How much is corporation tax & what are the reliefs?

First published 04 October 2019 • Updated 04 December 2019

What tax does a company pay?

What is corporation tax?

Corporation tax is the main tax that a limited company must pay. Corporation tax must be paid both on the company’s profits and on any gains from selling assets (e.g. land, property or shares) that have increased in value.

Sole traders and partnerships don’t pay corporation tax, but instead pay income tax (on business profits) and capital gains tax (on any gain from the sale of assets).

You are responsible for ensuring that you pay the right amount of tax, so you must keep accurate company accounts and file a Company Tax Return by your deadline.

What is the corporation tax rate?

Your company will pay corporation tax at 19 per cent on its profits – that is, the money it makes in that accounting period, minus any overheads and expenses. The rate of corporation tax may change from time to time (it used to be higher) so you must ensure that you pay the correct rate that applies for your accounting period. You can check the dates of your accounting period on your financial statements, or on the government's website.

Registering to pay corporation tax

You’ll need to register for corporation tax when you set up as a limited company (within three months of starting to trade). Note that ‘trading’ may be any business activity from buying stock to placing an advert – it doesn’t have to involve making money. Therefore you should register for corporation tax as early as possible to avoid facing a penalty.

Can I reduce my corporation tax bill?

You can lower your corporation tax bill in a number of ways, such as by claiming allowable expenses. There are also various corporation tax reliefs available that can lower your final bill, if you qualify for them.

Corporation tax allowances

As with personal income tax for sole traders, there are certain allowable business expenses for a company that can reduce its corporation tax bill. Any cost that the company incurs solely for the purposes of running the business should be deducted from the company’s profits before tax. A long lists of expenses qualify, the main ones being:

  • Stock bought for resale
  • Purchase of raw materials
  • Salaries of all employees
  • Employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs)
  • Employer pension contributions
  • Business insurance
  • Business-related travel and accommodation
  • Training fees
  • Accountancy costs

This is just a partial list. Expenses must be ‘wholly and exclusively’ for business reasons, without any personal use.

The company can’t claim for equipment and plant that you buy and keep for the business, as these are known as capital assets. However, you may be able to claim capital allowances on these.

Corporation tax reliefs

Your company may also qualify for certain corporation tax reliefs. Reliefs may be available on:

  • Research & development costs
  • Profit from patents
  • Production of some creative media (e.g. TV, films, theatrical productions and video games)
  • Losses that your business makes
  • Disincorporation (if your company changes its structure to sole trader or partnership, and needs to transfer assets to shareholders).

Find out more about making your business tax-efficient.

When is the corporation tax deadline?

If your taxable profits are £1.5m or less, you must pay your corporation tax within nine months and one day of the end of your accounting period. If your taxable profits are more than this, you will pay in instalments. See the HMRC website for more information on this.

Why you need to prepare your company tax return early!

It’s important to note that the deadline for paying corporation tax comes before the deadline for filing your company tax return (which is 12 months after the end of your accounting period). You will therefore need to prepare your company tax return well in advance of the deadline, so that you know how much corporation tax to pay.

How to pay your corporation tax bill

HMRC accepts a number of payment methods for corporation tax. Some take longer than others, so make sure you allow enough time if the deadline is near.

Payment

Time needed

Online / telephone banking

One/two working days

CHAPS

Bacs

Three working days

Direct debit

Online (debit card only)

Bank or building society

New direct debit

Five working days

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About the author
Nick Green
Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.