Tax Glossary

Umbrella Company

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Last updated on:
March 17, 2024

An umbrella company serves as an intermediary between contractors, freelancers, or temporary workers, and their clients or agencies. It's essentially an employment model particularly beneficial for those preferring not to navigate the complexities of setting up their own limited company.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Joining an Umbrella Company


  • Simplicity: The umbrella company handles tax, National Insurance contributions, and pension deductions on your behalf.
  • Compliance and Benefits: As an 'employee' of the umbrella company, you're entitled to statutory benefits such as sick pay and holiday pay, simplifying your freelance or contracting life.
  • Less Paperwork: Frees you from the administrative burden associated with running a limited company.


  • Fees: Membership or service fees are typically involved.
  • Vigilance Required: Not all umbrella companies are reputable, so it's crucial to choose one that's compliant and trustworthy.
  • Reduced Control: You'll have less control over your financial affairs than you would with a limited company.
  • IR35 Concerns: Your IR35 status may still be a consideration, affecting your tax and National Insurance contributions.

How It Operates

Upon engaging with an umbrella company, you technically become its employee. The company then contracts out your services to clients. You submit timesheets detailing your work hours, and the umbrella company invoices the client, pays you a salary (after deductions for taxes, their fee, and any other contributions), and handles your PAYE obligations.

Special Consideration for Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) Workers

If you're in the construction sector and alternate between CIS roles and umbrella company assignments, keep track of all documentation, such as P60s from each umbrella company, for tax filing purposes.

Do You Need to File a Tax Return?

Whether you need to submit a Self Assessment tax return depends on your individual circumstances. It's wise to consult with HMRC or a tax professional to ensure you're meeting all your tax obligations correctly to avoid any unexpected fines or penalties.

Choosing to work through an umbrella company can streamline your contracting or freelancing career, but it's essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully to ensure it aligns with your personal and professional goals.

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