I'm reading about setting up a limited company in the UK and wanted to make sure I manage the company properly.

If I set up a limited company being the only shareholder would I be better off paying my self a dividend of 100% profit or as an employee?

If it is, how do I register the income, and is it ethical and legal?

  • I'm not sure if there are any pecularities in UK, but generally, dividend is payed from taxed company income and is then taxed as personal income, so you get taxed twice. Feb 15, 2017 at 17:23
  • Ah, so I would be better off being an employee.
    – Terry
    Feb 15, 2017 at 17:24
  • Or self-employment. You could edit question in this direction. Self-employed from UK could say. I could only say for Poland/Germany. Of course, having limited liability company is sometimes the only option, even if you must pay more taxes. Feb 15, 2017 at 17:43
  • @DanielCarson I can't see how it could be a duplicate. It's about other country, though both start from 'United' :D Feb 15, 2017 at 17:43
  • @DanubianSailor: You are taxed twice at a low rate. Not once at a high rate. You can save significant amounts of taxes by running a limited company in the UK.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 23, 2017 at 0:52

3 Answers 3


In a simple case as the sole UK resident director/shareholder of a company, with that company as your only income, you are usually best paying yourself a salary of the maximum tax free amount allowed under your tax code (~£11k for most people at present). On this you will have to pay some employer and employee National Insurance (NI) contributions (totalling around £1000).

Your salary/employer NI counts as an expense, so that is taken off the company profits. You then pay corporation tax on the remainder (20%). The first £5k you take as dividends is tax free, the remainder at a lower tax rate than the equivalent combined income tax/NI (starting at 7.5% instead of 20% tax plus employee plus employer NI), giving a significant saving compared to salaried income even after corporation tax.

To declare and pay the tax, you would need to complete a self-assessment tax return. Your company will also need to file a return.

The Contractor UK website, although aimed at IT contractors, has some very useful information on operating Ltd companies.

That said, finances are rarely that simple so I would concur with the recommendation you engage an accountant, which is a tax-deductible expense.


manage the company properly.

If you aren't much aware about company rules and regulation or tax matters, get an accountant so that you don't mess up later.

better off paying my self a dividend of 100% profit or as an employee?

That depends on how much salary you intend to pay yourself, your dividend or how much business expenses you will incur while running the business.

Generally speaking you are better off paying your self a minimum salary and pay the rest as dividends. But check out the dividend tax and the income tax you might need to pay and compare which situation you are better off. If you have a partner, using the dividend way will reduce your NI outgoes.

ethical and legal?

Ethically the dividend way might burn your conscience but it is perfectly legal way of doing things.

  • The salary you pay yourself will normally be your tax-free allowance. Unsurprisingly, if you pay yourself less than this then you're not taking advantage of the tax-free allowance, and if you pay yourself more than this then you're paying tax you don't need to.
    – AndyT
    Feb 16, 2017 at 11:35
  • 1
    Ethically the dividend way wouldn't burn my conscience at all. What's unethical and also illegal is paying low salary + dividend to wife/husband or children who are not actually involved in the company, to reduce the tax rate.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 22, 2017 at 20:01

Adding to webdevduck's answer: Before you calculate your profits, you can pay money tax-free into a pension fund for the company director (that is you). Then if you pay yourself dividends, if you made lots of profit you don't have to pay it all as dividends. You can take some where the taxes are low, and then pay more money in later years.

What you must NOT do is just take the money. The company may be yours, but the money isn't. It has to be paid as salary or dividend. (You can give the company director a loan, but that loan has to be repaid. Especially if a limited company goes bankrupt, the creditors would insist that loans from the company are repaid).

After a bit more checking, here's the optimal approach, perfectly legal, expected and ethical:

You pay yourself a salary of £676 per month. That's the point where you get all the advantages of national insurance without having to pay; above that you would have to pay 13.8% employers NI contributions and 12% employee's NI contributions, so for £100 salary the company has to pay £113.80 and you receive £88.00. Below £676 you pay nothing.

You deduct the salary from your revenue, then you deduct all the deductible business costs (be wise in what you try to deduct), then you pay whatever you want into a pension fund. Well, up to I think £25,000 per year.

The rest is profit. The company pays 19% corporation tax on profits. Then you pay yourself dividends. Any dividends until your income is £11,500 per year are tax free. Then the next £5,000 per year are tax free. Then any dividends until income + dividends = £45,000 per year is taxed at 7.5%. It's illegal to pay so much in dividends that the company can't pay its bills.

Above £45,000 you decide if you want your money now and pay more tax, or wait and get it tax free. Every pound of dividend above £45,000 a year you pay 32.5% tax, but there is nobody forcing you to take the money. You can wait until business is bad, or you want a loooong holiday, or you retire. So at that time you will stay below £45,000 per year and pay only 7.5% tax.

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