Top tips on what, why, when, how and in what order!
Download your free guide on Moving from Permanent to Contracting here.
On the whole, contractors can earn more than their permanent counterparts, which is only fair considering the benefits that they have to give up. This step-by-step guide will tell you how to find and what to look for in a contract, as well as giving details on the various ways to operate – e.g. how to actually take home an income from your contract.
Finding a contract
The good news is, despite the fact that the economy is still recovering, the demand for contractors, freelancers, interim managers and consultants doesn’t appear to have slowed. Corporates, and even government agencies, are turning to this highly-skilled and mobile work force to perform tasks and manage projects. Contractors and interim managers offer far more flexibility and are a lower long-term cost option, compared to taking on permanent members of staff.
Finding a contract is really no different to changing jobs. You’ll need to make sure your CV is fully updated and then target recruitment agencies which specialise in your particular field.
Ways to operate – Limited Company or Umbrella (and the perils of IR35!)
Click the following link to review our comprehensive comparison table which indicates the differences between working through your own Limited Company or through an Umbrella Company.
Essentially, if you are outside IR35 and intend to be contracting for over three months, you’ll more than likely take more money home if you work through a Limited Company, but you’ll have to do more administration than you would if you opted to work through an Umbrella Company.
So, more money but more work through a Limited Company and less work and less money through an Umbrella Company.
IR35 – this was launched by the government in order to stop permanent members of staff from switching to contracting but retaining the same benefits, risks and working practices as an employee, as well as being able to take more money home by working through their own Limited Companies.
Providing you take the necessary precautions, such as ensuring that you meet all of the conditions in your contract required to stay outside of IR35, and your working practices reflect the contract, then you really have very little to worry about. Click here for further details about IR35.
Working through your own Limited Company – timeline for getting things ready
If you choose to operate through your own Limited Company what do you need to do first and what is the timeline?
1. Establish your IR35 status
WHEN: before you sign your contract
As soon as you find a contract and you have accepted it, try to establish whether the contract is OUTSIDE IR35 (sometimes called IR35 friendly) or in INSIDE IR35 (caught by IR35).
Even if your contract is inside IR35, in financial terms it may still be worth working through a Limited Company, as you will only pay tax on 95% of your contract (rather than 100% if you work through an Umbrella Company) and you will also still be able to benefit from the Flat Rate VAT scheme.
The Flat Rate VAT Scheme is an incentive provided by the government to help simplify taxes. It means you charge VAT on your invoices at 20% but only pay back 13.5% of the gross amount in your first year and then 14.5% in subsequent years.
This provides the following additional income (based on a 45 week working year):
- £200 per day contract – £1,710 extra profit per year
- £350 per day contract – £2,992.50 extra profit per year
- £600 per day contract – £5,130 extra profit per year
2. Form a Limited Company
WHEN: Ideally organised 5 to 7 days before you sign the contract, but can be the same day if necessary.
Forming a Limited Company online is very quick. You will need your Limited Company name, certificate of incorporation and company registration number before you start work, as the contract will need to be in the name of your company. If you form a company using SJD’s online service, you will have all of these in upto ten working hours of forming. Alternatively just call us and we are happy to do it for you.
Our online company formation service is extremely popular with over 95% of contractors using it prior to becoming a client. The fee is only £125 plus VAT, which is one of the lowest fully inclusive fees in the market, you can buy cheaper but they very rarely include everything you need or offer any after-sales service.
Our formation service offers same-day formations and includes opening a company bank account, VAT/PAYE registration and advice on share structure, click the following link to use our free limited company name checking service.
3. Appoint an accountant
WHEN: Ideally a few days before, but can be done at any point
Take home pay, dividends, expenses, profits, salary, benefits, personal allowances, tax planning . . . You are likely to have 101 questions, and your accountant will be able to answer them all, guiding you on the most tax efficient way to operate your Limited Company. Click here to see just what your accountant will do for you. Click here to appoint SJD Accountancy.
SJD offer a complete fixed fee package including: completion of accounts*, payroll bureau, dividends, corporation tax computations, personal taxation, free bookkeeping software, access to your own dedicated accountant*, company returns, in fact, everything you need for a fixed fee starting from £120 plus VAT per month. Check our packages for more detail.
4. Open a Business Bank Account
WHEN: At least seven days before you are due to be paid
If you want to get paid you’ll need one of these! If you form your company with SJD Accountancy, we will send you an application form for a business bank account which will take a few days to open.
SJD Accountancy recommends Metro Bank. They offer free business banking to clients of SJD and you only need a £1 to open an account. Of course you are entirely free to use any bank, but due to Metro Bank’s high level of customer service, good interest rates.
4. VAT registration
WHEN: once you have formed your company
There are a two different ways to operate. One is the standard way, where you claim back VAT on items that you buy through your company – and the other is the option that most contractors take, which is to sign up to the Flat Rate VAT scheme.
It takes around six weeks to get your VAT number. During this time you’ll invoice your clients (we’ll provide you with a template invoice) without VAT and when you are issued with your VAT number you can simply raise VAT-only invoices.
Most contractors choose the Flat Rate VAT Scheme as, on the whole, you won’t be buying that much in the way of company related items and you will make more money by opting for the Flat Rate Scheme.
Administering your own Limited Company can be simple, efficient and inexpensive when you have the help of a specialist firm like SJD Accountancy, which is dedicated to contractors and freelancers. Most importantly, it ensures that you minimise the amount you pay in tax legally, so that you can retain the maximum amount from your contract.
If you have any questions about contracting or would like any further advice please call our New Business Team on 01442 275789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.