Working in the construction (building) industry

There are special rules for some people who work in the construction industry. These are called the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) rules. It is important to know if they apply to you.

On this page:

Do you work for yourself or someone else?

When you're working in the construction (building) industry, it's important to know whether you're working for yourself (self-employed) or for someone else (employed). It will affect how you pay tax.

You can find out whether you are employed or self-employed by following the link below.

Find out whether you are employed or self-employed on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

If you work for someone else

If you work for someone else you are called an employee, and the person you work for is your employer.

If you work in the construction industry as an employee and your employer takes tax and National Insurance off your wages before they pay you, then CIS doesn't apply to you. You can find out more about the tax and National Insurance you will pay as an employee in our guide 'Working for someone else' below.

Working for someone else - more information

If you work for yourself

If you work for yourself in the construction industry you will probably come within the special rules called CIS. CIS covers most construction work in the UK.

You can find out if what you do is covered by CIS by following the link below.

Find out if your work comes under CIS

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Are you a contractor or subcontractor under CIS?

If the type of work you do is covered by CIS you need to know whether you are:

  • a 'subcontractor' - you provide services to someone else in the construction or building industry either yourself or by supplying other people
  • a 'contractor' - you pay subcontractors to provide services for the construction/building industry
  • both of the above

Find out if you are a contractor or subcontractor under CIS

If you are both a contractor and a subcontractor then:

  • when you're being paid by a contractor to do construction/building work you must follow CIS rules for subcontractors
  • when you're paying your own subcontractors you must follow CIS rules for contractors

How to register as a subcontractor for CIS

If you are going to work as a subcontractor in the construction industry, you should:

  • register for tax and National Insurance with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) - if you work for yourself
  • register your company with Companies House - if you are setting up a subcontractor limited company
  • then register for CIS

Registering with HMRC for tax and National Insurance

There are different forms to complete to register with HMRC for tax and National Insurance purposes depending on your circumstances. For example you complete form CWF1 if you're a sole trader and form SA401 if you're a partner in a partnership. HMRC will use the information you provide to set up the right records for you. You'll be asked to complete a Self Assessment tax return to tell HMRC about your income and gains.

Find out more about how to register for Self Assessment

How to set up a limited company

To find out about setting up a limited company, follow the link below. Once your company is registered, HMRC will contact you about paying Corporation Tax.

Starting a company or organisation and Corporation Tax

How to register for CIS

To register for CIS, call the CIS Helpline on Tel 0300 200 3210. If you're calling from abroad please call Tel + 44 161 930 8706. Lines are open from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday, and from 8.00 am to 4.00 on Saturday. They are closed on a Sunday, bank holidays, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

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Paying tax if you are a CIS subcontractor

For most subcontractors, money is usually taken from your payments each week or month by your contractor and paid to HMRC. This is called 'deductions'.

Then after the end of the tax year (5 April) you fill in a tax return. The information you put on the form tells HMRC if you owe more tax or if HMRC owes you a tax refund.

If you are a self-employed subcontractor you fill in a Self Assessment tax return.

If you have a limited company you fill in a Corporation Tax return.

If you are self-employed, any deductions which have been taken from your payments during the year can be used to reduce the tax and National Insurance you owe.

If you have a limited company, the deductions can be set off against the monthly payments the company has to make to HMRC for its employees or subcontractors.

Some subcontractors can be paid without any deductions taken off (which is called being paid 'gross'). You can only be paid gross if you pass special tests. If you are paid gross then you pay all of the tax you owe after you have filled in your tax return.

If you don't register for CIS before you start work

If you don't register for CIS before you start work, HMRC will tell your contractors to take much higher deductions than usual from your payments. So, make sure you register before you start.

See the links below for more information on being a CIS subcontractor and how to register.

Being a subcontractor under CIS

Getting paid and paying tax under CIS

Find out more about completing the Self Assessment tax return if you're self-employed

Find out about Corporation Tax for limited companies

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Responsibilities if you are a CIS contractor

If you work as a CIS contractor you need to:

  • register for CIS with HMRC
  • check the payment status of your subcontractors before you pay them
  • tell HMRC each month how much you have paid your subcontractors
  • pay HMRC the deductions that you have taken from your subcontractors' payments
  • give the correct paperwork to both HMRC and your subcontractors

To find out more about what you have to do see the link below.

Being a contractor in CIS - learn more

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Contacting HMRC when you leave the UK

If you have left or are about to leave the UK you must tell HMRC. If you're not required to fill in a tax return, you'll have to complete form P85 Leaving the UK - getting your tax right. HMRC will use the information on the form to send you any tax refund you're owed and work out if you'll become non-resident. It's important you enclose parts 2 and 3 of form P45 if you have one as HMRC will not be able to make any tax refund due without them. You'll need to send the original versions - photocopies won't be accepted.

If you're leaving the UK to work full-time abroad for a UK based employer for at least a complete tax year, you'll need to fill in a tax return as well as a form P85.

Go to form P85

Do you need to complete a tax return?

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Help

For help with CIS phone the CIS Helpline on Tel 0300 200 3210. Lines are open from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday, from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm on a Saturday. They are closed Sunday, bank holidays, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Or you can find out more by following the link below.

CIS - learn more

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