We’re diving deep into the world of salary sacrifice arrangements. If you’ve ever wondered what they are, how they work, and what benefits they can bring to your business, you’ve come to the right place. Salary sacrifice arrangements can be a great tool to attract and retain talent, all while saving you and your employees some money.
What is a Salary Sacrifice Arrangement?
In simple terms, it’s an agreement between you as an employer and your employees to exchange part of their cash pay for non-cash benefits. These non-cash benefits include things like childcare vouchers, pensions, or even cycle-to-work schemes. The key here is that employees willingly agree to this arrangement.
How to Set Up a Salary Sacrifice Arrangement
To set up a salary sacrifice arrangement, you’ll need to change the terms of your employee’s employment contract. This change should be made clearly, and your employee must consent to it. It’s important to note that a salary sacrifice arrangement should never drop an employee’s cash earnings below the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen and to cap salary sacrifice deductions if needed.
When to Alter a Salary Sacrifice Arrangement
Life happens, and circumstances change. Sometimes, you might need to adjust a salary sacrifice arrangement due to life events like marriage, divorce, or changes brought about by unforeseen events like the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes can affect an employee’s financial situation, and salary sacrifice arrangements can be flexible enough to adapt to these circumstances. Always remember to update the employment contract when changes happen.
Exceptions and Considerations
While flexibility is great, there are some rules to follow. If employees constantly switch between cash earnings and non-cash benefits, the expected tax and National Insurance contribution advantages may not apply. But, there are exceptions to this, detailed in the Employment Income Manual 42755.
Calculating the Impact on Tax and National Insurance Contributions
One of the key aspects of salary sacrifice arrangements is understanding their impact on taxes and National Insurance contributions. This depends on the mix of cash and non-cash benefits within the arrangement. For the cash part, make sure you’re correctly operating the PAYE system through your payroll.
For non-cash benefits, you’ll need to calculate their value. If it’s a new salary sacrifice arrangement, calculate the value by using the higher amount of salary given up or the earnings charge under the usual benefit-in-kind rules. It’s worth noting that some non-cash benefits, like pension scheme contributions and workplace nurseries, are exempt from valuation and reporting.
Reporting non-cash benefits differs from cash earnings. Generally, you’ll need to report benefits to HMRC at the end of the tax year using the end-of-year expenses and benefits online form. Plus, you can use the payrolling benefits and expenses online service to show that you’re collecting taxes and benefits through your payroll.
Consulting with HMRC
If there’s any legal uncertainty or you’re unsure about a particular salary sacrifice arrangement, you can contact HMRC’s clearance team. Bear in mind that HMRC won’t comment on a proposed arrangement before it’s implemented. To keep HMRC happy, be prepared with evidence of the variation of terms and conditions, payslips before and after the variation (if there’s a written contract), and any other relevant documentation.
Examples of Salary Sacrifice
To make things more tangible, let’s look at a few examples.
- Employee A sacrifices £50 of their £350 weekly salary for childcare vouchers of the same value. In this case, only £300 is subject to tax and National Insurance contributions, as childcare vouchers are exempt up to a limit of £55 per week.
- Employee B sacrifices £100 of their £350 weekly salary for childcare vouchers. Here, £295 is subject to tax and National Insurance contributions, and £45 is reported as a non-cash benefit at the end of the tax year.
- Employee C receives a £5,000 bonus and decides to sacrifice the full amount for an employer contribution to a registered pension scheme. In this case, no employment income tax or National Insurance contributions are charged to the employee, and the total amount goes into the pension fund.
Remember, salary sacrifice can affect various aspects of your employees’ financial lives. This includes earnings-related payments, benefits, contribution-based benefits, statutory payments, and workplace pension schemes. Always communicate any changes clearly to your employees so they understand the impact on their finances.
Unlocking mutual benefits
Salary sacrifice arrangements can be a win-win for both employers and employees. They offer flexibility, potential tax benefits, and the chance to provide valuable non-cash benefits to your team. It’s important to navigate these arrangements carefully, following legal guidelines and ensuring employees’ cash earnings stay above the National Minimum Wage. With the right approach and communication, salary sacrifice arrangements can be a valuable tool in your organisation’s toolkit.
Get expert guidance
If you want to explore the benefits of salary sacrifice arrangements for your business and discuss your options, get in touch today by calling us on 01603 630882. You can also fill out our online form to get started. Let’s improve your employee benefits and financial flexibility together.