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What is the optimum salary for Directors?

With the recent changes to dividends tax and National Insurance rates, it has never been more challenging to set remuneration for directors.

Traditionally, Directors of a company have tried to find the best balance between a salary and other benefits to reduce their overall tax liability.

During the Spring Statement, the Chancellor announced changes to the National Insurance thresholds for employees that are having an impact on the calculation of the optimum Director’s salary.

From July 2022, this means the Primary Threshold (PT) for National Insurance has increased by £3,000 to £12,570 (bringing parity with the tax-free personal allowance threshold).

Directors must additionally – regardless of how far away it may seem – plan for their retirement. For the approaching tax year, this means they must receive an annual salary of at least £6,396 (the lower earnings limit) to meet the qualifying contribution requirements for the state pension.

How have recent changes affected Directors’ salaries?

When taking these factors into account, to maximise savings, whilst still qualifying for a state pension, the salary must not exceed £11,908 per year during the next 12 months, which is equivalent to £992 per month.

This is because the change in the PT commenced from 6 July 2022 and earlier months remain at the original amount of £9,880 per annum.

As a result, the employee’s NI threshold is only £11,908 for the tax year 2022/23 as it is apportioned between the two different rates.

Whilst this may sound like a smaller sum than expected, most Directors are likely to make up additional income through the use of dividends.

From the business’ perspective, paying the Director a salary yields the benefit of being a tax-deductible expense, which paying in dividends does not.

However, in paying dividends Directors may be taxed if they receive more than £2,000 per year in dividend income.

The rates at which they are taxed increased from April by 1.25 percentage points, so Directors must find the right balance for them and their business.

Why pay a salary at all given the benefits on offer?

It might seem as though paying no salary at all is the best option, but a salary is considered a tax-deductible expense and so a company can deduct tax at 19 per cent (the current Corporation Tax rate).

In comparison, a dividend payment is not tax-deductible and, therefore, a company stands to make a Corporation Tax saving of £2,262 by paying a salary at the optimal rate of £11,908 to the Director in the 2022/23 tax year.

From a Director’s perspective, the payment of a salary above the Lower Earnings Limit ensures that they make sufficient contributions to achieve a qualifying year for the State Pension.

Paying a salary of £11,908 still leads to Employers’ NICs, so why not charge less?

Previously it has been common to recommend that companies pay Directors’ salaries up to the Secondary Threshold (the level at which employers must begin making contributions), which is £9,100 (2022/23).

Paying a salary at this level avoids PAYE, employees NI and employers NI. However, an optimum salary of £11,908 saves more in Corporation Tax than is lost through the employer’s NICs.

For example:

The extra employers’ NI totals £422 (£2,808 at 15.05 per cent) but the corporation tax saved totals £613 (£2,808 at 19 per cent + £422 at 19 per cent).

The difficulty with incurring employers’ NICs of £422 is that the payments will need to be made monthly (£35 per month) or quarterly (£105 per quarter) to HMRC.

For some businesses, this additional admin may not beat the total saving or around £191 per year, but this is a decision that companies will have to make following these changes.

Setting the optimum salary and dividends for Directors in 2022/23

Given the points covered above, it would seem that £11,908 is the optimum salary for most Directors. 

An annual salary of £11,908 would not be enough for most individuals to support their needs, especially with the current cost-of-living crisis, which is why earnings would need to be topped up with dividend payments that face lower tax and NI rates.

After paying a salary of £11,908, the first £2,662 worth of dividend income is tax-free (i.e., the annual personal allowance of £12,570, minus a salary of £11,908 plus the annual dividend allowance of £2,000).

This means that the first £14,570 earned by a Director is entirely tax-free. Any dividend income above this will then be taxed at the appropriate rate, for example, the next £35,700 of dividends will be taxed at 8.75 per cent, bringing the individual up to the basic marginal rate of £50,270 (2022/23).

Income above this will see dividend tax rates rise to 33.75 per cent for higher rate taxpayers and 39.35 per cent for additional rate taxpayers.

As you can see, the setting of tax-efficient salaries and other remuneration for directors can be challenging. If you need assistance setting the right salaries for your team, please contact your Seymour Taylor representative today or email us at enquiries@stca.co.uk or call 01494 552100 and ask to speak to a member of the Payroll team.

This blog is for guidance only, professional advice should be obtained before acting on any information contained herein. The information was correct at the time of publishing 27 July 2022.