We sort your Self Assessment for you. £169, all in.

Fast, effortless and 100% online.  Learn more

We sort your Self Assessment for you. £169, all in.

CIS vs PAYE: how are construction workers paid?

  • 3 min read
  • Last updated 8 Apr 2024

If you work in construction, there are two ways to get paid. 

  1. Umbrella company PAYE
  2. CIS

If this just looks like a random gathering of letters, worry not. Scroll down and we’ll explain what each of them means and what difference they make on the way you pay tax. 

What is PAYE? 

PAYE stands for Pay As You Earn. What this means in practice is that you pay tax directly from your salary each month. It’s deducted based on your exact earnings and calculated using your tax code.

When you’re employed or you work under an umbrella company, you’re usually paid via PAYE. And this means that you also get other employee benefits such as holiday and sick pay, along with benefits offered by certain employers e.g. private healthcare. 

Wait, what’s a tax code?

Your tax code is made up of numbers and letters and it’s the reference that your employer/HMRC uses to work out how much money they need to take out of your pay to cover tax. 

What does CIS mean?

CIS stands for Construction Industry Scheme. It’s basically a scheme started by HMRC to make sure that construction workers pay the correct amount of tax.

If you’ve not registered for CIS and received your UTR number, your contractor deducts 30% tax from your pay, which is almost always more than you owe.

But when you’re being paid under the CIS scheme, you’ll have 20% deducted from your pay each month. This deduction, however, isn’t based on a tax code so it often means that you still end up paying too much tax at the end of each tax year. 

As a result, you claim a tax rebate at the start of the new tax year (6th April). The amount that you can claim back depends on how much you worked during the year and how much you overpaid. 

It’s usually around £2,000.  

Which is better: CIS, PAYE or self-employed?

We’ve put together a table to show you the pros and cons of being paid via an umbrella company on PAYE, CIS and being self-employed (i.e. you’re just paid via an invoice and have to calculate and deduct tax yourself).

Take a look at the comparison 👇

CIS Umbrella company PAYESelf-employed
Holiday pay
Sick pay
Tax rebate
File a tax return
Claim back expenses
Employment protection
Option to be paid gross
National Insurance deducted automatically
Job freedom

What if I switch from CIS to PAYE part way through the tax year?

If you decide that you want to switch from the CIS part way through the tax year, this is completely fine. All you need to do is get in touch with HMRC and get your records updated. You can also consult with your accountant (ahem, like TaxScouts) who will make sure all your calculations are correct. 

But if you do this, bear in mind that you’ll still need to file a tax return for the part of the year that you were being taxed through the CIS. You’ll still get a rebate if you’re due one based on your earnings but it will most likely be less than usual.

If you plan on continuing work under PAYE, you might want to ask your accountant to de-register you as self-employed. This will make sure that HMRC don’t expect you to complete a tax return each year.

Need to file your CIS tax return?

Well, it’s your lucky day. Get your CIS tax return filed by an accredited accountant for just £169, all in.

Due a tax refund? We’ll take payment from your rebate for £279 if you prefer not to pay in advance. Our CIS accountants have specialist knowledge of construction worker tax needs including what expenses you can claim, how to maximise your profit, and more. 

Boss your bookkeeping – for free

Manage your self-employed finances in one place with 10/10 bookkeeping tools. And all for free – forever and always.

  • Save money, time and effort
  • Create and personalise invoices
  • Track all your income and expenses in one place
  • And more!