Dividends vs remuneration: the corporation tax quandary

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For owner-managed companies, bonuses, dividends and remuneration will become yet more complex in the new tax year.

With the corporation tax increase and dividend rates now confirmed by the Government, the dividend vs remuneration decision for owner-managed companies is likely to become more complicated in 2023/24, particularly when it comes to bonuses.

Historically, it was preferable to extract company profits through dividends rather than through director’s remuneration. This is because of the national insurance contribution (NIC) cost attached to remuneration.

However, from 1 April 2023, there will be a substantial increase to the rate of corporation tax once profits hit £50,000. On profits between £50,000 and £250,000 the rate will be 26.5%, with the 19% rate only available for the first £50,000 of profits.

The bonus decision

The tax position will differ in each case, but let’s take a situation where a higher rate taxpayer wants to take a bonus of £40,000 from their company, which is in the 26.5% corporation tax bracket. The director has already used their tax free dividend allowance.

Dividend
After allowing for corporation tax, a dividend of £29,400 can be taken. Income tax on this will be £9,923, so the net income is £19,477.

Remuneration
After allowing for employer NICs (assuming the rate does not increase next year), the gross remuneration would be £35,149. After income tax and employee NICs are applied, the net income is £20,386.

In this case, remuneration is the beneficial option (and would be better still if some or all of the employment allowance was available). Without the corporation tax increase, the situation would have been reversed.

Of course, the situation could change if the Government decides to reinstate the additional 1.25% percentage points to NIC rates (albeit, in this particular example, the remuneration option would still be marginally better).

Other factors to consider

There are several other advantages to paying remuneration rather than dividends to consider too:

  • Dividends must be paid to all shareholders.
  • A dividend has to be covered by a company’s profits.
  • Dividends do not always count as income when applying for a mortgage.

As these examples illustrate, the corporation tax landscape has become more complicated. Although a Government guide clarifies things somewhat, it’s always best to seek professional advice rather than risk losing valuable income.