Beware the contractor trap

Another route to saving employer's National Insurance can be to take on self-employed contractors for specific projects, rather than recruiting new staff. Companies pay such contractors gross and don't have to pay employer's National Insurance. The contractor deals with its own income tax and National Insurance. There can be other benefits as well - no liability for holiday pay or sick leave, for example.

All that sounds attractive but it has to be accompanied by a substantial caveat: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) takes a very limited view when considering whether the contractor really is self-employed for tax purposes. It doesn't matter what the employment law position is - HMRC still wants PAYE and National Insurance (including employer's National Insurance) if it doesn't think the individual really is self-employed. Crucially, it doesn't matter how many other companies the contractor also works for: HMRC only cares about the contract with your company when looking at whether you should be deducting PAYE/National Insurance etc.

While this doesn't mean contractors can't be used, and National Insurance saved, you need to be careful when taking contractors on. Make sure contracts are right, and that the contracts and the reality of the work match up.

Salary sacrifice schemes

The wording might need a little care at this moment in time but a salary sacrifice scheme can be a way of getting more out of money - yours and your employees.

This type of scheme is a way of getting benefits to employees while saving tax and National Insurance: theirs and yours, saving the company an immediate 12.8%, compared with paying the cash equivalent. Carefully structured, the scheme can save employees both income tax and National Insurance, compared with that cash equivalent. The range of benefits is varied - companies have included bus travel, childcare arrangements, pension contributions, bicycles and lunch.