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Taxation

Salary vs dividend: Extracting income from your company

Salary vs dividend: Extracting income from your company
Lynn Lin

By Lynn Lin

24 Jul 2023

If you are a director and a shareholder of a limited company, you may want to consider paying yourself a combination of salary and dividend payments.

Here we take a look at the most tax efficient options.

From 6 April 2023

England, Wales & Northern Ireland (NI):

  • The personal allowance remains at £12,570.
  • The dividend allowance decreases from £2,000 to £1,000.
  • The basic rate limit remains at £37,700 (higher rate threshold £50,270, including the personal allowance).
  • The additional rate threshold decreases to £125,140, from £150,000.
  • The Class 1 National Insurance Contribution (NIC) primary threshold increases to £12,570.
  • The Class 1 NIC lower earnings limit remains at £6,396.
  • The NIC upper earnings limit remains at £50,270 per year.
  • The employers’ NIC secondary threshold is £9,100.
  • The employers’ NIC allowance remains at £5,000.

Class 1 NICs rates remain as decreased in November 2022:

  • Employee main rate: 12%.
  • Employee additional rate: 2%.
  • Employers’ rate: 13.8%.

Dividend tax rates remain as for 2022-23:

  • Basic rate: 8.75%.
  • Higher rate: 33.75%.
  • Additional rate: 39.35%.

Effective 6 April 2023, the dividend allowance has been reduced from £2,000 to £1,000.

Below, we provide several examples illustrating how a limited company director can optimise their tax efficiency by setting their salary at various personal allowance and national insurance thresholds and supplementing their income with dividends.

Higher-rate taxpayers

For individuals in the higher-rate tax bracket.

Scenario A. A company has generated profits amounting to £75,000. Consequently, the company is subject to the main rate of Corporation Tax with marginal relief. The director must now decide whether to distribute these profits as a salary or dividends.

Here, we assume that the recipient taxpayer falls into the higher-rate tax bracket and possesses other income sources that enable them to utilise their personal allowances (assuming they have not been fully tapered to zero) and the basic rate tax band.

The objective is to determine the overall tax rate that will be incurred if the company distributes its profits solely as a salary or dividends.

Ignoring the Employer’s (ER’s) NIC allowance which is no longer available for single director/employee companies.

Tax rate
Distributes as Salary Dividend
£ £
Profit 75,000 75,000
Salary 67,009
ER’s NIC 13.8% 7,991
Profit charged to tax nil 75,000
Corporation Tax 25% less marginal relief 16,125
Dividend 58,875
Dividend allowance -1,000
PAYE 40% (42% Scotland) 26,803
EE’s NIC 12% & 2% 4,858
Income Tax 8.75%/ 33.75% 19,533
Total tax and NIC 39,653 35,658
Effective tax rate 52.87% 47.54%
Net Cash After Taxes 27,356   39,342 

Basic-rate taxpayers

A company is faced with a decision regarding the distribution of its £35,000 profits, contemplating whether to allocate them as a salary or dividend.

Scenario B. We assume the taxpayer has no additional income and their personal allowance, as well as the basic rate tax band, are fully accessible.

If the company was to distribute its profits entirely as a salary or dividends, without considering the ER’s NIC allowance, the following tax rates would apply:

Tax rate
Distributes as Salary Dividend
£ £
Profit 35,000 35,000
Salary 31,859
ER’s NIC 13.8% 3,141
Profit charged to tax nil 35,000
Corporation Tax 19% 6,650
Dividend 28,350
Dividend allowance -1,000
PAYE 20% (19%, 20%, 3,858
EE’s NIC 21% Scotland) 2,314
Income Tax 8.75% 1,293
Total tax and NIC 9,313 7,943
Effective tax rate 26.61% 22.70%
Net Cash After Taxes 22,547   27,057 

Mix of dividends and salary for basic-rate taxpayers

To maintain basic-rate taxpayer status, directors can opt for the minimum salary necessary to retain their benefits, dependent on National Insurance Contributions (NIC). This minimum salary amount is £123 per week or £6,396 per year. The remaining earnings are then received as dividends.

The effective tax rate in this scenario is:

Tax rate
Distributes as Salary Dividend Total
£ £ £
Profit 35,000
Salary 6,396
ER’s NIC 13.8% 0
Profit charged to tax nil 28,604
Corporation Tax 19% 5,435
Dividend 23,169
Dividend allowance -1,000
PAYE 20% (19%, 20%, nil
EE’s NIC 21% Scotland) nil
Income Tax 8.75% 1,400
Total tax and NIC 6,834
Effective tax rate 19.53%
Net Cash After Taxes £28,165.66 

Similarly, a director can opt to structure their pay package to take the highest salary possible before NIC, while still remaining a basic tax-rate payer.

The effective tax rate in this scenario is:

Tax rate
Distributes as Salary Dividend Total
£ £ £
Profit 35,000
Salary 9,100
ER’s NIC 13.8% 0
Profit charged to tax nil 25,900
Corporation Tax 19% 4,921
Dividend 20,979
Dividend allowance -1,000
PAYE 20% (19%, 20%, nil
EE’s NIC 21% Scotland) nil
Income Tax 8.75% 1,445
Total tax and NIC 6,366
Effective tax rate 18.19%
Net Cash After Taxes £28,634.46 

By structuring your pay package strategically, directors can ensure that they maintain their status as basic-rate taxpayers. This involves receiving a salary equivalent to the personal allowance and the remaining amount in dividends.

The effective tax rate in this scenario is:

Tax rate
Distributes as Salary Dividend Total
£ £ £
Profit 35,000
Salary 12,570
ER’s NIC 13.8% 479
Profit charged to tax nil 21,951
Corporation Tax 19% 4,171
Dividend 17,780
Dividend allowance -1,000
PAYE 20% (19%, 20%, nil
EE’s NIC 21% Scotland) nil
Income Tax 8.75% 1,468
Total tax and NIC 6,118
Effective tax rate 17.48%
Net Cash After Taxes £28,882.14 

Is there an ideal salary-dividend mix?

The short answer is no. It varies based on your salary needs, income withdrawal, and potential income sharing with spouse/ civil partner or family members. If the director has no other earnings, a small salary is recommended. Just make sure it’s above the NIC lower earnings limit to maintain eligibility for state pension and other entitlements, but remain below the NIC secondary threshold to avoid liability.

Benefits of employing your spouse and children

Family members can be employed if they meet the National Minimum/Living Wage and the minimum working age requirements. They must actually work in the business to receive a salary.

Having salaried staff allows the company to claim the Employment Allowance for NIC.

If benefits in kind (e.g. health insurance) are given to non-working family members this will be taxed on the working family members instead or the director.

However, excessive wages or Benefits in Kind may be challenged by HMRC. Wages should align with what would be paid to an unrelated person with similar qualifications and duties.

Income splitting

Spouses/ Civil partners have the option to divide their income-generating assets in a tax-efficient manner, such as shares in a personal company. This can be done to take advantage of any unused tax allowances or to optimise the utilisation of a lower-rate tax band without any immediate Capital Gains Tax implications.

There is also the option to re-designate shares into different classes so different amounts of dividends can be declared to each spouse/civil partner.

What to watch out for

  • A company is only permitted to declare a dividend if it has enough distributable reserves. Learn more about how a company pays dividends.
  • Reserves not eligible for distribution, include capital reserves or the share premium account and any dividend declared would be deemed ‘unlawful’. The same applies to dividends paid when the company has a negative balance sheet.
  • Any unlawfully distributed dividend must be repaid to the company.

For further information on salary and dividends and how you can achieve the correct split, contact Lynn Lin at llin@geraldedelman.com.