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Low Incomes Tax Reform Group make their ‘taking on a PA’ employer information easier to find.

Employing a carer or personal assistant (PA), whether funded through government money, or privately, brings with it many responsibilities such as registering as an employer with HM Revenue and Customs, operating a Pay As You Earn scheme, arranging a workplace pension and paying at least the minimum wage. LITRG’s website, Disability Tax Guide, contains guidance on all of these topics and has recently been reorganised to make key information easier to find.

It has been reorgansied to coincide with the beginning of the 2017/18 tax year and the ‘peak’ of small employers entering the automatic enrolment regime - a topic that LITRG know causes new employers some real worry. Information on key topics, such as auto enrolment, are now directly accessible from the home page and if you still can’t find what you are looking for - there is a much improved search function (top right of home page). This rest of this article briefly explains the main considerations when taking on a PA and the support available from LITRG’s website.

Tax employment status – e.g. is your PA employed or self-employed? The most important point to understand is that a person taking on a PA cannot just ‘decide’ that their PA is self-employed. Doing this can be attractive because it removes many responsibilities from the person taking on the PA and can save them some money. However it is the responsibility of anyone taking on a PA to check the status carefully. LITRG’s website has more detailed guidance on the general rules surrounding employment status and also a few tips on how to use HMRC’s new employment status tool (which isn’t specifically designed for people taking on a PA).

In response to queries LITRG have received through their contact us facility (more on this below), the website now covers what the rules are if you take on an agency worker, a family member or a PA who works through their own limited company.

Setting up as an employer – if the PA is an ‘employee’, the next step is probably to register as an employer with HMRC so that a Pay As You Earn scheme (PAYE) can be set up. The PAYE regime requires tax and National Insurance to be deducted from most payments made by employers to employees.

An employer must register with HMRC (and thus operate a PAYE scheme) if any of the following are true:

  • They are paying them at or above the National Insurance Lower Earnings Limit (£113 per week in 2017/18).
  • The employee already has another job.
  • The employee is receiving a state, company or occupational pension.
  • The employee is receiving employee benefits

This is an easier process than it sounds and LITRG provide step-by-step guidance on the website.
The website also looks at what running a payroll involves – basically it is the process by which the PA’s wages are paid and appropriate deductions (like PAYE tax) made. In recognition that not all individual employers will want to run their own payroll, there is also guidance on finding a payroll provider to help with payroll tasks.

Paying wages– ‘Real time information’ (RTI) is the system used for sending payroll information to HMRC – usually every payday.

There are two ways the information can be sent - online, or, if certain requirements are met, by paper. More detail on when paper filing can be used is available on the Disability Tax Guide website. Broadly, it is available for those who, for whatever reason, may be unable to use a computer or have no internet capability.

For online filing, a payroll program will be required and there are several options on the market including some free ones. LITRG explain all the options on the Disability Tax Guide website. For employers choosing to use HMRC’s free Basic Payroll Tools (BPT) payroll program, LITRG have a unique tool on the site that enables website users to create a payslip – something that BPT cannot do. This has proven to be one of the most used features of the website.

Employers must also complete certain forms after the end of the tax year for example, P60s or P11Ds (benefits and expenses form) – more information is available in the dedicated ‘End of Year process’ section of the site.

Pensions auto enrolment (workplace pensions) - Every employer with at least one member of staff now has (or will soon have) a new responsibility of putting those who meet certain criteria into a workplace pension scheme and contributing towards it. This includes those who take on a PA. Direct payment users should speak to their Local Authority (or NHS/DWP as appropriate) regarding their budget to pay for these extra costs.     

The process is called automatic enrolment. This is because it is automatic for staff – they don't have to do anything to be enrolled into the pension scheme. But it is not automatic for an employer and there are several things that the employer has to do.

LITRG summarise the main aspects of auto enrolment on their website (including how the auto enrolment rules apply to those with part-time or casual PAs) and link to more detailed guidance on The Pensions Regulator website, which includes their planning tool to help employers work out what to do and when. Of note is the special support is given by The Pensions Regulator to those employing staff in their home, such as a PA.

National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage - Employers must pay staff the correct minimum wage. The LITRG website gives an overview of the main rules - and then looks more closely at aspects that may be of particular relevance to employers of PAs, for example, the rules on ‘live-in’ PAs and travel time and deductions, which can be difficult for workers and employers alike, to understand.

Other – The website contains a comprehensive section on dealing with HMRC if you have additional needs or need extra support and signposts users to organisations that can provide help with topics outside of LITRG’s immediate area of expertise (e.g. employment law).

There are also clear and easy to understand factsheets to download on many key subjects (such as Employment Status, Registering as an Employer and Auto Enrolment) and other useful resources such as an introductory flipbook ‘Taking on a personal assistant – a basic guide’, payroll checklists, a payroll calendar and a datacard.

A regular news feature means the most up to date payroll and disability related tax matters are highlighted. Recent news items (to give you a flavour of what you might find) include:

  • HMRC blows its trumpet – but if the tune falls flat for you – let us know!
  • Minimum Wage for sleep-in shifts – update
  • Employers warned not to fall for (auto enrolment) exemption certificate scam
  • Are you registered for HMRC’s free support emails?
  • What to do if you missed the P60 deadline

Through a ‘contact us’ facility LITRG also provide free, additional support to website users who have specific tax and National Insurance queries relating to taking on a PA. LITRG can help people understand their obligations and signpost to further help and support if needed.

For an overview of what else you can find on the Disability Tax Guide website, watch a short video entitled, ‘Introduction to Disability Tax Guide’

If you have any comments about the Disability Tax Guide, and have any suggestions about
additional material LITRG could feature, please get in touch with LITRG by emailing
litrgdtg@litrg.org.uk