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Small UK businesses employing staff might be able to claim the Employment Allowance and reduce their yearly National Insurance (NI) bill by up to £4,000.

Are you ready to become an employer for the first time? This is huge news! If you’re just getting started, you might be glad to know about Employment Allowance relief. This allows some employers to reduce the cost of their National Insurance contributions by up to £4,000.

You’ll find everything you need to know about the Employment Allowance right here, but if you need more in-depth advice or support, just book a call back from one of the team.

What is employer’s National Insurance?

Let’s start off with the basics. National Insurance is based on how much an employee earns, and is made up of two payments: one from the employee and one from you, the employer.

Class 1 National Insurance is managed by you as the employer. You’ll deduct the employee’s contribution from their wages before it lands in their bank account. This deduction, along with your contribution for employer’s NI, is paid on to HMRC.

Our article about the different classes of National Insurance explains NI in more detail. If this is all brand new, download our guide to PAYE below and learn more about reporting your employees’ tax and NI to HMRC.

PAYE Guide

What is the Employment Allowance?

This is where it gets really interesting as the Employment Allowance could shave a significant amount off your outgoings.

The Employment Allowance only applies to the employer’s contribution towards National Insurance. The amount that your employee contributes doesn’t change and isn’t impacted.

Providing you are eligible (more on that below), you could save up to £4,000 per tax year in relief. It means that each time you run payroll you’ll pay less employer’s NI, until you use up the allowance, or start again in a new tax year.

Once you’ve used up your full £4,000 allowance in a tax year, you’ll need to start paying any remaining employer contributions towards National Insurance.

You don’t need to be paying more than £4,000 to qualify, either. Even if your bill for employer’s NI is less than £4,000 in a year, you can still benefit from the Employment Allowance.

Am I eligible for the Employment Allowance?

There are three basic criteria to qualify for claiming the Employment Allowance.

Am I eligible for the Employment Allowance

Check, check, check? If you’ve met all three criteria, there’s more to learn and you’re in the right place. Read on!

Still at the start of your journey to becoming an employer? Pause what you’re doing and discover everything you need to know about becoming an employer for the first time.

Are there any exceptions?

You can probably guess that qualifying for the Employment Allowance isn’t quite as straightforward as that.

Remember that one employee you need to have in order to be eligible? That employee can’t be both a director of the business and the only employee who’s paid more than the secondary threshold for National Insurance.

That’s the amount that employees need to earn before their employers have to start contributing towards their National Insurance. For 2020/21 the secondary threshold is £732 per month.

In other words, if you employ one person, and that person is a director of the business and they are paid more than £732 per month, then you can’t claim Employment Allowance.

It also means that if you employ several people, but the director is the only one paid above the National Insurance secondary threshold, you won’t be able to claim the Employment Allowance.

If you’re the sole director and employee of your business, you might also find it useful to read our article about the most tax efficient salary to pay yourself.

payroll service

I make or sell goods or services, are the rules different?

Yes! This is where state aid rules come into play. Employment Allowance is counted as part of the ‘de minimis state aid’ for those that make or sell goods or services. Depending on your sector, there is a limit to the amount of state aid you’re allowed to receive over a three-year period.

To understand if you’re eligible to claim Employment Allowance you will need to:

As state aid is part of an EU initiative to ensure fair competition, the threshold is calculated in Euros. Sectors are split into four key areas:

 

Sector De minimis state aid threshold over 3 years
Agriculture products sector €20,000
Fisheries and aquaculture sector €30,000
Road freight transport sector €100,000
Industrial sector / other €200,000

 

**State aid will change at the end of the UK’s Brexit transition period. This is a complex area, and we advise that you work with a qualified accountant to make sure you’re benefiting in all the right ways. Get in touch with one of our expert team members to find out more.

Is there a deadline to claiming back Employment Allowance?

We’re glad you asked. There is currently a 4-year limit in place. Didn’t know about the Employment Allowance, or just didn’t find the time while you were growing your business?

Whatever your reason, you’ll be relieved to know that you can claim Employment Allowance for the previous 4 tax years, back to the 2016/17 tax year.

Be aware though, that there are different rules for historical claims! We advise consulting with an accountant on this one.

How do I claim Employment Allowance?

You can make a claim for the Employment Allowance as part of your PAYE reporting process. Either:

Simply tick the box that indicates you will be claiming the Employment Allowance. If you make or sell goods or services, you’ll also need to indicate that state aid rules apply. Select the relevant business sector, even if you don’t make a profit.

When can I make a claim?

The Employment Allowance is allocated each tax year, so you’ll need to claim for every tax year that you’re eligible for the relief.

You can apply at any time during the tax year but the sooner you get your application in, the sooner you’ll get the allowance.

Help! I’m late making a claim

Don’t panic. You haven’t missed out. It just means that the process for claiming your Employment Allowance is slightly different.

You can ask HMRC to either:

I’ve submitted my claim – what next?

You can start using your Employment Allowance as soon as you submit your claim. There’s no need to wait for confirmation from HMRC, and there is no formal letter to give you the green light.

The only time HMRC will contact your regarding your application is if your claim is rejected. In that instance, you’ll receive a message from HMRC within 5 working days of the claim being submitted.

Stay up to date

Spend time familiarising yourself with the eligibility criteria. If your circumstances change, for example you change the nature of your business or you reduce the number of employees, make sure you’re still eligible to claim the Employment Allowance.

Employment Allowance is just one of the schemes available to UK businesses. Find out more about tax bands, allowances and relief schemes available in our article UK Tax Rates for Employers, Small Businesses and the Self Employed in 2020/21.

Learn more about our online accounting services. Call 020 3355 4047 to talk to one of the team, or grab a free instant quote online.

About The Author

Elizabeth Hughes

A content writer specialising in business, finance, software, and beyond. I'm a wordsmith with a penchant for puns and making complex subjects accessible.

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