A simple guide to CIS

A simple guide to CIS

Understanding the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) is paramount for contractors in the construction sector. 

Under CIS, contractors deduct money from subcontractors’ payments and pass it to HMRC.

CIS covers most construction work, and both contractors and subcontractors must adhere to its rules. It aims to minimise tax evasion by tracking and taxing payments within the construction sector.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about CIS, from registration to deductions and compliance, enabling you to stay on top of your finances and maximise your profits.

The significance of CIS for contractors

The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) is a taxation scheme introduced by HMRC. It specifically applies to businesses and contractors operating in the construction industry. 

CIS serves several vital purposes, including:

  1. Tax deductions: CIS ensures that tax is deducted at source from payments made by contractors to subcontractors. This deduction is a critical element of the scheme and affects both parties.
  2. Regulatory compliance: Contractors and subcontractors engaged in construction work must comply with CIS regulations. This includes registration, verification, and reporting obligations.
  3. Preventing tax evasion: CIS helps prevent tax evasion by ensuring that payments made within the construction industry are properly accounted for and taxed.

Let’s break down the critical aspects of CIS that contractors should be aware of.

1. CIS registration

Both contractors and subcontractors should register for CIS. 

Contractor registration

As a contractor, it’s essential to register for CIS with HMRC. This registration process involves providing details about your business, including your legal structure and contact information. 

Once registered, you will receive a unique CIS reference number, which you will use for all CIS-related transactions and reporting.

Subcontractor registration

Subcontractors working in the construction industry must also register for CIS. 

Registration allows subcontractors to declare their status to contractors and benefit from reduced tax deductions. Subcontractors who don’t register will face higher tax deductions at source.

2. Tax deductions

Here’s how you manage CIS-related tax deductions:

Deductions for subcontractors

Under CIS, contractors are required to deduct tax from payments made to subcontractors. The deduction rate depends on the subcontractor’s tax status and registration with CIS. 

Registered subcontractors typically have tax deducted at a reduced rate, while unregistered subcontractors face higher deductions.

Monthly returns

Contractors are responsible for submitting monthly CIS returns to HMRC. 

These returns detail the payments made to subcontractors and the associated tax deductions. It’s crucial to ensure the accuracy of these returns and make timely payments to HMRC.

3. Compliance and reporting

Compliance and reporting are central to CIS:

Verification of subcontractors

Before making payments to subcontractors, contractors must verify their subcontractors’ CIS status with HMRC. 

This verification process ensures that payments are made in compliance with CIS regulations. Failure to verify subcontractors can result in penalties.


Both contractors and subcontractors must maintain accurate records of all CIS-related transactions. This includes invoices, receipts, payment records, and CIS statements. 

These records serve as evidence of compliance and are essential for CIS reporting.

Penalties for non-compliance

Non-compliance with CIS regulations can lead to penalties and fines. 

To avoid potential legal consequences, contractors and subcontractors must adhere to the scheme’s requirements, including registration, verification, and reporting.

Maximising profits through CIS

While CIS comes with its complexities and regulatory requirements, there are simple tips that contractors can follow to maximise profits within the framework of the scheme:

  1. Register promptly: Ensure timely registration for CIS to benefit from reduced tax deductions as a subcontractor.
  2. Accurate record-keeping: Maintain organised records of all CIS-related transactions to simplify reporting and compliance.
  3. Regular verification: Contractors should verify subcontractors’ CIS status before making payments to avoid errors and penalties.
  4. Timely reporting: Submit monthly CIS returns on schedule to prevent delays and associated fines.
  5. Seek professional guidance: Consider partnering with an experienced accountant or accounting firm, like Total Accounting, to navigate CIS effectively and optimise your financial strategy.

Navigate CIS with Total Accounting

Understanding the CIS is crucial for contractors and subcontractors in ensuring compliance and efficient tax management. 

Businesses can avoid penalties and streamline their financial processes by understanding and adhering to CIS requirements, including registration, tax deductions, and accurate record-keeping. 

Total Accounting is here to demystify CIS. Contact us to discover more about how we can help you.

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