Tax Glossary

Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)

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Last updated on:
March 17, 2024

The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) is an HMRC initiative designed to streamline the taxation process for subcontractors working within the UK construction industry. It plays a crucial role in ensuring that taxes are efficiently collected from the self-employed individuals in this sector.

Eligibility for CIS

To be part of the CIS, you must be a self-employed individual working as a subcontractor in the construction industry. The scheme does not apply to you if you're a full-time employee. It's essential to determine your employment status with your contractor to understand your tax obligations.

Purpose of the CIS

Historically, the payment of subcontractors in cash made it challenging for HMRC to accurately track and collect Income Tax. Introduced in 1971, CIS was designed to address this issue by taxing subcontractor earnings directly at the source — as soon as payments are made by the contractor.

Jobs Covered by CIS

The CIS encompasses a wide range of construction-related activities, including but not limited to:

  • Decorating
  • Demolition
  • Carpentry
  • Structural repairs and alterations
  • Site preparation

Benefits of Registering for CIS

By registering for CIS, subcontractors benefit from a lower tax deduction rate of 20% on their earnings, compared to the 30% deducted for those who are not registered. This arrangement often leads to subcontractors overpaying tax, with the opportunity to claim a rebate at the end of the tax year.

CIS Tax Rebates

The overpayment resulting from the 20% deduction can lead to a significant tax rebate for subcontractors, with many recovering an average of £2,000 each April. To claim this rebate, subcontractors must file a tax return by 31st January of the following year.

Contractor Responsibilities

Contractors play a pivotal role in the CIS, responsible for deducting the appropriate tax from payments to subcontractors and passing it to HMRC. Verification of subcontractor registration with HMRC is a standard procedure before work commencement, influencing a contractor's willingness to hire non-registered subcontractors.


The CIS provides a structured approach to managing taxes for those involved in the construction industry, benefiting both HMRC and subcontractors. By ensuring that taxes are correctly deducted and accounted for, the scheme simplifies the tax return process and enables many subcontractors to receive tax rebates, contributing to financial stability and compliance within the industry.

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