National Insurance Contributions (NIC). Business owners avoid paying Income Tax and NIC, but they still qualify for the State Pension and benefit entitlements because they earn above the Lower Earnings Limit of £6,204/year. The company then saves 19% Corporation Tax; this is the same for every director that contributes to the business.
After wages or loan capital, assuming the business is profitable, further funds can be taken out as dividends. Dividends represent the distribution of corporate profits to shareholders, based on the number of shares each holds in the company. This is an important point to note, as any dividends paid out need to be in proportion to share ownership. If it is a 50/50 split, then one director can’t be paid 100% of the dividends.
It is worth knowing that the first £2,000 taken out as dividends is tax free; the balance is taxed at the dividend version of your marginal rate which is 7.5% or 27.5% depending on your level of taxation. If a business director decides to take the minimum allowance as a salary and instead take the majority of their funds out of the business as dividends, then to understand the level of dividends a company can yield, first we have to understand what profit the business is expected to make over the 12 months of its financial year and how this will affect cash flow.
To help business owners plan the remuneration they can or need to take out of a business, we spend a lot of time with start-ups building them a basic remuneration plan. Often a new business owner will have some funds to survive on for the first five to six months, but we also advise them to still take a salary even if it is at the lowest rate. This is sensible for tax planning.
Then in month nine of a business’s financial year, we offer a pre year-end review, which is a service we provide for all clients. This means that clients get tax advice before the year end, rather than after year end. You can do little to affect it in month 13 because it has already happened.
By month nine we can forecast a more robust remuneration plan, identifying the real levels of profit a business is likely to make. We know we are taking out £9,500 for salary, we need to keep around 20% back for corporation tax, which leaves a dividend of ‘x’ that a business owner can then take out of the business.
Having a business plan and a remuneration plan enables a business owner, particularly a start-up, to have confidence that they can survive the first year and understand the levels of income they can expect. Tying all their funds up in their business may not be feasible with other household bills to pay.