CIS Tax Returns

If you are working via the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), you’ll be required to file a self assessment tax return after your first year of trading and subsequent years. You’ll complete your tax return at the end of the tax year in April and pay any taxes that are due by the following January.

Construction worker tax returnsWhat is a CIS tax return?

If you're employed via the Construction Industry Scheme, it’s likely that you will need to submit a tax return to disclose your earnings for the financial year.

Tax return datesWhat are CIS tax return deadlines?

The deadlines for CIS tax returns is the same for all other tax returns - 31st January. You can read more about deadlines here.

If you're a contractor who pays subcontractor, you'll need to file your returns to HMRC by the 19th of every month following the last tax month.

Tax Returns For CISCIS Tax Returns

CIS tax returns are a fact of life for most people in the building trade. A mistake when filing a CIS tax return online can mean paying far too much tax on your pay. That's why RIFT has a specialist team of experts to offer CIS return help to construction industry workers. Take a look at our tax return calculator to find out more.

When you're paid through CIS, your contractor has to chisel off a hefty chunk of your pay before you get it. That money goes straight to HMRC. It's supposed to act as "advance payment" toward the tax and National Insurance you'll owe. Your contractor doesn't have any choice about this; it's just how the law works. From a subcontractor's point of view, though, it can be pretty painful. In effect, you're being taxed right from the first penny you earn, without getting your tax-free Personal Allowance. It's supposed to crack down on tax evasion in the construction industry, but in reality it's the honest subcontractors that are carrying the load.

The news isn't all bad, though. You can claim back the extra tax you've paid in your Self Assessment tax return. That's right: even though you've already had 20% of your money taken by HMRC, you still have to file a return. If you've paid too much tax, you can get a tax refund.

What expenses can I claim for?

A key part of working with the Self Assessment system is understanding what expenses you can claim for. This is an area where a lot of people on Self Assessment miss out, and end up paying too much tax. Examples of allowable expenses in construction include:

  • Work travel costs.
  • Essential tools and equipment.
  • Materials you need for work.
  • General costs of running your business, from stationery to advertising.
  • Accountancy fees.

These are the essential costs of doing business, and they count against the income you're being taxed on.

CIS Tax ReturnsAlready have an accountant? No problem!

Switching to RIFT couldn't be easier. If your current accountant's registered as your agent, we'll get you a new 64-8 form to sign. If needed we'll even explain everything to your old accountant, or give you a template of what to send to them, to cut out the hassle of you needing to have any awkward conversations.

A lot of people with their own accountants come to us for Self-Assessment tax returns if they’re working under CIS because our industry expertise means we can maximise your rebate. Our deeper specialist knowledge means we can easily handle those extra tricky and unusual rules that apply to CIS returns that a more general accountant may not know about. We charge a simple fee instead of an hourly rate, and even include all help and aftercare throughout the year. That's why so many people end up moving everything to RIFT.

RIFT ReviewsHere's what our customers say

We pride ourselves with being the first company in the tax sector to be awarded ServiceMark by the institute of Customer Service. That's because we're known for our friendly, helpful and jargon free approach to tax matters. But don't just take our word for it, check out our reviews. We invite our customers to tell us what they think about their experience with us on, an independent reviews site.

FAQsFrequently Asked Questions

Here you'll find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about working under the Construction CIS scheme.

  • Is there anything more I can claim if I work CIS?

    If you're self-employed and paid through the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), you're probably due a tax refund.

    You can also claim back a range of job-related expenses, including travel, meals, lodging, parking, tolls, tools, protective clothing, public liability insurance, phone bills, postage and stationery.

    We’ll assess all your expenses and include them if they qualify. That way you'll be certain that everything on your claim is a genuinely allowable expense and you won't find HMRC knocking on your door asking for their money back. If you're a RIFT customer, you'll be covered by our RIFT Guarantee as well, so you've got even more peace of mind.

    Sadly there are a number of unscrupulous tax refund advisors taking advantage of CIS workers at the moment. 

    If you want to see how much you could be due back from HMRC use our Tax Calculator and find out in seconds.

  • Does a CIS Tax Refund include my self assessment tax return?

    Yes it does. All self-employed people, including CIS workers, have to complete a tax return every year. The tax year ends on 5th April and you’ve got until 31st January the following year to send your tax return to HMRC.

    Read more about Tax and the Construction Industry Scheme

    At RIFT we complete your tax return for you, and claim your tax refund at the same time. Just tell us where you’ve worked, and when, and we’ll work out the cost of your travel. We’ll add any other job-related expenses you may have and fill in the tax forms for you, all you need to do is sign them.

    We’ll send the forms to HMRC, handle any questions on your behalf and chase them if they don’t pay out in the agreed timescale – it’s all part of our service.

    95% of our CIS customers get a tax refund, and the average value of the refunds is £2000 per year.

    Use our tax calculator to find out how much you could have waiting for you at HMRC.

  • Can I still claim a CIS refund if I applied for a government loan scheme?

    Yes you can! The Self Assessment system is all about settling up fairly with the taxman. Any money you received from The Self Employment Income Support Scheme will be treated as taxable income on your Self-Assessment. Whether or not you get a government loan to see you through the COVID-19 outbreak, you’re still owed the rules covering CIS tax refunds are the same as before. Paying tax under the Construction Industry Scheme can mean you’re not getting the full benefit of your tax-free Personal Allowance so you should always make your claim.

    Covid-19 Support

  • What is Self-Employment Income Support?

    The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is designed to help self-employed people get through the COVID-19 crisis. The 5th grant changed the playing field slightly for businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. This grant covered the period from the start of May 2021 to the end of September 2021. If you qualified for a previous grant and your business was still suffering because of the pandemic, you should have been able to make a claim.

    For the 5th grant, what you received depended on how badly your turnover had been damaged:

    • If your turnover had dropped by 30% or more, you’d have received 80% of your 3-month average trading profits.
    • If your turnover had s gone down by less than 30%, you’d have received 30% of your 3-month average profits instead.

    Because the grant amount was based on your turnover, you obviously needed some figures to show HMRC. The first thing you needed was your turnover total from either the 2018/19 or 2019/20 tax year. You should have easily been able to find this in your Self Assessment tax returns.

    The other thing you need was your turnover from the 2020/21 tax year to compare. Again, your Self Assessment tax return’s ideal for this. If you haven’t already talked to RIFT about submitting your 2020/21 return, time’s running out. The official Self Assessment deadline isn’t until the 31st of January. However, if you’re going to use your tax return to show your turnover for 2020/21, you’ll have needed to have it squared away before the SEISS claim deadline of the 30th of September 2021.

  • How long does a CIS tax refund take?

    CIS tax rebates generally take about 4-10 weeks for HMRC to process. RIFT’s CIS refund service includes handling your Self Assessment CIS tax return and full aftercare throughout the year, with no hidden fees. With RIFT, you get the very best from your claim, as fast as possible and with no expensive hourly rates to cough up. One simple fee takes care of everything.

    HMRC’s not known for its blistering speed, but there are a few things you can do to keep the wheels turning on your claim:

    • Get the 64-8 form we send you sorted out as soon as possible. We need it to talk to the taxman for you.
    • Use our calendar of key days to steer clear of HMRC's busiest periods.

    RIFT’s expert teams will make sure there's no hold-up at HMRC. That means no endless waits on HMRC helplines and no dangerous mistakes creeping into your claim. We'll even chase up old employers if they're dragging their feet in sending the information we need. Once you’re happy with the amount we’ve calculated for your rebate, we’ll chase up HMRC until it’s paid out in full. Meanwhile, we take expert care of you all year round, and we’re never more than an email or phone call away. As always, everything's covered by our RIFT Guarantee. As long as you've given us complete and accurate information, your rebate is protected.


  • Do most CIS workers get their full tax rebates?

    When you file your own Self Assessment tax returns, it's easy to miss out on CIS claims or make costly mistakes. Under the CIS scheme, your employer takes tax directly from your pay before you get it. This almost always means you're instantly losing 20% to the taxman. As a result, you’ll probably find you’ve been overcharged by HMRC when you file your Self Assessment tax return.

    It takes specialist understanding to claim tax back for CIS construction workers. Every year, far too many people are still shelling out tax they don't owe. In the worst-case scenario, they don’t get any CIS tax rebate at all. Even if they do, it’s often nowhere near as much as they deserve.


  • Does my CIS Tax Refund include my Self Assessment Tax Return?

    Yes! All self-employed people, including CIS workers, have to complete a yearly Self Assessment return.  The tax year runs until on 5th April, then you've got until the following 31st of January to complete and file your tax return.

    With RIFT, filing and completing your CIS tax return is all part of our tax rebate service. Armed with a list of your workplaces for the year and a few more details, we'll work out the cost of your travel and what you’re owed for it. Next, we'll add any other essential expenses you’ve had and sort out your paperwork.

    We'll send the forms to HMRC, handle any questions on your behalf and keep chasing the taxman until your rebate’s paid. 95% of our CIS customers get a tax refund, with an average value of over £2,245 per year.


  • What are the penalties for late CIS filing?

    The taxman really doesn’t like waiting. Miss the filing or payment deadline by a single day and you'll get an immediate £100 penalty. At 2 months late, that fine doubles. At 6 and 12 months late, it reaches £300 (or 5% of the CIS deductions on the return, if that's higher). Any longer and you might face an additional penalty of £3,000, or 100% of the CIS deductions on the return.

    Of course, with RIFT on your team, you’ve got nothing to worry about. We’ll keep you in the taxman's good books and make sure you never miss out on your CIS tax claims - even the ones you didn’t know you qualified for!

  • How do I register for CIS?

    You’ll need a few bits of information about yourself to register for the Construction Industry Scheme:

    The CIS scheme covers most of the construction work done in the UK. If you’re self-employed in the building trade, you’ll almost certainly have to register for it. Contractors will need to verify their subcontractors, handle their CIS deductions and file monthly CIS returns.

    If you’re a subcontractor and don’t sign up for CIS, it doesn’t mean you won’t have the deductions taken from your pay. In fact, you’ll probably actually lose even more of your money, since the rate goes up to 30% for people who aren’t CIS-registered. It’s possible that you qualify for “gross payment” status, where you don’t have to pay CIS deductions. Don’t count on that, though, as there are specific rules and conditions to meet.

    One of the problems with CIS is that it's very easy to end up paying too much - and you won't get an automatic refund. To claim your CIS rebate, HMRC demands proof of what you’re owed. This is what RIFT Tax Refunds is all about, so get in touch to see how we can help.

    Remember that CIS covers all UK construction work, even if it's done by foreign firms. There are penalties for filing late, so you have to stay on top of the paperwork. 

    Start my claim

  • What is a CIS card? What kinds of cards are there?

    When you register with the Construction Industry Scheme, you get a card. The kind you’re given depends on your situation:

    • CIS A(P): Most subcontractors get this. It shows that you're eligible to have CIS tax deducted by your employers, and it doesn’t expire.
    • CIS 4(T): A temporary version of the card above. You'll probably only get this if you didn't know your National Insurance number when asked. Once you have your NI number, you'll be upgraded to a permanent card.
    • CIS 5: This is for companies that can't get a CIS 6 certificate, but still qualify for gross payments.
    • CIS 5 (Partner): This is the version of CIS 5 for partners in firms.
    • CIS 6: You can get this card if you're an individual, partner or director who qualifies for gross payment status. You qualify based your turnover, the kind of business you're in and how well you follow HMRC's rules.

  • What work does CIS cover?

    For most general contractors in the UK building trade, the CIS scheme's compulsory. It includes everything from site preparation and repairs to decoration and demolition. There are a few exceptions, though. For instance, if you’re a contractor who only deals with very limited sections of the work (like carpet fitting), you may not have to register.

  • Does CIS apply to business outside the UK?

    CIS covers all construction work done in the UK, even when it's done by foreign firms. The registration system is a little different, but all the basic rules are the same. The UK has some ''double taxation'' agreements in place with various other countries to reduce your total tax when you're paying in both countries. Talk to RIFT if you need help working out what it all means for you.

  • What is the CIS tax deduction rate?

    The standard Construction Industry Scheme tax deduction is 20%. If that sounds like HMRC's taking a huge lump out of your pay, then it only gets worse if you don’t sign up to the scheme. If you haven’t registered, the rate shoots up to 30%! This can also happen if you don't give your employer your Unique Taxpayer Reference number (UTR). Your UTR is used by HMRC to identify you. If your employers don't have it, the taxman might assume you aren't registered for CIS and charge you the higher rate.

  • How do CIS tax deductions work?

    CIS tax deductions are payments your employer takes out of your wages before you get them. Those payments go straight to HMRC instead of you. They're supposed count as advance payments toward your tax and National Insurance, clamping down on tax evasion in the industry. Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of CIS is that a lot of honest people end up being charged too much tax. At RIFT, our friendly teams of CIS experts can quickly tell you if you're due a tax rebate, then make sure you get it.

  • What is a Construction Industry Scheme payment and deduction certificate?

    A Construction Industry Scheme Payment and Deduction statement is a record of the money you've been paid and taxed on if you work under the CIS scheme. You might also just call them wage slips, payslips or something similar.

    If you're self-employed in construction, they're some of the most important documents you'll ever have. When you file your yearly CIS tax return, you'll need these statements to prove what you've earned and paid. You should get a CIS Payment and Deduction statement from your boss whenever you’re paid, within 14 days of the end of the tax month.

  • What do I need my CIS payment and deduction statements for?

    The main thing you'll need your CIS certificates or wage slips for is filing your yearly Self Assessment tax returns. The taxman will expect you to show him a record of all the cash you’ve got coming in. With the CIS taking 20% of your pay before you get it, you’re probably not getting the full benefit of your tax-free Personal Allowance. You’ll be hard-pressed to prove that without your CIS paperwork to back up your claim, though.

    CIS Tax Returns

  • I only work for 1 company and my pay is taxed before I get it so am I PAYE or CIS?

    Employment status is a huge issue in construction, and it can get very complicated with so many layers of contractors, subcontractors, agencies and so on. You might think you’re working under exactly the same conditions as your PAYE workmates, but the taxman could well take a different view.

    The first thing to do is check your payslips. If they say “CIS statement” and show 20% deductions being made, then you’re being taxed through CIS. If that seems wrong, you need to talk to your employer fast.

    The CIS scheme is only for construction, and its rules can catch out even experienced self-employed people from other industries. If you’ve got self-employed mates from outside of construction, be careful taking Self Assessment advice from them. They might not know the territory as well as they think they do. Play it safe and talk to the experts at RIFT instead.

  • Who counts as a CIS contractor or subcontractor?

    In construction, a contractor is a person or business supplying materials or labour for a job. On the other hand, a subcontractor is anyone who does construction work for a contractor. Basically, according to HMRC, you're a contractor if you pay subcontractors for construction work.

    You can also count as a construction contractor if your business doesn't do construction work, but still spends an average of over £1m a year on construction in any 3-year period. Either way, you’ll need to register for CIS and start taking deductions from your subcontractors’ pay.

    Start My Claim

  • What must I do as a CIS contractor?

    As a contractor, you need to register for CIS before you even take on your first subcontractor. You're going to have a lot of responsibilities under the scheme, so get used to minding the details. Here's what you need to do:

    • Get registered. You can do this online, but it can take up to 2 weeks to sort out. Make sure you allow for this time before taking on any subcontractors. You can sign up as a Sole Trader, a Limited Company or a Partnership. Remember, you need to do this even if you're based abroad.
    • Verify your subcontractors with HMRC to check that they're in the CIS scheme. Again, you can do this for free on the HMRC site. In addition to the information your subcontractors give you, you'll need to enter some basic details about your own business.
    • When you start paying your subcontractors, you'll make deductions from their pay for CIS. The rates are 20% if they're registered for the scheme, or 30% if not.
    • Make sure you're working out the gross pay correctly. Charges for things like VAT, materials and equipment aren't included.
    • Pay the CIS deductions to HMRC. They'll have set you up a payment scheme when you registered.
    • File your monthly CIS returns. There's an online tool for this, or you can use commercial software. These have to be spot-on, with up to £3,000 penalties for giving the wrong employment status for a subcontractor.

    Start My Claim

  • What sort of tax relief can I get as a subcontractor?

    Subcontractor tax refunds can be tricky. It’s easy to miss out on money you’re owed - or even get put off from claiming altogether. Even pricey accountants can find themselves tangled up in the system if they don't know the construction industry well. RIFT Tax Refunds has been specialising in construction rebates since 1999. There really are no safer hands to be in.

  • How do I qualify for gross payment status?

    Gross payment status means that no CIS deductions get taken out of your pay. There are 3 basic tests to see if you qualify:

    • The turnover test: Do you have a net annual turnover of £30,000+ for 3 continuous years?
    • The business test: Are you in a business that qualifies for gross payments? In general, that means construction work. You also have to do business through a bank account and keep proper records.
    • The compliance test: Do you have a spotless track record of paying all your tax and hitting all your deadlines?

  • Do I pay tax if I'm CIS?

    Yes, you will pay tax “at source” (your tax is taken off your wages before you get them), most likely at the rate of 20% of your income.

    However, this doesn’t mean you are “employed”. You still count self-employed under CIS – even if it doesn’t feel like it. The big difference is that this means you'll still have to do Self Assessment each year. Not filing those tax returns each year brings three very serious problems your way:

    • You're not getting your tax-free Personal Allowance.
    • You're not getting any of the tax relief you're entitled to for your work expenses.
    • HMRC's going to come after you for failure to file!

    If you're getting CIS statements and don't understand why, get in touch with RIFT straight away. We can explain the system, make sure you aren't paying too much tax and keep you out of trouble with HMRC.

  • I'm self-employed, but I'm not getting any CIS statements from my contractor. What should I do?

    There are strict rules for CIS contractors about payment and deduction statements. They need to send you one every time you're paid, with specific deadlines to hit.

    If you haven't been receiving yours, don't panic. It may just be a simple admin mix-up. Get in touch with your contractor and ask for your certificates, so you can keep your Self Assessment records up-to-date.

    Don't just ignore the problem. If it turns out your contractor's not been doing things correctly with HMRC, things could get awkward for you in a hurry, come the end of the tax year. If you still have no luck, come to RIFT for advice and help. We're experts in sorting out tax problems for UK construction, and we'll get straight to work.

  • Do I need to do a tax return if I'm self-employed?

    If you're self-employed in any kind of business, you'll almost certainly be using Self Assessment to pay your tax. In the construction industry, you'll probably also have to deal with the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). Subcontracting under CIS means your Self Assessment filing has a couple of extra points to consider. If you don't understand the system, it's easy to end up paying a lot of extra tax you don't owe. If you think you are due a tax rebate check out our CIS tax refund pages.

  • I work CIS. Can I pay someone to take on jobs for me?

    Self-employed CIS workers can sometimes pass work on to other people. However, there are strict rules about doing this, and breaking them can lead to serious trouble. HMRC has a real problem with people in CIS work paying cash-in-hand for others to do jobs for them. It doesn't matter if you're passing the work on to friends, colleagues or family. You still have to follow the rules.

  • What are the rules for passing CIS work on?

    The first thing to know is that passing your CIS work on makes you a contractor in HMRC's eyes. That means you have to register yourself to avoid serious trouble from the taxman. You can't just slip someone a fistful of banknotes on the sly and sort things out later. You need get yourself registered before you take on your first subcontractor.

    After that, you need to be sure your subcontractors are signed up for CIS. When you pay your subcontractors, you have to take CIS deductions from their pay and send them to the taxman. You'll also need to file returns every month and keep detailed CIS records. If you slip up, or ignore the regulations altogether, you're looking at some painful penalties.

  • Can I claim the money I'm paying subcontractors as a business expense?

    As long as you're following the rules, then the cash you're paying the people you give the work to counts as an expense. That means it will bring down the amount of profit you're paying tax on. If RIFT is handling your tax returns, of course, we'll handle all of this for you as part of the service. 

  • What happens if HMRC launch an enquiry into my CIS returns?

    If you've been passing some of your CIS work on, then you need to have good records to show the taxman. HMRC will expect to see detailed evidence of the wages you've paid out, for instance. In addition, they'll also want to see the details of the people doing the work for you. Names, addresses and their Unique Taxpayer Reference numbers will all be needed. Again, RIFT will handle all the sticky HMRC business for you to keep you within the regulations and out of trouble.

    RIFT was first founded to help construction workers tackle the taxman. We've grown a lot since then, but we always remember where we started. We're still the leading experts on taking care of the UK's construction industry. We're on great terms with HMRC, and know the business inside and out. Whatever tax problems or questions you've got, talk to RIFT.

  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

    The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is designed to help self-employed people get through the COVID-19 crisis. With the 4th round of SEISS grants, the rules on who qualifies were loosened up slightly. You should be okay to claim if:

    • You filed a Self Assessment tax return for 2019-20 by the 2nd of March 2021.
    • Over half of your earnings come from self-employment.
    • You’ve been making under £50,000 a year on average over the last 3 years.
    • Your business has suffered significantly as a result of COVID-19.

    The 4th SEISS grant pays out 80% of your average profits over 3 months, capped at £7,500, worked out using your last 3 years of profits. If you became self-employed more recently than that, only your time in self-employment will be used to make the calculations.

    A final SEISS grant is coming later in the 2021, to be claimed from around the end of July. Only people who’ve seen a 30% drop in their average turnover will get the full 80% pay-out (capped at £7,500) this time. If your turnover’s dropped by less, you’ll get a 30% grant level instead, capped at £2,850.

    If you’re eligible for a SEISS grant, you should be contacted by HMRC with instructions and a personal claim date. See our FAQ here for more about the scheme.

Need more help?

Wondering if you can claim a tax refund or need to submit a tax return? Use our online tools to find out if you're owed money by HMRC.

Do I Qualify?

Speak to us 6 days a week.
Mon-Thurs 08:30 - 20:00
Fri 08:30 - 18:00 and Sat 09:00 - 13:00.
RIFT Refunds, The Cobalt Building, 1600 Eureka Park, Lower Pemberton, Ashford, Kent, TN25 4BF

Call us on 01233 628648

Want to chat to a member of our team? Why not use our live chat to speak to an online advisor now?

Open live chat

RIFTPROD2 - Subscriber