Umbrella companies provide self-employed workers with a managed limited company through which freelancers can operate multiple contracts while the umbrella company does all the administration. This saves the freelancer time on all the activities normally associated with running a limited company, including processing timesheets and expenses, raising invoices, calculating tax and National Insurance contributions, collecting payments from third parties, executing legal contracts, dealing with filing, regulations etc.
Umbrella companies can also provide the freelancer with access to other benefits not usually available to them, such as pension schemes, private healthcare, life and critical illness insurance and childcare vouchers.
A reputable and well-structured umbrella company operating within HMRC guidelines should provide all the tax benefits of having your own limited company, including a special dispensation for expenses and tools for dealing with potentially complicated issues such as IR35 (where intermediaries such as service companies could be set up to provide the services of a worker to a client company enabling the client to make payments to the company, without deducting PAYE or NICs) and Section 660 (the so-called "husband and wife tax"). Also, every umbrella company has to have Employer's Liability and Public Liability insurance cover, which helps to cover the freelancer in the event of any legal cases being brought against them in relation to the services that they provide to their clients.
By joining an umbrella company as a client, a self-employed worker in effect becomes an employee of the umbrella company, while retaining the autonomous flexibility to find and choose their own work, clients, rates, terms and conditions. While limited company status may suit some freelancers, other self-employed individuals may benefit from joining an umbrella company. Each person has their own set of circumstances and judgments need to be made based on those.
Umbrella companies help freelancers to save time on administration, time which could be better spent finding new business or working on existing accounts. Umbrellas companies are a simpler way for some self-employed workers to get paid and to pay less tax, in addition to other benefits, and these companies aim to reduce the tax burden to the lowest possible level. Seeking advice from a financial professional such as an accountant will help you to decide if this is the best option for you and if it will help to save you money on your tax bill.
9th April 2009
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