Your guide to making a CIS tax claim

If you’re a construction contractor or subcontractor you’ve probably heard of the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) – and, since it has an effect on the money in your pocket – you should hopefully be aware of your right to making a CIS tax claim. CIS not the same as being paid directly by an employer, so we’ll explain what the scheme is, how it works and the steps you need to take if you think you might be due a refund!

What is the CIS?

When a subcontractor does work for a construction contractor the CIS stipulates that the contractor must make deductions from the money paid to that subcontractor. These payments count as advance payments toward that person’s tax and National Insurance.

It’s often better for a subcontractor to receive ‘gross’ payments – meaning a full payment with no deductions made. This allows the subcontractor to handle all tax and National Insurance contributions themselves – at whichever rate of tax applies to the way in which they pay themselves. However, to be eligible for gross payments a subcontractor must meet the following HMRC criteria by showing that:

  • They have paid tax and National Insurance contributions on time in the past
  • Your business does construction work (or provides labour for it) in the UK
  • Your business is run through a bank account 

Not only that, but HMRC will also look at your turnover for the 12 months prior to your claim for gross payments. They require turnover to be at least:

  • £30,000 if you’re a sole trader
  • £30,000 for each partner in a partnership, or at least £100,000 for the whole partnership
  • £30,000 for each director of a company, or at least £100,000 for the whole company

How much are the deductions?

Fortunately, the level at which deductions are taken is somewhat decided by you if you’re a subcontractor. The HMRC expects you to register as being a subcontractor – assuming you do, contractor deductions will be made at 20% – excluding VAT charged by the subcontractor and any cost of materials. If you don’t register, deductions will be made at the higher rate of 30% – again, excluding VAT charged or material costs.

It’s worth noting – even if you have register, the 30% rate will apply if you’ve failed to give the contractor you’re working for your UTR (unique tax payer reference) number – so make sure you do!

‘Registering’ doesn’t mean you have to meet the qualifying criteria for being paid gross payments – simply that the HMRC are aware you’re a construction industry subcontractor. Hence, it’s better to have registered, whether you can meet the criteria or not.

Why does CIS exist and why does it go wrong?

The government introduced the CIS scheme as they felt there were too many subcontractors avoiding paying tax – essentially breaking the law and in some cases leaving the people who paid them liable for paying too much tax themselves. While it might have felt like a victimless crime to the subcontractor who avoided paying tax – the knock-on effect was often to the person or company who had paid them.

CIS most often impacts the people who are the most well-meaning when it comes to submitting tax returns. This is because CIS payments are already taken – meaning overpayment at the point of submitting your tax return becomes more than likely. 

Am I due a refund and if so, how much?

Firstly, it’s worth noting that a high percentage of people who have been paid through CIS and have submitted their own tax-return are due a refund. Both CIS and self-assessment returns can be fairly complex, especially if you’ve worked for different contractors – so there’s a chance that mistakes or oversights can happen.

Refunds can be anywhere from a few pounds – to thousands – and either way, that money is better in your pocket than incorrectly sitting with HMRC. It’s also worth noting that refunds can take a while to come to light with HMRC – so it might be that you’re due a return of money for previous years earnings too.

How do I claim overpayments back?

You’ve got a couple of options here. If you’re a sole trader, HMRC’s guidance on the issue simply says, “If you’re due a tax refund, HMRC will pay the money back” – with no indication of timescales, how the process is started or how frequently your tax contributions will be reviewed. People often consider this leaving the whole process to chance – especially given well documented cuts and delays in HMRC services.

If you’d prefer to keep the fate of any possible refund in your own hands then it’s better to pursue HMRC, you can either do this yourself – or use a specialist CIS refund service who’ll do the legwork for you.

It’s slightly different if you’re operating as a limited company and have gross payment status. If this is the case HMRC advise that you declare your income in your Corporate Tax return as you normally would – with any CIS dedications claimed back through your company’s monthly payroll scheme. They note that if you attempt to reclaim any CIS dedications through your tax return you could face a penalty – so be careful. Give HMRC a call with all your info to hand if you or your accountant are in any doubt.

What will I need?

The key to making a claim for overpayment of tax is always to have good records. Without these HMRC will have no proof that you’re eligible for tax relief – and unfortunately, they only operate on proof – not good will!

Make sure you keep records of:

  • Every contractor you work for – including name and address.
  • Locations of work done.
  • Each contractor’s tax reference.
  • Dates of payments when a contractor paid you.

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have this information – it can just slow things down a little. Should you find yourself without any of this – try to make sure you have it for work you do going forward.

If choose to get in touch with HMRC yourself, you’ll need to explain that you think you’re due a refund along with the reasons why. If you choose to use a company who’ll pursue the claim for you, they might take a small percentage of the rebate that you’re given – but will normally put the effort in on your behalf and have the knowledge to get things done quickly. It’s your choice – but either way is better than leaving the fate of your money to chance.

9 Brain Hacks to Help You Learn and Remember Information

You may have heard that the brain is the most powerful computer known to man, and this is certainly true. While the latest computers can undertake many tasks while left to their own devices, they fail in comparison to the tasks our cerebrum can carry out at will whether your studying for university exams or your taking a CCNSG  safety passport training course your brain is the most powerful tool in your arsenal.

This isn’t to say that the brain can’t take a nose dive from time to time. Anyone who has been overworked and tired will be able to testify how difficult it is to try and concentrate when our brain is being starved of rest. However, not everyone is aware of just how to bring the calm to the storm when it all gets too much upstairs, and get our brains in fully-working order. The following tips will help those who may feel their focus of late is a little off-target.

Ensure You Write It Down

Whether you’ve been part of a training group or a boardroom meeting, it is likely that you will have taken notes at some point, on the assumption they are used for reference later. While this is true in part, you may not be aware that writing down information ignites a lot of receptors in relation to language and memory, making it more likely for you to absorb the information and remember it.

Do Something Different Over and Over

Those who procrastinate will normally be desperate for some magic formula that will have them firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, such efforts are normally unsuccessful, as the road to change starts small.

While it may not be realistic for someone to change the working methods overnight, undertaking small tasks you wouldn’t normally do and repeating the process teaches the brain to build new pathways in relation to your behaviour, and helps you become good at it. Plus, your small achievements will give you more confidence in what can be achieved once you put your mind to it.

Consider the Apps You Use

While it’s hard not to show love to established classics such as “Angry Birds” and “Candy Crush,” there are other apps that can help you better exercise the grey matter. While everyone has their own preference, a good search on your app store of choice will unveil numerous options to ensure your brain is getting the workout it deserves.

Pay Attention!

While this may seem like something of a no-brainer, it’s quite important if you want to start remembering the finer details. There are many of us who have the tendency to drift off while listening to information. While we may think we have got the information we need, it’s more likely that you will have forgotten some integral details. Giving people our undivided attention ensures that we’re not losing information en-route. And remember, if we write it down, we’re ensuring our brain is operating in the best way to process the information we’re given.

Exercise Frequently

While it may be obvious to some, not everyone is aware that simply moving your body is good for the brain as well as the body. Even if exercise is a relatively new concept to you, ensuring you get your limbs moving for 20 minutes will be enough to ensure that information your brain processes is done so with more clarity.

It’s also worth noting that exercise helps create new neural connections at a faster pace, making for more alertness and a higher concentration span.

Have a Break

Some of the avenues you must take to get your brain in gear can involve a lot of effort and concentration on your part, but fear not, it’s not all about giving your all. In fact, if your overdoing it, then it stands to reason that both your body and your brain can become tired. As such, there are times when we simply should take a break. Even a mere five minutes can help us ensure we’re retaining information and thinking more clearly as a result.

Break Up Cumbersome Information

Our failure to remember information isn’t always due to our brain not functioning correctly, but more how we deal with long-winded tasks. Anyone who has had to study for an exam will testify that regardless of what method is used, retaining information that is overbearing can be an overwhelming and stressful endeavour in some cases.

However, breaking up tasks into more manageable segments means that we’re not presenting ourselves with too much. We simply deal with the first lot of information, ensure we remember it, then move on to the next. Not only is the more palatable for the grey matter, but it also ensures we’re using a structure that will yield rewards when it comes to using our brain.

Maintain Relationships with Family and Friends

Many of us have been in the position of having to say no when asked to a family event or social gathering, because we’re simply too busy. However, you might be surprised to know that such events can help with bonding with others, which in turn can help us sculpt a sharper mind.

Even scientist agree that the brain is more likely to have a better recall when making an emotional bond with others.

Eat the Right Food

When trying to meet that all-important deadline, it’s easier for many of us to grab some food on the go. While there is nothing wrong with this in the short-term, opting for takeout on a more regular basis can mean that we’re not getting the vitamins and nutrients needs to help fuel our brainpower.

Fish and fruits will help your brain develop and perform in the right way. IF you fancy something a little sweeter, then a little bit of dark chocolate can help produce dopamine, which in turn can help you learn and remember more information.

Some may need to follow all the tips given, while others may only have to adopt a few. However, if you currently find yourself in a sense of bewilderment when it comes to recalling information, then it may be worth taking a step back and considering what changes we can introduce moving forward.

Marketing Strategies For Start-ups On A Budget

Marketing Strategies For Start-ups On A Budget

An effective marketing strategy can turn a small start-up into a leading industry force, that won’t happen overnight of course but successful businesses are built on effective marketing strategies. So, they are incredibly important, however, they can also be very expensive.

The majority of start-up businesses will have a very tight budget, this means you can’t have very in-depth marketing strategies, right?

Wrong that’s all a common misconception you still can have effective and in-depth marketing strategies on a smaller budget, you just need to get a little more creative.  Let’s take a look at some great marketing strategies for start-ups on a budget.

SEO and Content Marketing

Content marketing is a great way to draw traffic to your website but getting the principles of SEO down can be tricky so it may be worth working with a SEO consultant in the short-term.

Plus, an understanding of technical SEO and keyword usage isn’t enough on its own, you can’t just load up blogs with keywords you still need to craft high-quality content, build links and make sure technical aspects of your website are up to scratch such as site speed, internal links and site structure.

However, you’ll need to upload content regularly as well, there’s certainly a learning curve to crafting high-quality SEO friendly content but once you’ve got to grips with it and done the research it will be a lot easier. And the other good thing about effective content marketing is that once you’ve learned to do it, it will be free.

Social Media Marketing

Using social media to build an effective digital marketing strategy is something any start-up business should be working on as soon as they’re up and running. Social media is incredibly low cost and with some research and planning building, an effective marketing campaign may be much easier than you think.

The difficulty comes with learning how each social media site works, Twitter isn’t the same as Facebook for example. Social media can also be time-consuming to manage because once they’re up and running you can’t just leave them you’ll need to be constantly uploading content in order to build a following.

Personality and creativity are essential on social media and when done correctly you could build an effective marketing strategy for an incredibly low cost. So, get yourself set up on social media sites as soon as possible.

Referral Systems

Referrals are a great way to reward customers and increase engagement amongst your customers when they work well a referral system will allow customers to effectively do the marketing for you!

Customers can also get rewards for referring you to other potential customers, which means you can combine referral systems with reward schemes.


Reward schemes are one of the most popular marketing strategies available and they are simple and straight forward. You reward followers or subscribers with special deals like discounts or early access to products.

Be creative and think of exciting ways to reward loyal followers who have helped word of mouth spread about your business. Rewards will also help build your following even more and will help generate further sales, so once you’re in a good position follower wise make sure you set up an official reward scheme.

E-mail Marketing 

E-mail marketing as a somewhat negative reception amongst some people, but that’s because it is usually badly employed email marketing. The key to affective email marketing is to trickle the emails out and not bombard your customers with them.

It should be a steady stream and when possible, you should try to make them as personally tailored to your customers as possible. Don’t be invasive and make your email catchy and attention grabbing, when done well email marketing could bring back a significant investment.

Build An Effective Newsletter

A newsletter will do great things for your business and is a great way of building an effective marketing strategy. With a newsletter, you can keep customers in the know about your business, new products, services and much more.

You can utilize a newsletter in a number of ways and include rewards like discounts and deals to get more people to sign up. You should also use social media to advertise your newsletter to followers so they can find out about the benefits of opting in. The key with an effective newsletter is the same as sales emails, don’t send too many and make sure they are attractive and exciting to read.

Find Cheap Advertisements

Advertisements are a great marketing tool, however, they are also known for being very expensive. However, this doesn’t mean that start-up businesses can’t use adverts to market their business, it just means you have to be a bit more selective about where your adverts appear.

You won’t be running any on television straight away or in expensive magazines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach a lot of people. Facebook adverts can be very cheap and when you consider the importance of the digital sector in today’s business world a cheap advert on social media could have a big impact.