Company bonus or dividend?

Deciding whether to extract profit from a company via a bonus or dividend requires careful consideration – Mitchells can advise owner-directors in the Cheltenham and Bristol area.

In many small companies, the owners are also the directors, and this gives considerable scope for deciding how profits should be taken out of the company.

Traditionally, small companies pay salaries to the directors and tend to ignore their second role as shareholders, which entitles them to receive dividends.

Where profits are retained within a company, the situation is governed by the corporation tax rules, but when you draw profit out, income tax rules take over, and national insurance rears its ugly head.

The main considerations for choosing between salary and dividends are:

Corporation tax

This is charged on the profits of the business after taking into account all salaries. Paying a salary reduces profits and hence reduces the corporation tax bill.

A dividend payment does not reduce the taxable profit.

Income tax

As mentioned above, income tax is chargeable on all profits withdrawn from a company. On salary, it is collected through the PAYE system. A dividend carries with it a 10% tax credit, and for a basic rate taxpayer there is no further tax to be paid. A higher rate taxpayer will have to pay additional income tax equivalent to 25% of the dividend paid. This increases to 30.55% for those with taxable income over £150,000.

National insurance contributions

National insurance contributions are payable on salaries, but not on dividends. There are two elements – employee contributions and employer contributions. Employees pay 12% (2015–16) on earnings between the employee earnings threshold and the upper earnings limit, and 2% on earnings above this without any upper limit. Employers pay 13.8% (2015–16) on all salaries above £8,112 p.a. without any upper limit.

Company law

Salaries can be paid even when a company is making a loss. Dividends can be paid only out of profits for the year, or any undistributed profits from previous years.

Other shareholders

Salaries can be allocated to different directors at any rate. A shareholder is entitled to a dividend in proportion to the number of shares held. This means that non–working shareholders would participate in any dividend declared.

This lack of flexibility can be countered by creating different classes of share with different dividend entitlements.


PAYE and national insurance are payable monthly; corporation tax is payable nine months and one day after the company's year end. Dividend upper and additional tax is payable on 31 January after the end of the tax year in which the dividend is paid (payments on account may be required).


Payments of additional salaries can enhance the contributions that can be paid to pension schemes. For certain types of scheme, benefits can be based on the pay for the best three out of the last ten years before retirement, so planning for high salaries can be used to advantage.


The table below illustrates the potential advantage of using dividends rather than a salary bonus to extract profits of £10,000 from a small company. The example assumes that the directors are already being paid salaries that take them into the higher or additional rate of income tax. As this transition coincides with the national insurance normal upper limit, employee's contributions at 2% and employers' contributions at 13.8% will be payable.

40% Taxpayer 45% Taxpayer
Bonus (£) Dividend (£) Bonus (£) Dividend (£)
Profit 10,000 10,000 10,000 10,000
Employers' national insurance (1,213)   (1,213)  
Salary available 8,787   8,787  
Corporation tax   (2,000)   (2,000)
Dividend   8,000   8,000
Income tax @ 40% / 45% (3,515)   (3,954)  
Additional income tax   (2,000)   (2,444)
Employee's national insurance (176) (176)
Net amount available 5,096 6,000 4,657 5,556

This example shows an overall saving of £904 (40% taxpayer) or £899 (45% taxpayer) by paying a dividend.

It is clear that many factors must be considered when deciding whether directors should be paid by dividend or salary/bonus. In practice, a mixture of each is usually the best course, subject to the impact of 'IR35'.

Care and professional advice should be taken in all cases. An individual's and company's specific circumstances must be reviewed and the advice tailored to the particular needs.

If you are the owner-director of a company in the Cheltenham and Bristol area, Mitchells can provide professional advice on the most tax-efficient method of extracting profit from a company – such as by bonus or dividend.