Running a business can be an exciting adventure, but along the way, you are likely to face challenges that may leave you wondering where to turn next.

Many business owners deal with common issues during the establishment and growth of their company and need quick, easy to understand answers to their queries.

That’s why we have put together some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive from business owners to offer a little guidance.

Dividends vs Salary – which is the most tax-efficient way to take profits from my business?

How you are paid can have a significant impact on the amount of tax that you owe. That is why most business owners are paid via a regular salary, as well as dividends – an amount paid out from a company’s profits to shareholders.

Getting this balance right can sometimes be the difference between paying tax at the basic, higher and additional rate, as well as affecting other personal tax reliefs and National Insurance contributions.

How are dividends taxed?

By balancing your salary and the dividends you receive you can mitigate the amount of tax you pay.  

Every taxpayer has a tax-free dividend allowance of £1,000. Any dividend income over this amount will be taxed at your marginal rate as follows: 

  • Basic rate – 8.75 per cent 
  • Higher rate – 33.75 per cent 
  • Additional rate – 39.35 per cent  

The dividend allowance will fall for the 2024/25 financial year, to £500.  

How much salary should I pay myself?

Finding the right combination of salary vs dividends often relies on several factors, such as: 

  • Company profitability 
  • Personal tax liabilities 
  • A company’s tax arrangements 
  • Desire to retain state benefits. 
  1. To accumulate qualifying years for the State Pension your salary must be at or above the NIC Lower Earnings Limit (currently £123 per week). 

If you earn more than the NIC Primary Threshold (currently £242 per week) you will have to pay NICs from your salary. 

You will start to pay income tax on your salaried earnings above the personal allowance (currently £12,570). 

Are there any benefits to paying myself a salary?

Given the potential tax savings on offer, you might wonder why you should get paid a salary at all. However, here are some benefits to consider: 

  • Accumulation of qualifying years towards your State Pension 
  • Retaining maternity and paternity benefits 
  • Easier to apply for mortgages and insurance policies 
  • Salaries are allowable business expenses for Corporation Tax purposes 
  • Salaries are paid even if your business makes no profit. 

Be aware, however, that drawing a salary requires both you and the company to pay NICs 

Should the company pay for my car?

A company car can be a tax-efficient way of owning or leasing a vehicle, as it is taxed through Benefit in Kind. This classes a company vehicle as an extra taxable benefit that falls outside of your regular salary.

The latest BIK rates follow the stricter European World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) emission and economy tests, which means that some cars on paper will have higher CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, resulting in a higher rate of tax.

Directors should use the latest car tax rates to reduce their BIK liabilities by selecting lower-emitting vehicles.

Is it more tax-efficient to have an electric company car?

The Government has set up numerous tax incentives for company car users who use electric vehicles (EVs). 

It is not surprising then that more businesses have either already made the switch to EVs or are giving serious consideration to doing so. Some of these incentives include the following: 

  • Benefits in Kind –EVs attracted a two per cent tax rate on Benefit in Kind (BIK) until at least April 2025. This also applies to hybrid vehicles with emissions from 1 – 50g/km and a pure electric range of over 130 miles. It still electric and low emission cars very affordable in comparison to higher emission vehicles. 
  • Capital allowance – Cars with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km are eligible for 100 per cent first-year capital allowances. This means that electric cars can deduct the full cost from your pre-tax profits. There may be Corporation Tax to pay when the car is later sold, so this needs to be considered. 
  • Congestion charge exemptions – EVs are exempt from congestion charging and clean air zone (CAZ) charges. As well as London, five cities have been required by the Government to introduce a Clean Air Zone, including, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton. If your company vehicle regularly travels into areas where clean air zones exist, there will be significant cost savings from switching. 
  • Electric charge points – The Workplace Charging Scheme covers up to 75 per cent of the total cost of up to 40 EV charging points at a business site, up to a maximum of £350 per socket.  
  • Electric vans – The taxable benefit for having the private use of a zero-emission van were reduced to nil from April 2021. The previous year, electric vans were taxed at 80 per cent of the benefit for a normal van. 
  • Government grants – The Government’s plug-in car grant provides 35 per centof the purchase price towards the cost of an eligible plug-in vehicle, including vans, trucks, taxis, motorcycles and wheelchair accessible vehicles . This plug-in car grant applies at the time of purchase and is typically given as a discount on the purchase price of a vehicle. 
  • Leasing – Leasing a vehicle through a VAT registered company allows you to claim back 50 per cent of the VAT on monthly payments and up to 100 per cent of the VAT on the maintenance agreement, which you are not allowed to do when buying a vehicle outright – but be aware that a leased EV will not qualify for the Capital Allowances mentioned above. 
  • Salary sacrifice – Where an electric car is provided under salary sacrifice, the optional remuneration rules do not apply. 
  • Tax bands for low emission vehicles – 11 new tax bands for vehicles with emissions of 75g/km and below have been introduced. The Government has also announced the tax rate for the next three years, helping businesses to plan. Electric and hybrid vehicles pay no or very little vehicle excise duty. 
What is a director's loan account?

A director’s loan account is a method for keeping track of the transactions between you and your company.

This acts as a record of money taken out of a limited company, which isn’t:

  • Salary;
  • Dividend; or
  • Business expense repayment.

It also accounts for any money lent to the company by you or another shareholder, which could cover the purchase of new equipment, a cash flow injection or other investments.

How do you prepare a director's loan account?

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) must be provided with a director’s loan accounts through annual company returns.

In your director’s loan account, you should record:

  • Cash withdrawals and repayments you make as a director
  • Personal expenses paid with company money or a company credit card
  • Interest charged on any loans.
What does an overdrawn directors' loan account mean?

If you take more money out of the company than you put back in, the loan account can become overdrawn.

Any overdrawn amounts are considered to be assets of the company on your balance sheet until they are repaid.

If you’re a shareholder and director and you haven’t been charged interest on money you owe to your company of more than £10,000 your company must:

  • Treat the loan as a ‘benefit in kind’
  • Deduct Class 1a National Insurance

This must also be recorded on your tax return and may result in tax on the loan at the official rate of interest.

Therefore, money should be paid back within nine months of the end of the accounting period to prevent a significant tax bill from arising.

There are other Corporation Tax implications of an outstanding overdrawn loan account 9 months after the balance sheet date.

WHat is a balance sheet?

A balance sheet provides a statement outlining the assets of the company owners, its liabilities, such as debts, and the value of its owner’s investment referred to as shareholders’ equity.

The first section of a balance sheet records a business’s fixed assets, such as buildings, land, machinery and equipment, and current assets, which includes cash, stock and accounts receivable that have a ‘lifespan’ of one year or less.

The next section records liabilities, including long-term liabilities like money owed by the company that aren’t due to be repaid within the year, current liabilities that must be paid sooner, such as money owed to HMRC that is paid with 12 months, and accounts payable, which includes salaries and interest on loans.

The final part of the balance sheet is the shareholder equity, which will typically include:

  • Share capital – The funds given in exchange for shares.
  • Retained earnings – Profits earned once dividends or other distributions are paid out.

For a balance sheet to balance, total assets have to equal total liabilities plus shareholders’ equity. When combined with cash flow records and an income statement the balance sheet should form part of a business’s financial statement.

How do I understand my Balance Sheet?

A balance sheet can give you a great deal of insight into your business and its financial health, helping you improve cash flow, manage debts or seek finance and investment.

To better understand your balance sheet there are two key ratios to consider:

  • Current ratio  Current assets divided by current liabilities – This gives you a picture of how much cash you have to run operations.
  • Debt-to-equity ratio  Total liabilities divided by shareholder equity – This shows you how much money the business owner needs to cover debt obligations.
How can I improve my balance sheet?

There are many different approaches to improve your balance sheet and boost cash flow. Here are four common steps that all businesses should consider:

Improving debt-to-equity ratio – Reducing your debts and increasing the cash coming into your business can only strengthen your operations. You need to increase your income and use this to pay down debts. If you can’t increase income, you may need to use assets to reduce debts.

Create a cash reserve – Monitor the amount of cash held and try to build a reserve for investment or emergencies. This can be achieved by disposing of assets, increasing turnover or reducing liabilities.

Reduce cash leaving the business – Cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. If your liabilities exceed the cash being received you cannot operate and you should find a way to manage liabilities.

Strengthen credit control – Many businesses struggle with debts and late payments. These can create a lot of issues with cash flow and balance sheets. Appoint a professional to manage credit control or invest in software that can help do it for you.

What is depreciation?

Depreciation is a method of spreading the cost of certain assets over its useful life. It shows how much of an asset’s useful value has been used at any given time.  

Depreciation, therefore, refers not only to the decrease in the value of a tangible asset but also the process of writing down the cost of the asset during its useful lifespan. 

It can be useful to depreciate the value of long-term assets on a balance sheet as this can affect net income, which may have accounting and tax benefits 

The method for calculating depreciation can sometimes vary between asset types, which can affect how assets are accounted for and taxed. 


There are two main methods used to calculate depreciation: 

  • Straight-line method – This is calculated by dividing the difference between an asset’s cost and its expected salvage value by its useful lifespan. This method is easy to calculate and understand but has some drawbacks. 
  • Reducing balance method – This is calculated by applying a fixed percentage on the ‘book value’ of the asset each year so that the amount of depreciation each year is less than the amount provided for in the previous year. As the ‘book value’ of the asset is continually reduced from year to year it is possible to figure out the depreciation expense. 
What methods of depreciation are used in the UK?

There are two main methods used to calculate depreciation:

  • Straight-line method – This is calculated by dividing the difference between an asset’s cost and its expected salvage value by its useful lifespan. This method is easy to calculate and understand but has some drawbacks.
  • Reducing balance method – This is calculated by applying a fixed percentage on the ‘book value’ of the asset each year so that the amount of depreciation each year is less than the amount provided for in the previous year. As the ‘book value’ of the asset is continually reduced from year to year it is possible to figure out the depreciation expense
What is amortisation?

Amortisation is a method used to lower the value of a loan or an intangible asset, such as a patent, over a period of time.

Amortisation is used by lenders to calculate a loan repayment schedule based on a specific maturity date.

Meanwhile, for intangible assets, amortisation helps tie the cost of the asset to the revenues generated by the asset following the matching principle of generally accepted accounting principles.

What does EBITDA mean?

EBITDA is Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation and is a method used to evaluate a company’s financial health and performance.

This method shows a business’s profitability from its operations before the effect of capital structure, leverage and non-cash items, such as depreciation, are accounted for.

What is an Asset Register?

An asset register is used to list a business’s physical resources, including the date assets were purchased, calculations of their value and identify their current location within an organisation.

Asset registers allow owners and their accounts to compare the value of the assets against their ledgers or balance sheets and calculate depreciation.

Businesses may operate more than one type of register to account for fixed tangible assets, intangible assets or even specific registers for different departments, such as an IT asset register.

Fixed assets registers can be maintained within the business’s accounting software.

Should I operate as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company?

The structure of your business can have a big impact on how you and your new enterprise are taxed and the obligations that you face. 

Sole traders – From a legal and tax perspective you and your business are considered a single entity. 

As such, you are held personally responsible for the business and its debts. 

Your profits are declared via a Self-Assessment tax return and classed as your annual income for that year, regardless of whether you receive this as a salary, or it is held in your business’s bank account. 

As a sole trader, you do not have to submit information to Companies House each year, it may be easier to take money out of the business and it can be easier to set up and close your business but remember you are personally liable for the debts of your business. 

Partnership – Partnerships are similar to sole traders but differ in that they have more than one owner. 

Under a partnership arrangement, each partner owns a specified percentage of the profits but is also liable for these profits and must pay tax on them as they are treated as income.  

Each partner must complete a Self-Assessment tax return to record and report their income to HM Revenue & Customs. 

Depending on the type of partnership formed, partners may be held personally liable for debts and other obligations. 

Limited liability partnerships share many of the same characteristics of a conventional partnership, such as the internal management, tax liability and the distribution of profits, but also provide the limited liability of an incorporated company, without the same obligations. 

Limited company – Incorporating a business is a popular choice for many business owners, as the business becomes a separate legal entity entirely. 

The company will be owned and controlled by those who own its shares. These shares can be owned by a single person or multiple people and can be sold to raise money for the company. 

Limited companies must be registered at Companies House and have to submit annual accounts and statements under Companies House rules. They will also have certain standard legal documents that govern what they can and can’t do. 

Instead of partners or owners paying tax via their tax return, limited companies are subject to Corporation Tax and must submit an annual Corporation Tax return which records your company’s: 

  • Assets 
  • Liabilities 
  • Income and expenditure 
  • Details of any stock on hand at the end of your financial year. 

Choosing to operate as a limited company comes with significant benefits for owners and shareholders, including improved tax efficiency and reduced risk from liabilities. 

It is important to carefully consider which structure suits your business and how it may affect the tax that you owe and your legal obligations. 

It is possible to change your business’s structure later in its life. 

Operating as a company may also add a level of credibility that you may not associate with as a sole trader. 

What is IR35?

IR35 is a way of determining whether a contractor classes as an employee or as self-employed, and how they should be taxed.  

It was previously a contractor’s responsibility to determine their IR35 status while working in the private sector, regardless of whether they were operating as a limited company or through an agency. 

However, since April 2021, the duty to make this determination has shifted from the contractor operating via a personal service company (PSC) to the end client, which will typically be the engager of a contractor’s services or the recruitment agency through which they are contracted. 

How does IR35 affect my business?

All medium and large businesses are now accountable for determining the IR35 status of contractors and paying the appropriate taxes and National Insurance contributions via PAYE.

Most importantly they, and not the contractor, are held liable if HM Revenue & Customs determines a contractor’s IR35 status has been incorrectly assessed.

The change does not apply if the end client is classed as a small business or the contractor is engaged through an umbrella company and is already being taxed through PAYE.

Small companies must meet two out of the three conditions below to be exempt:

  • an annual turnover of less than £10.2 million
  • a balance sheet total of less than £5.1 million
  • fewer than 50 employees
How do I determine IR35 status?

There are three key questions for determining IR35 status:

  • Are contractors directly under your control and direction or do they have autonomy?
  • Do they have the right to provide a substitute in a contractual agreement?
  • Is there a mutuality of obligation where you expect a worker to undertake work when asked to do so, and the worker expects to be given work constantly?

The answers to these three questions will help you establish your relationship with contractors and whether they should be deemed inside or outside of IR35.

To help employers HMRC has created the Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST), which can be found here.

What is Making Tax Digital?

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is the first stage in HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) strategy to digitise the UK tax system. 

This new tax system will require businesses to use HMRC-compliant software to submit information digitally quarterly under a phased plan, which is already underway with MTD for VAT 

HMRC believes that this new approach will help taxpayers by ensuring the information it holds is accurate and up to date. 

Under this system, businesses and taxpayers will have to make additional submissions each year, as well as completing an annual final tax return as they already do. 

At present, MTD has only been integrated into the VAT system, but it will eventually be phased in for all forms of taxation, as MTD for Income Tax Self-Assessment (ITSA) is upcoming. 

How does Making Tax Digital affect me and my business?

MTD will be introduced in several different phases, as follows: 

Making Tax Digital for VAT 

If your business is VAT registered you now need to comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT. 

VAT-registered businesses are required to keep financial records digitally and submit VAT returns through the MTD system using a compatible software. 

Businesses face potential penalties if they do not use HMRC-compliant software or process to report their VAT affairs. 

Making Tax Digital for Income Tax 

MTD for Income Tax Self-Assessment will require the self-employed and landlords with annual gross business or property income above £50,000 to keep digital records and provide quarterly updates on their income and expenditure to HMRC through MTD-compatible software from April 2026.  

Those with an income of between £30,000 and £50,000 will need to do this from April 2027.  

It’s likely that you’ll have the opportunity to sign up voluntarily beforehand to iron out any issues in the transition.  


Making Tax Digital for Corporation Tax 

HMRC intends to introduce its MTD initiative into the Corporation Tax regime once it has finished rolling out the system for Income Tax. 

It is likely that it won’t come into force before April 2026but the Government is yet to set a firm date for its implementation. 

At the moment, not much has been confirmed about this phase of MTD, as the Government is still consulting with businesses and their agents to help design an effective MTD for Corporation Tax system. 

The Government will also provide businesses with an opportunity to take part in a pilot for MTD for Corporation Tax before it becomes mandatory in the years ahead. 

Want more advice on Making Tax Digital? Download our guide today! 

What software can I use to comply with Making Tax Digital?

You must use HMRC approved cloud accounting software or a set of compatible software programs that can connect to HMRC systems via its Application Programming Interface (API). The software must be able to:

  • Keep records in a digital form
  • Preserve digital records in a digital form
  • Create a VAT or tax return from the digital records held in functional compatible software and provide HMRC with this information digitally
  • Provide HMRC with VAT and tax data voluntarily
  • Receive information from HMRC via the API platform.

We can help you find online cloud accounting software that is suited to you and your business’s needs.

What are the differences between Cash Accounting and Accruals Accounting VAT systems?

The two most commonly used forms of VAT accounting are cash (based on bank receipts and payments) and accrual (based on invoices raised and received).

Why use cash accounting for VAT?

Using the cash accounting method, you calculate the VAT when your invoices are paid by your customers, not when they are initially raised – this ensures that you only pay VAT to HMRC once your customer has paid and settled their invoice.

However, this also means that you can only reclaim the VAT from HMRC on purchases where the supplier invoice has been paid.

This method is generally seen as an easier approach on cash flow, as cash reserves aren’t required to pay HMRC for sales not yet collected, making it ideal for smaller to medium-sized businesses.

Businesses should be aware, however, that this method of accounting is only available if taxable turnover is less than £1.35 million in the next 12 months. You must leave the scheme if your VAT taxable turnover is more than £1.6 million.

You are also not allowed to use this method of accounting if:

  • You use the VAT Flat Rate Scheme – instead, the Flat Rate Scheme has its own cash-based turnover method.
  • You are not up to date with your VAT Returns or payments.
  • You have committed a VAT offence in the last 12 months, for example, VAT evasion.

Certain transactions are also not permissible under this method, such as where the payment terms of a VAT invoice are six months or more.

Businesses with long payment terms on their sales invoices, credit control issues or businesses, such as consultants, with no real significant expenses each quarter, may benefit from using the cash basis for VAT. 

Why use accrual accounting for VAT?

This is the default option for VAT. If you use the accrual accounting method you must calculate VAT based on when the invoice was either received or issued, not when payment was made. 

This method of accounting is not concerned with when payments were received or made, which is why it is the preferred (and often required) form of accounting for larger businesses with a higher turnover. 

If you intend to use this method of accounting, you should make sure that you have sufficient cash reserves to cover VAT payments to HMRC on unpaid invoices. 

Businesses that typically have a VAT repayment each VAT period may wish to use the accrual-based scheme to reclaim the VAT refund more quickly. 

VAT payments are typically due around five weeks after the end of the VAT quarter, so if your customers tend to pay you within two to three weeks of invoicing, the accruals scheme could be more appropriate. 

Businesses need to consider which form of accounting is most suited to their business and seek advice from a qualified professional before adopting one or the other. 

Can directors claim tax allowances for working from home to account for expenses?

Directors, as well as other employees, should be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs if they are required to work from home regularly. 

You may be able to claim tax relief for: 

  • Gas and electricity within your work area 
  • Metered water 
  • Business phone calls, including dial-up internet access. 

However, you are not permitted to claim for the whole bill, just the part that relates to your work.  

You also cannot claim tax relief if you choose to work from home. 

Under the rules, you can either claim tax relief on: 

  • The exact amount of extra costs you have incurred above the weekly amount with evidence, such as receipts, bills or contracts; or 
  • At a flat rate of up to £6 a week without evidence. 

You will receive tax relief according to your marginal tax rate. For example, if you pay the basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week, you would get £1.20 per week in tax relief (i.e., 20 per cent of £6). 

Are staff team-building and company-funded social events taxable as benefits-in-kind?

You will not have to report anything or pay tax and National Insurance on a work social event, as long as it:

  • Is open to all your employees
  • Is annual, such as a Christmas party or summer barbecue
  • Costs £150 or less per person.

These rules also apply to online or virtual parties that your business holds.

If your business operates from multiple locations, an annual event that is open to all of your staff based at one location will still be exempt.

Similarly, you can also put on separate parties for different departments, as long as all of your employees can attend one of them.

You can also hold multiple annual events, as long as the combined cost of the events is no more than £150 per head each year.

If you go over this amount then all events for that year become taxable, regardless of whether they meet the other criteria.

How do I obtain an EORI number for overseas trade?

Businesses must have an Economic Operations Registration and Identification (EORI) number to move goods between Great Britain and other countries. It is a mandatory part of a customs declaration and is necessary to report and pay VAT as well. 

You usually need to be ‘established’ – by having a premises in the country you’re moving goods from or to – to get an EORI number, but you can also get one if you need to make a customs declaration for another country.  

Businesses offering services to customers in the EU and not goods, do not need an EORI number. 


Businesses need a GB EORI number to move goods between Great Britain and the EU. 

If the business uses a post or parcel company, they may tell the business if it needs an EORI number, but it is best to check. 

If you already have an EORI number and it does not start with GB you will need to apply for a new one here. 

To apply,you need a: 

  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) 
  • business start date and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code 
  • Government Gateway user ID and password 
  • VAT number and effective date of registration (if you’re VAT registered) 
  • National Insurance number (if you’re an individual or a sole trader). 


If a business makes declarations or gets customs decisions in an EU country, it will need to get an EU EORI from the customs authority in the EU country where it is submitted. 



If a business moves goods into Northern Ireland or via it into the EU, then they should sign up for the Government’s Trader Support Service and acquire an ‘XI’ EORI number. 

When should I register for VAT?

You are required to register for VAT in the UK if:

  • You expect your VAT taxable turnover to be more than £85,000 in the next 30-day period; or
  • Your business had a VAT taxable turnover of more than £85,000 over the last 12 months.

VAT taxable turnover is the total of everything sold that is not VAT exempt.

You might also need to register in some other cases, depending on the kinds of goods or services you sell and where you sell them.

If neither you nor your business is UK-based you must register for VAT as soon as you supply any goods and services to the UK, regardless of whether you meet the VAT threshold.

You can also apply for voluntarily if your business turnover is below £85,000. This can bring several advantages, including the ability to reclaim VAT on certain supplies. However, you must pay HMRC any VAT you owe from the date you are registered. 

How do I register for VAT?

Most businesses can register for VAT online. This will grant you a VAT number and create a VAT online account, which will allow you to submit your VAT Returns to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).  

You should get a VAT registration certificate within 30 working days of making your submission, though it can take longer. 

You can then start charging VAT on applicable products and services from your ‘effective date of registration 

You’ll usually need to send a VAT return four times a year to show what you have paid and what has been paid to you. This should now be done through Making Tax Digital for most businesses, unless you are registered for the VAT Annual Accounting Scheme.  

You can also appoint an accountant to submit your VAT Returns and deal with HMRC on your behalf. 

Our team are here to help

We’re always here to support you, whatever your query may be, so make sure you seek our advice, as and when you need it.

Business Owners FAQ Animations

How are Dividends Taxed?

How much salary should I pay myself?

Should the company pay for my car?

What is a balance sheet?

What is a director’s loan account?

Should I operate as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company?

What is IR35?

What is Making Tax Digital?

What are the differences between Cash Accounting and Accruals Accounting VAT systems?

Can directors claim tax allowances for working from home to account for expenses?

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