What income is taxable?

Updated on 21 December 2018

This page deals only with income that you get from an employer. We look at whether or not the different parts of your employment package are taxable. Income does not have to be in monetary form – it can be payment in kind.

You do not have to pay tax on all your income. In tax terms, some income is called ‘taxable’ – you have to pay tax on it, and some is ‘non-taxable’, ‘not taxable’, ‘exempt’ or ‘tax-free’ – you do not have to pay tax on it.

If you want to know whether different types of income are taxable or not, we suggest you visit our page with more general information in the ‘tax basics section’ of our website. If you want to know whether different state benefits and tax credits are taxable or not, we suggest you visit our section on ‘tax credits and benefits’.

This page is for you if you are an employee with a UK employment and you are UK resident and domiciled for tax purposes. If this is not the case, you may need to seek advice from a tax adviser. You can find a paid tax adviser using the search tool on the Chartered Institute of Taxation's website.

What employment income is taxable?

The following list includes some of the main types of employment income that are normally taxable.

  • Wages and salaries – this includes holiday pay. It does not matter how your employer pays you, providing that they operate Pay As You Earn (PAYE) correctly – cheque, cash in hand or bank transfer are all possible. It does not matter how frequently you are paid – it can be monthly, weekly, daily, or at irregular intervals. It does not matter whether you receive the same amount each payday or a variable amount, dependent on the number of hours you work. Your employer must give you a payslip each payday, either electronically or in hard copy.
  • Certain benefits-in-kind, which might also be called ‘perks’ of your job. This includes things like company cars and private medical insurance. Until 6 April 2016 the tax treatment of benefits in kind sometimes depended on whether you earned £8,500 a year or more.
  • Bonuses, commission and tips – if your employer pays you a bonus or commission, you must pay tax on it. Usually, your employer operates PAYE, just like on your wages or salary. If you receive tips from customers, you have to pay income tax on them, but you may not have to pay National Insurance contributions (NIC). The way in which you work out your tax/NIC on tips depends on who the tips are given to and who decides how to share the tips. There is more information on the tax and NIC position of tips on the GOV.UK website.
  • Backdated pay awards – although the rules can be complex – see our news piece on the taxation of pay arrears for more information.
  • Expenses not wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred to do the job, paid or reimbursed by the claimant's employer, including: 
    • Travelling expenses between the claimant's home and permanent place of employment
    • Expenses incurred for the care of a member of the claimant's family, such as child minding costs
    • Other ‘private’ expenses of the claimant

  • Vouchers that can be exchanged for cash, goods or services, for example gift vouchers.
  • Income from a second or third job.
  • Payment in lieu of remuneration, such as a payment made by a liquidator when a company has been wound up and employees are owed earnings.
  • Protective awards which may be ordered by an Industrial Tribunal if an employer has not given a trade union the statutory notice of redundancies, or a payment which may be made to an ex-employee from the Redundancy Funds if an employer goes into liquidation.
  • Redundancy/leaving payments over £30,000 and from April 2018, all payments in lieu of notice.
  • Retainers – a retainer is a payment made for a period when no actual work is carried out, such as payment made to employees of the school meals service during school holidays.
  • Most round sum allowances – i.e. an allowance which is paid to you irrespective of whether you spend it or not in a particular way. However tax relief may be available to an employee if any of the round sum allowance is spent on qualifying expenses.

  • Statutory payments, such as statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay and statutory paternity pay.

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What employment income is tax free?

The following list includes some of the main types of employment income that are normally tax-free.

  • Redundancy payments or compensation for loss of employment up to £30,000, subject to certain rules. This is a complex area. You can find more information on our redundancy payments page. Note that any payments made instead of paying you for your notice period are liable to income tax.
  • Certain benefits in kind, including employer contributions into a pension.

  • Employer sponsored courses – you can find out more about this on our Tax Guide for Students website.
  • Long service awards where the gift meets certain criteria – the gift must be a non-cash award; the award must mark at least 20 years of service by the employee; the employer must not have made another long-service award to the same employee within the previous 10 years; the award must be worth no more than £50 per year of service.
  • Payment or reimbursement of expenses, wholly, exclusively and necessarily for your employment.

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Where can I find more information?

If your employment package contains types of income that we do not cover, for example, non-repayable loans, then you should be very wary.

You may need to contact HMRC or get advice from a tax adviser. You can find a paid tax adviser using the search tool on the Chartered Institute of Taxation's website.

You can find out where to get help with your taxes from the tax charities, in our 'getting help section'.

You can find an A to Z list of typical employment income elements and benefits and the treatment on GOV.UK. Although this is aimed at employers, it will be useful more widely.

For technical information, see HMRC’s Employment Income manual which provides detailed guidance on treatment of particular items of employment income and benefits.

For more information if you are in Armed Forces, see our section Armed forces and tax – allowances and expenses paid to you

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