Contractor Resources - Income Tax, The Basics

Income Tax is a tax on income. Not all income is taxable and you're only taxed on 'taxable income' above a certain level. Even then, there are other reliefs and allowances that can reduce your Income Tax bill - and in some cases mean you've no tax to pay.

What counts as taxable income?

Taxable income includes:

Non-taxable income

There are certain sorts of income that you never pay tax on. These include certain benefits, income from tax exempt accounts, Working Tax Credit (WTC) and premium bond wins. These income sources are ignored altogether when working out how much Income Tax you may need to pay.

Tax-free allowances

Nearly everyone who is resident in the UK for tax purposes receives a 'Personal Allowance', which is an amount of taxable income you're allowed to earn or receive each year tax-free.

This tax year (2010-11), the basic Personal Allowance - or tax-free amount - is 6,475. You may be entitled to a higher Personal Allowance if you're 65 or over.

If you're registered blind, or are unable to perform any work for which eyesight is essential, you can also claim the tax-free Blind Person's Allowance.

Income Tax is only due on taxable income that's above your tax-free allowances.

Allowances and reliefs that can reduce your Income Tax bill

If you're due to pay Income Tax, there are a number of deductible allowances and reliefs that can reduce your tax bill. These include:

Unlike the tax-free allowances, these aren't amounts of income you can receive tax-free. Rather they're amounts that can reduce your tax bill.

Tax on company benefits

If you're employed and you receive non-cash benefits from your employer you will have to pay tax on them.

Taxable benefits

Benefits that you might have to pay tax on include:

How much Income Tax you pay

After your allowable expenses and any tax-free allowances have been taken into account, the amount of tax you pay is calculated using different tax rates and a series of tax bands.

Income Tax rates 2010-11 by tax band and type of income

Income Tax band

Income Tax rate on non savings income

Income Tax rate on savings

Income Tax rate on dividends

£0 to £2,440
Starting rate for savings

Not available


N.A - see basic rate band

£0 to £37,400
Basic rate




£37,401 to £150,000
Higher rate




Over £150,000
Additional rate





Because the rate of Income Tax you pay on savings is worked out after any non-savings income has been taken into account, if your non-savings income is less than the starting rate for savings limit (2,440) - or if savings and investments are your only source of income - your savings income will be taxed at the 10 per cent starting rate up to the limit. But if you already have non-savings income which takes you above the starting rate, all of your savings will be taxed at the 20 per cent basic rate.

Remember, the tax band applies to your income after your tax allowances and any reliefs have been taken into account - you're not taxed on all of your income.

'Non savings income' includes income from employment or self-employment, most pension income and rental income.

'Dividends' means income from shares in UK companies. Savings and dividend income is added to your other taxable income and taxed last. This means you pay tax on these sorts of income based on your highest Income Tax band.

How you pay Income Tax

Income Tax is collected in different ways depending on the type of income and whether you're employed, self-employed or not working. The different ways Income Tax is collected include:

If you're an employee or you receive a company or private pension, your employer or pension provider will deduct tax through PAYE. If you're self-employed, you'll be responsible for filling in a Self Assessment tax return and paying your own tax.

Paying the right amount of Income Tax

It's important to check that you're paying the right amount of tax. You can do this by checking your:

If you're paying too much tax you can claim this money back. If you're an employee or you receive a company or personal pension and you think you're paying too little tax, you'll need to contact HMRC to change your tax code.

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