Five taxes you should know about when running a small business

Emily Coltman presents the key taxes small companies should know inside out. 

 Five taxes you should know about when running a small business

Emily Coltman presents the key taxes small companies should know inside out.

When you’re running your own business, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll have to pay some kind of tax at some point.

But with so many complicated tax rules currently in place in the UK, it can be difficult to know exactly which ones apply to you or your business, and which types of tax you’ll actually have to pay to HMRC.

Here are the five common taxes you might have to pay as a small business owner.

(NB, All the limits and thresholds in this article are for the tax year 2014/15.)

Income tax

If you’re a sole trader, you’ll pay income tax on your business’s profit. Assuming you don’t have any other income, such as salary from a job, as well as what your business makes, then you’ll start paying income tax on your business’s profit once it goes over the personal allowance, which is £10,600 if you’re under 75.

If your business is a limited company, you could pay income tax on any salary or dividends you take from the company. Whether you pay income tax, and how much you pay, depends on how much you take out. Income tax kicks in on your salary if it’s over £10,600, you’re under 75 and you have no other income. If your circumstances are different – say you have another job as well as working for your own company – then you may start paying income tax on your salary sooner. If you’re paying income tax on your salary, your employer, in this case your own company, will deduct it from your salary under the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) scheme. PAYE isn’t a tax in its own right, it’s a method HMRC use to collect income tax.

National Insurance

While not strictly a tax, National Insurance (NI) is money that’s paid to the government, so it’s often referred to as a tax in all but name!

Sole traders pay two kinds of NI. If you’re a sole trader, you’ll pay a flat weekly rate of NI called Class 2 NI, unless your business’s profits are under the Small Profits Threshold, which is £5,965.  Class 2 NI is £2.80 per week. If your business’s profits are under the Small Profits Threshold, you can still pay Class 2 NI voluntarily, to protect your entitlement to State Pension and other benefits.  You’ll also pay Class 4 NI once your business’s profits go over £8,060.  Class 4 NI is worked out as a percentage of your business’s profit.

The government have proposed to combine Class 2 and Class 4 NI from April 2016, but the details of this have yet to be worked out.

If your business is a limited company, and the company’s paying you a salary of £8,060 or more, then it’ll have to deduct Class 1 employee’s NI from your wages and pay that over to HMRC. The company will also have to pay Class 1 employer’s NI to HMRC unless that’s covered by the employment allowance.

Corporation tax

Limited companies pay corporation tax on their profits. There’s no equivalent of the personal allowance for limited companies, so as soon as a company makes any profit, unless it’s previously made losses, it will start paying corporation tax.

Corporation tax is 20 per cent for all companies, and it’s payable nine months and one day after the company’s accounting year end so, for example, a company with a year end of March 31st will have to pay its corporation tax by 1st January.

Sole traders do not pay corporation tax.


No matter what kind of business you have, sole trader, partnership, LLP or limited company; if your business makes VATable sales of more than £82,000 a year, you’ll have to register your business for VAT.

‘VATable sales’ mean sales of goods or services that would have had VAT charged on them if made by a VAT-registered business. VAT might be 20 per cent, the standard rate, 5 per cent the reduced rate, or sometimes even 0 per cent.

Business rates

If your business operates from office or retail premises, then you may have to pay business rates; this is like council tax, but for business properties.

Some premises are automatically exempt from business rates, such as farm buildings, and others may be entitled to business rates relief.

If you run your business from home, you won’t usually have to pay business rates as well as council tax, unless you employ staff who also come and work at your home, or you sell goods or services from your home to visiting customers, or you have adapted your home to work there (such as converting your garage or shed to a dog grooming parlour), or your property is part business and part domestic, for example you run a pub and live above it.

If you’re in any doubt about what taxes your business might be subject to and when you might have to pay them, speak to your accountant or HMRC for help.

Emily Coltman FCA is chief accountant at FreeAgent

Does your business turn over between £50,000 and £500,000? If so, you are eligible for the new Small Business Grants initiative from We’re giving away £5,000 every month in a free-to-enter competition. Apply now by clicking here. Good luck!

Further reading on accounts and tax

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