In the construction industry, staying informed about financial obligations and opportunities is crucial for tradespeople, including plumbers, electricians, carpenters, plasterers, and joiners. Among the most important financial aspects to understand are the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). At Calathea Accounting, we specialise in guiding construction business owners and tradespeople through the complexities of financial management, ensuring that your business operations support your personal and lifestyle goals. Our fully digital, modern accountancy business is designed to offer a down-to-earth, friendly approach to finance, serving clients nationwide from our base in Godstone, Surrey. Let’s dive into what tradespeople need to know about VAT and CIS in the construction industry.

Understanding VAT in the Construction Industry

VAT is a tax that’s added to the sale of most goods and services in the UK. For tradespeople in the construction industry, understanding VAT is crucial because it affects the pricing of your services, the cost of your materials, and your overall cash flow.

VAT Registration

If your business’s VAT-taxable turnover exceeds the current VAT threshold over a 12-month period, you must register for VAT. This threshold can change, so it’s important to stay updated. VAT registration allows you to reclaim the VAT you’ve paid on business-related purchases, which can significantly reduce your costs.

VAT Rates

Different VAT rates apply to various types of construction work:

  • Standard rate (20%): Most construction work will fall under this rate.
  • Reduced rate (5%): Some types of renovations or conversions, particularly on residential properties, may qualify for this rate.
  • Zero rate: New builds and some conversions can qualify for a 0% VAT rate.

Understanding which rate applies to your work is essential for correctly pricing your services and for VAT reporting.

VAT Schemes

There are several VAT schemes designed to help small businesses manage their VAT more efficiently. The Flat Rate Scheme, for example, allows you to pay a fixed rate of VAT to HMRC and keep the difference between what you charge your customers and what you pay to HMRC. The VAT Cash Accounting Scheme lets you pay VAT on your sales when your customers pay you, and reclaim VAT on your purchases when you have paid your suppliers, helping with cash flow.

The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)

CIS is a tax deduction scheme which involves tax being deducted at source from payments which relate to construction work. It is designed to minimize tax evasion in the construction industry.

CIS Registration

Contractors must register for CIS, but registration is optional for sole traders and partnerships unless they are paying subcontractors. Being registered under CIS allows you to have tax deducted at a lower rate (20%) from your earnings rather than the higher rate (30%) that applies to unregistered tradespeople.

Deductions and Payments

Under CIS, contractors deduct money from a subcontractor’s payments and pass it to HMRC. These deductions count as advance payments towards the subcontractor’s tax and National Insurance. It’s crucial for tradespeople to keep accurate records of these deductions to avoid discrepancies in their tax filings.

CIS Returns and Refunds

Contractors are required to submit monthly returns to HMRC, detailing the payments made to all subcontractors and the deductions withheld. If you’ve paid more tax than you owe (which is common due to the nature of CIS deductions), you can claim a refund from HMRC or offset the overpayment against future tax liabilities.

Strategies for Managing VAT and CIS

Effective management of VAT and CIS responsibilities can significantly impact the profitability and cash flow of your construction business. Here are some strategies:

  • Stay Informed: Tax laws and rates can change, so staying informed is critical. Consider subscribing to updates from HMRC or working with an accountant specialising in construction finance.
  • Keep Accurate Records: This includes keeping all receipts, invoices, and records of payments and deductions. Digital accounting software can be incredibly helpful in maintaining these records.
  • Use Technology: Digital tools not only help with record-keeping but can also automate some of the reporting requirements for VAT and CIS, saving you time and reducing the risk of errors.
  • Seek Professional Advice: An accountant with experience in the construction industry can provide invaluable advice on VAT and CIS, helping you navigate the complexities and take advantage of any opportunities to reduce your tax liabilities.


For tradespeople in the construction industry, a solid understanding of VAT and CIS is essential for legal compliance, financial health, and business success. By staying informed, keeping accurate records, leveraging technology, and seeking professional advice, you can navigate these tax obligations effectively, freeing up more time to focus on your craft and grow your business.

At Calathea Accounting, we’re here to support tradespeople across the UK with our fully digital, modern accountancy services. Whether it’s demystifying VAT and CIS or providing tailored financial advice, our friendly, down-to-earth approach is designed to help you maximise your profits and achieve a stress-free business operation. Let us help you get your financial management right, so your business can thrive and support your personal and lifestyle goals.