Are Freelancers On A Payroll?

Payroll is a process in every business that makes sure employees receive their earnings accurately and on time. It involves calculating salaries, deducting taxes and other obligations. A payroll system, whether managed manually or through software, holds an important role in the financial operations of any startup.

Companies that offer payroll software in the UK include:

  1. Rippling
  2. Pento
  3. Deel

Every business, whether small or large, uses payroll to compensate its workforce. This for full-time employees, and in some cases, freelancers and contractors. While the payment structure for freelancers may differ, they are still considered part of the broader payroll. Contractors, who often have distinct payment terms, may fall under specific payroll requirements based on their engagement with the business.

Payroll management entails a number of essential duties.

Firstly, it involves figuring out employee compensation, which covers benefits and reimbursements. Deductions for things like taxes, insurance, pension payments, and child support are then computed. Following that, employee payments are made, and the relevant taxes are sent to the appropriate authorities. Essential documentation is kept up to date to prove adherence to legal requirements.

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Salary Deductions in Payroll


Income tax, National Insurance contributions, and pension contributions are all covered by statutory deductions, which are managed by legislation and payroll software will help manage this for employers. Conversely, voluntary deductions, which cover things like union fees or charitable contributions, are decided upon by the company and employee.


Adding Freelancers to Payroll


Freelancers, although not full-time employees, can be included into a business’s payroll system. When onboarding freelancers, businesses often request relevant documentation, such as P45 in the UK. This aids in setting up the freelancer on the internal payroll system, ensuring correct tax codes and payments.

Freelancers may have different tax implications and payment structures, but the integration into the payroll system remains a vital aspect of regulatory adherence.


What is a Freelancer?


A freelancer offers their expertise, skills, and services to clients on a project-by-project basis without a full obligation towards any single employer or startup company. The flexible working routine allows them to choose their projects, work schedules, and locations, often operating from home or other preferred spaces.

Freelancers exist within every industry and they often work with multiple clients simultaneously, which in turn can allow for multiple streams of income and a diverse portfolio.


Freelancer vs. Contractor Differences


Autonomy and Work Arrangement

Freelancers generally have more autonomy in their work. They work from their chosen locations and use their tools and methods. In contrast, contractors, while also self-employed, often work on-site at their client’s premises and have a more formalised arrangement, adhering to project-specific contracts.

Scope and Project Duration

Freelancers often work on specific, task-based projects that require specialised skills. They are usually hired for shorter time frames with specific deliverables. On the other hand, contractors may undertake more complex and extensive projects, working on a contract basis. The duration of a contractor’s engagement can vary based on the complexity and client preferences.

Payment Structure

Freelancers often bill on an hourly basis, which is discussed and decided upon with the client. Contrarily, as stated in their official contract with the client, contractors may be paid on a time or project basis. While contractors might receive an offer to accept, freelancers are more free to determine their own fees.

Financial Obligations and Tax Consequences of Payrolls


Whether they work as limited firms or as sole proprietors, freelancers and contractors are in charge of their taxes and National Insurance contributions. While contractors frequently choose the limited liability protection provided by forming limited companies, freelancers typically find the procedure easier to navigate by registering as sole traders.

In the UK, freelancers have to deal with a unique tax environment, depending on whether they are limited company directors or sole traders. Personal income tax rates, which can reach 45%, are applied to sole merchants. National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are also a requirement. Directors of limited companies, however, are subject to dividend taxes, corporation tax, and income tax on salary.

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Income Tax Bands and Rates

For sole traders, income tax is levied on profits exceeding the personal allowance of £12,570. The rates vary based on income levels, with basic, higher, and additional rates applicable. Limited company directors pay income tax on salaries and dividends, with the first £2,000 of dividends enjoying a nil rate. The Scottish tax system has its own bands and rates.

National Insurance Contributions

Freelancers, both sole traders and limited company directors, are liable to pay NICs. Class 1 NICs apply to employees, while directors of limited companies have a unique annual calculation. Class 2 and Class 4 NICs are relevant for self-employed individuals with profits over £12,570.

Freelancer Registration and Deductible Expenses

If you earn more than £1,000 in a year, its required that you register for self-assessment and National Insurance, and you’d need to get a Unique Taxpayer Reference for an online self-assessment account. As a Freelancers can reduce the amount of tax payable by claiming for expenses that were out-of-pocket. These are usually costs needed for the completion of the project. Keep proper records and receipts to prove these expenses, so that the amount of profit you’re taxed on is decreased.


Handling Side-Hustle Income


Even income from side-hustles is subject to taxation, and the Trading Allowance allows freelancers to earn up to £1,000 in freelance income before taxes are due. Self-assessment registration is advisable for voluntary NICs and state benefit eligibility.

Freelancer VAT Considerations

VAT registration depends on turnover, with the threshold set at £85,000. VAT-registered freelancers can reclaim VAT paid on business expenses. However, voluntary registration requires quarterly digital tax returns.

Compliance and Consequences

Attempting to conceal income can lead to fines and penalties, as HMRC employs various means, including advanced software and investigations, to uncover taxable earnings. Transparent reporting and adherence to tax regulations are crucial for freelancers to avoid legal consequences.