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UK Dividend Tax Explained: Step-By-Step Guide

Dividends - What Are They and What Taxes Do I Pay on Them? Image of someone working on a tablet | Crunch
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You might have heard the word 'dividends' being tossed around in business circles, but if you're new to the world of self-employment and running a limited company, you might not know exactly what a dividend is. So, what is a dividend and how do they help you be more tax-efficient?

Dividends are payments made to company shareholders from the profits of a company after Corporation Tax has been accounted for. When operating your business as a limited company, the most tax-efficient way of extracting money from your company is usually via dividends.

What is a dividend?

If your limited company has made a profit, it can distribute these earnings to shareholders by way of a ‘dividend’. Profit is the money the company has remaining after paying all business expenses and liabilities, plus any outstanding taxes (such as Corporation Tax and VAT).

It’s important to remember that dividends cannot be counted as a business expense when calculating your Corporation Tax and that it’s illegal to pay a dividend if your company does not have sufficient profit after tax available to cover the dividend amount.

Any ‘retained profit’ in a limited company could have been accumulated over a number of years. If the director(s) choose not to distribute any excess profits as dividends at the end of the company’s accounting period, then the accumulated profit remains available to distribute at a later date.

Usually, the most tax-efficient way to pay yourself as a director is by taking a combination of a low salary and dividends from your limited company. The salary will be paid to you as a director, in the same way as a regular employee. We’ve got an article that explains how it all works – “How much should I take as a salary from my limited company

How does your company issue a dividend?

If you want to issue a dividend, then you need to hold a meeting of directors to “declare” the dividend. The meeting needs to be minuted and a record kept of it. This is the case even if you are the sole director of your limited company, though it may then just be a case of issuing the correct paperwork. If you use a good online accounting software system like Crunch, then it should usually take care of all the admin for you.

For each dividend payment your company makes, you need to issue a dividend voucher that shows the following:

  • date the dividend is paid
  • company name
  • names of the shareholders being paid a dividend
  • amount of the dividend.

You should give a copy of the voucher to all recipients of the dividend amount and keep a copy for your company’s records.

Dividends should usually be distributed according to the percentage of company shares owned by each shareholder. So, If you own half the company’s shares, you should receive 50% of each dividend distribution.

Understanding tax on dividends

Your company does not need to pay tax on any dividend payments it issues, but the shareholders may have to pay tax on the dividends they receive based on their personal circumstances, through their annual Self Assessment

Running your business as a limited company can be a tax-efficient way to operate, as neither the company nor you as an employee will need to pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs) on dividends.

If you take a higher salary than the relevant National Insurance (NI) thresholds, both employer’s and employee’s NICs would be payable. Many limited company owners combine dividend payments with a low salary to operate their business and their personal finances tax-efficiently. You can check out our article “How much should I take as a salary?“ for further information.

Understanding the annual tax-free UK Dividend Allowance

You can earn up to £1,000 for the 2023/24 tax year and £500 for 2024/25, before you pay any Income Tax on your dividends, this figure is over and above your Personal Tax-Free Allowance of £12,570 in the 2023/24 and 2024/25 tax years.

Dividend Tax Rates for the 2024/25 tax year (and the previous three tax years)

Once you’ve used up your Personal Allowance and the tax-free Dividend Allowance of £500 (£1,000 for the previous year and £2000 two years prior), any further dividends you receive, from any source, will be taxed.

The amount of personal tax you pay on income from dividends is based on your tax band (also known as your ‘marginal rate’). The rates of tax you pay are lower than the income tax rates, which is one of the reasons dividends are so tax-efficient for limited company directors. 

The rates for 2024/25 (the same for 2023/24) will be as follows:

  • Basic-rate taxpayers pay 8.75%
  • Higher-rate taxpayers pay 33.75%
  • Additional-rate taxpayers pay 39.35%

If you’re a Scottish taxpayer, although your Income Tax is based on the Scottish Income Tax Rates, you’ll need to calculate and pay any tax due on dividends (or savings income) using the UK tax rates and thresholds as shown in our article.

Dividend Tax thresholds for the 2024/25 tax year

If you’re wanting to take dividends before 5th April 2025, to know how much tax you’d need to pay when taking dividends for the 2024/25 tax year the following tax rates and tax thresholds apply after the 2024/25 personal allowance of £12,570 is used.

2024/25 Dividend Tax rate From To
Basic Rate 8.75% £500 £37,200
Higher Rate 33.75% £37,201 £125,140
Additional Rate 39.35% £125,140 +

A simple example for the 2024/25 tax year

A company director with a salary of £9,100 (the National Insurance Secondary Threshold) and income from dividends of £50,000 will pay the following Income Tax rates in the 2024/25 tax year. The 2024/25 personal allowance is £12,570.

Income Income Type Income Tax Rate Tax to pay
First £9,100 Salary Tax-free Personal Allowance None
Next £3,470 Dividends Tax-free Personal Allowance None
Next £500 Dividends Tax-free Dividend Allowance None
Next £37,200 Dividends Basic Rate of Dividend Tax 8.75% £3,255.00
Next £8,830 Dividends Higher Rate of Dividend Tax 33.75% £2,980.13
Total Income Tax to pay £6,235.13

You can use our Crunch Personal Tax Estimator to estimate the amount of tax you should pay on your total earnings.

Dividend Tax thresholds for the 2023/24 tax year

In the 2023/24 tax year the following tax rates and tax thresholds apply after the personal allowance of £12,570 is used.

2023/24 Dividend Tax rate From To
Basic Rate 8.75% £1,000 £36,700
Higher Rate 33.75% £36,701 £125,140
Additional Rate 39.35% £125,140 +

We've got an article with all the relevant tax rates and thresholds including annual dividend allowances for 2021/22 and 2020/21.

A simple example for the 2023/24 tax year

A company director with a salary of £9,100 (the National Insurance Secondary Threshold) and income from dividends of £50,000 will pay the following Income Tax rates in the 2023/24 tax year. The personal allowance is £12,570.

Income Income Type Income Tax Rate Tax to pay
First £9,100 Salary Tax-free Personal Allowance None
Next £3,470 Dividends Tax-free Personal Allowance None
Next 1,000 Dividends Tax-free Dividend Allowance None
Next £36,700 Dividends Basic Rate of Dividend Tax 8.75% £3,211.25
Next £8,830 Dividends Higher Rate of Dividend Tax  33.75% £2,980.13
Total Income Tax to pay £6,191.38

That’s more tax to pay than the same calculation for the 2022/23 tax year.

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What is the maximum you can take in salary and dividends without paying Higher Rate tax?

The worked example below shows you the maximum you can take in salary and dividends from your limited company and still stay with the Basic Rate band for both the 2023/24 and 2024/25 tax years:

2023/24 2024/25
Salary (set at relevant NI Threshold) £9,100 £9,100
Dividends £41,170 £41,170
Total income £50,270 £50,270
Personal allowance (£12,570) (£12,570)
Taxable income £37,700 £37,700
Dividend Allowance (£1,000) (£500)
Dividends taxable @ 8.75% £36,700 £37,200
Income tax due £3,211.25 £3,255.00
Take-Home Pay £47,058.75 £47,015.00

Note: This example is dependent on taking a salary up to the relevant National Insurance Threshold (£9,100 in the 2023/24 and 2024/25 tax years) and this being your only source of income. Our article, “How much should I take as a salary?” explains all this in detail.

If you’re a Crunch client currently taking more income than this and want more information about planning your personal tax, please get in touch.

If you’re not yet a Crunch client, we can make paying yourself tax-efficiently easy, with all your HMRC payroll and dividend forms taken care of. Even better, you’ll get all the support and advice you need, plus all your company tax filing taken care of. We can even prepare and file your annual Self Assessment tax return. Find out more about our great-value limited company accountancy packages.

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Lucinda Watkinson
Head of Accounting
Updated on
April 15, 2024

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