HomeTaxWhat is CIS Tax? - Everything You Need to Know

What is CIS Tax? – Everything You Need to Know

Are you a contractor or subcontractor in the UK? If so, then you’ve likely come across the term CIS tax. But what is it, and how does it influence your company? Don’t worry; we’ll break it down for you! In this blog post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about CIS tax – from its purpose and impact on contractors and subcontractors to the difference between CIS and PAYE. So grab a cup of tea, sit back, and let’s dive into the world of CIS tax together!

What is CIS Tax?

What is CIS Tax?

The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) is a tax deduction scheme operated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the United Kingdom. It is designed to make sure that subcontractors in the construction industry pay their taxes correctly.

Under the CIS, contractors are required to deduct tax from payments to subcontractors who are not registered with the scheme. The rate of deduction is 20% for registered subcontractors and 30% for unregistered subcontractors. This tax is deducted from the subcontractor’s invoice before payment is made.

The money deducted from subcontractors’ payments is passed on to HMRC by the contractors. This money is treated as advance payment towards the subcontractor’s tax and National Insurance contributions.

How Does CIS Tax Actually Work?

The CIS tax operates through a system of deductions made by contractors from payments to subcontractors. Here is a step-by-step overview of how the CIS tax scheme works:

  • Contractor Registration: Contractors must register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) under the CIS scheme. This involves providing relevant information about the business, such as contact details, UTR (Unique Taxpayer Reference), and other necessary details.
  • Subcontractor Verification: Before making any payments to subcontractors, contractors need to verify their employment status with HMRC. This verification process ensures that the subcontractor is registered with HMRC and allows the contractor to determine the correct tax deduction rate.
  • Deductions from Payments: When a contractor pays a subcontractor, they deduct tax from the payment amount according to the registered status of the subcontractor. If the subcontractor is registered under the CIS scheme, the deduction is generally 20% of the payment. If the subcontractor is unregistered or has not provided their UTR, the deduction increases to 30%.
  • Submitting Monthly Returns: Contractors are required to submit monthly returns to HMRC, detailing the payments made to subcontractors and the corresponding tax deductions. These returns can be filed online using the HMRC CIS online service or through commercial accounting software.
  • Providing Payment Statements: Contractors must provide payment statements to subcontractors either monthly or upon request. These statements outline the payments made to the subcontractor and the deductions made for tax purposes. Subcontractors use these statements to claim credit for the tax deducted from their payments.
  • Subcontractor Tax Obligations: Subcontractors also have their own tax obligations. They need to include their income from subcontracting work in their tax returns, along with the credit for the CIS tax deductions made by contractors. The credits offset their overall tax liability.
  • Year-End Reporting: At the end of each tax year, contractors must provide subcontractors with a CIS tax deduction certificate. This certificate summarizes the total tax deducted by the contractor throughout the year.

It’s important for both contractors and subcontractors to keep accurate records of payments, tax deductions, and other relevant information to ensure compliance with the CIS tax scheme. Failure to comply with the CIS scheme’s requirements may result in penalties and additional tax liabilities.

Does a Limited Company Need to Be CIS Registered?

Does a Limited Company Need to Be CIS Registered?

If you’re running a limited company and working in the construction industry, you might wonder whether your business needs to be registered under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). The answer is yes if your company carries out construction work as its main trade.

The CIS registration process involves providing certain information about your company and its activities to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This includes details like your company’s name, address, nature of work carried out, and relevant contact information. Once registered, you’ll receive a unique CIS reference number that must be used for all future dealings with CIS.

Being CIS registered comes with some important obligations. For example, as a limited company contractor within the scheme, you will need to deduct tax from payments made to subcontractors at source before making any payment. These deductions are then submitted to HMRC through regular monthly returns.

However, it’s worth noting that if your limited company only hires other companies (subcontractors) already registered under the CIS scheme, you won’t have any tax deducted from their payments. In this case, it may still benefit your business to register voluntarily for CIS so subcontractors can enjoy gross payment status.

Who Needs to Register for CIS?

In the UK, CIS (Construction Industry Scheme) registration is required for individuals and businesses involved in the construction industry. The following groups of people need to register for CIS:

  • Contractors: If you pay subcontractors to carry out construction work, you are considered a contractor. This includes businesses and individuals who spend an average of £1 million or more on construction per year over a three-year period.
  • Subcontractors: If you perform construction work for contractors, you are classified as a subcontractor. This includes individuals, partnerships, and companies carrying out construction work individually or as part of a larger construction contract.

It is essential to note that not all construction work falls within the scope of the CIS. Some exemptions include work on buildings for non-business purposes (e.g., domestic projects) and jobs carried out outside of the UK.

Registering for CIS is necessary to ensure compliance with tax obligations, as it allows HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to deduct tax from payments made to subcontractors and transfer it to the government.

If you are unsure whether you need to register for CIS, consulting with HMRC or a professional advisor specializing in tax matters is recommended.

What Would Be the CIS Tax Effect on the Contractor?

What Would Be the CIS Tax Effect on the Contractor?

As a contractor in the construction industry, understanding the effect of CIS tax on your business is crucial. The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) requires contractors to deduct money from subcontractor payments and send it directly to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This means that if you are a contractor, you will be responsible for deducting and paying this tax.

The main effect of CIS tax on contractors is increased administrative responsibilities. You will need to register for CIS with HMRC and follow their guidelines regarding deduction rates and reporting obligations. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in penalties or fines.

Additionally, deducting CIS tax from subcontractor payments may impact cash flow for contractors. It’s important to accurately calculate and set aside funds for these deductions, as failure to do so could lead to financial difficulties down the line.

Furthermore, contractors must ensure they have accurate records of all payments made under CIS. This includes keeping track of invoices received from subcontractors, proof of payment made, and any other relevant documentation required by HMRC.

What is the CIS Tax Effect on the Subcontractor?

The CIS tax significantly impacts subcontractors working in the construction industry. It is important for them to understand how this tax affects their earnings and compliance obligations.

Subcontractors registered under the Construction Industry Scheme are required to have deductions made from their payments by contractors. These deductions are passed on to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as advance payments towards the subcontractor’s tax and National Insurance contributions.

The amount deducted depends on whether the subcontractor is registered under CIS or not. If they are registered, 20% of their payment will be withheld; if they are not registered, it increases to 30%. This can substantially affect cash flow for subcontractors who rely heavily on these earnings.

Subcontractors must also keep accurate records of all income received and expenses incurred related to their construction work. This includes invoices, receipts, and any other relevant documentation. Failure to maintain proper records can lead to penalties or even prosecution by HMRC.

Difference Between CIS and PAYE

Difference Between CIS and PAYE

CIS (Construction Industry Scheme) and PAYE (Pay As You Earn) are both tax systems used in the UK, but they differ in their application and purpose. Here are the key differences between CIS and PAYE:

  1. Applicability: CIS is specific to the construction industry, while PAYE is a broader system applicable to all industries.
  2. Contractors and Subcontractors: CIS primarily focuses on the relationship between contractors and subcontractors in the construction industry. It requires contractors to deduct tax at source from payments made to subcontractors and submit it to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). In contrast, PAYE applies to employers paying wages or salaries to employees across all sectors.
  3. Tax Deduction: Under CIS, contractors deduct tax from payments made to subcontractors at a predetermined rate (either 20% for registered subcontractors or 30% for unregistered subcontractors). The deducted tax is then passed on to HMRC. On the other hand, under PAYE, employers deduct income tax and National Insurance contributions from employees’ wages before paying them.
  4. Self-Employment Considerations: In CIS, subcontractors are often self-employed individuals or businesses providing construction services. They must register as either self-employed or as a private or public limited company. With PAYE, employees are typically working under an employment contract with an employer, and their taxes are deducted through the payroll system.
  5. Reporting Requirements: Both CIS and PAYE have reporting obligations. Contractors under CIS need to submit monthly CIS returns to HMRC, detailing payments made to subcontractors and any tax deductions. Employers under PAYE must report their payroll information to HMRC through Real Time Information (RTI) reporting, including details of employee wages, tax deductions, and National Insurance contributions.

How Much Tax Do You Pay as CIS?

The tax you owe as a CIS subcontractor in the UK is contingent on your registration with the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) and your income level.

For those registered with CIS, a 20% deduction is made by your contractor from your invoice amount, serving as an upfront payment toward income tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs). Subsequently, you are required to complete a Self Assessment tax return at the conclusion of the tax year to ascertain your final tax liability.

If you are not registered with CIS, your contractor will withhold 30% of your invoice amount for tax purposes. This higher deduction is imposed by HMRC due to the unverified nature of your details, mitigating the risk of non-payment.

Subcontractors engaged in construction work in the UK can opt to register with CIS by furnishing HMRC with their personal and business information.

To illustrate, consider these scenarios for a CIS subcontractor’s tax payments:

  1. Registered with CIS and earning £1,000 per month: Your contractor will deduct £200 monthly from your payments.
  2. Not registered with CIS and earning £1,000 per month: Your contractor will deduct £300 monthly from your payments.


As you can see, CIS tax is a complex system that requires careful attention and understanding. It’s essential to ensure that your business meets all the requirements of CIS, or else you could face penalties. However, with the proper knowledge, guidance, and tools in place, it does not have to be daunting. By staying up-to-date on changes in taxation legislation and having an adviser on hand if necessary, businesses can benefit from this system without worrying about missteps along the way.


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