Tax Brackets, Tax Rates, Tax Bands and Tax Allowances

The UK has two main rates of income tax: 20% and 40%. We explain these different income tax brackets and the allowances you may be eligible for.

Rebecca Goodman Published on 17 December 2020. Last updated on 20 January 2021.
Tax Brackets, Tax Rates, Tax Bands and Tax Allowances

The majority of us pay income tax at two levels, and the amount you pay depends on how much you earn.

There are two main rates of income tax set by the government: 20% and 40%. Those who pay the 20% rate are paying the basic rate of tax, while those who pay 40% are paying the higher rate of tax.

Confusingly, there’s also a personal allowance that applies to most people. This is a set amount you can earn before you pay any tax. There are also allowances for specific criteria, such as for those who are married and anyone who receives dividends. If you are eligible, you won’t pay tax on the amount within the allowance.

Here we explain what you need to know about the different income tax brackets and the allowances you may be eligible for.

What are the different income tax rates and tax bands?

If you earn up to £100,000 you will get a personal allowance of £12,500, which is what you can earn before you pay any tax.

Those earning between £12,501 and £50,000 will pay 20% income tax on this band. If you earn anything between £50,001 and £150,000 you will pay 40% tax on that portion of your income.

Should you earn more than £100,000 a year, the personal allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 over this amount. This means that if you earn more than £125,000 you won’t get any personal allowance.

When does the additional rate of income tax kick in?

Any money you earn over £150,000 is taxed at the additional rate which is currently 45%.

Am I eligible for an income tax allowance?

The majority of people are eligible for the £12,500 personal allowance. This is set each year at the budget and applies to an entire tax year. People earning over £100,000 a year will get a reduced personal allowance, and only those earning more than £125,000 a year will not get any personal allowance.

There are a number of other allowances too, including the following:

Marriage allowance

If you’re married you may be able to transfer £1,250 of your personal tax allowance to your husband, wife or civil partner to lower their tax bill, by a maximum of £250 a year, if they earn more than you.

To be eligible the lower earner usually needs to have an income of less than the personal allowance, which is currently £12,500, and the higher earner needs to earn less than £50,000. If you think you may be eligible, there is a free marriage tax calculator on the Gov.co.uk website.

It’s also possible to backdate your claim to include any tax year since 5 April 2016 for any years you were eligible.

Personal savings allowance

The size of your personal savings allowance depends on your income.

Basic-rate taxpayers can earn £1,000 interest a year before paying tax, higher-rate taxpayers can earn £500 interest a year, and there is no allowance for additional-rate taxpayers.

Lower earners, those with an income or pension below £12,500 a year, may also be eligible for the starting rate for savings. Those in this bracket can earn interest of up to £5,000 tax-free on top of their personal allowance.

Dividend allowance

If you own shares in a company, you may receive a dividend payment and a certain amount of this will be tax-free.

The current dividend allowance is £2,000, so you will pay tax only on any dividend income of more than this amount. If you receive dividends from shares you hold within a stocks and shares ISA, you also won’t pay tax on these.

Benefits allowance

While you don’t specifically get an allowance for benefits you can receive without paying tax, some will not be factored into your taxable income.

These include child benefit, disability living allowance, income support, maternity allowance, and pension credit. For a full list, see the Gov.co.uk website.

Is there any way to avoid paying higher-rate tax?

It’s impossible to avoid paying tax, but there are some ways to lower your tax bill.

These include making sure your tax code is correct, and that you’re being taxed at the right level and taking advantage of tax credits if you are eligible.

If you fill in a self-assessment tax return always make sure you do it on time to avoid paying more. And if you do find out you’ve overpaid on your tax bill, always make sure you reclaim the overpaid taxes from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Taking advantage of tax benefits at work, if your employer offers them, may also help lower your overall bill. The benefits on offer will depend on your company, but these could include a travel season ticket loan or help with childcare costs.

» MORE: How to claim tax relief




About the author:

Rebecca Goodman is a freelance journalist who has spent the past 10 years working across personal finance publications. Regularly writing for The Guardian, The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Independent. Read more

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