How to Register for CIS as a Contractor: A Step-by-Step Guide

The Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) plays a crucial role in the UK construction sector, especially for those transitioning from sub-contractors to contractors. This guide clarifies the steps to register for CIS as a contractor.

Starting as a Sub-contractor with a UTR Number

To begin your journey as a contractor in the CIS, it’s imperative that you’re already a sub-contractor within HMRC’s scheme. A critical component of this initial step is having a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number, which uniquely identifies you for tax purposes within HMRC’s system.

Government Gateway Account and Employer Registration

Presumably, you already have a Government Gateway account, which is essential for accessing various HMRC services. Log into this account to initiate the process. The first step here is to register as an employer. Although it might seem confusing or contradictory, registering as an employer is necessary under HMRC’s guidelines to manage payments within CIS properly, even if you don’t employ anyone directly.

Generating an Employer’s PAYE Reference Number

The purpose of registering as an employer is to generate an employer’s PAYE (Pay As You Earn) reference number. This number is crucial as it’s part of the framework that allows you to manage payments to sub-contractors and employees, aligning with HMRC’s view that those paying subcontractors should also have employees.

Registering as a CIS Contractor

Once you have your employer’s PAYE reference number, the next step is to register for CIS as a contractor. This is done online through your Government Gateway account. The process involves providing details about your role and confirming your contractor status within CIS.

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HMRC’s Reporting Expectations

HMRC requires CIS contractors to submit real-time information about payments to subcontractors. This involves submitting a CIS 300 return monthly, which lists all subcontractors you’ve paid from the previous month up to the sixth of the current month. Ensure you submit this return by the 18th of each month to stay compliant.

Ideal Timing for Registration

Typically, the decision to register for CIS comes at a pivotal moment in your career. Most subcontractors, upon deciding to expand their operations, will think, “I can do this myself. I’m going to take on a couple of lads.” This decision is the right time to start the CIS registration process with HMRC. Ideally, this should be done before taking on any subcontractors, as obtaining the PAYE reference number and completing registration can take a few weeks.

Late Registration: Is it Too Late?

If you find yourself already working on a project but not registered as a CIS contractor, it’s not too late. You can still register, but be mindful that any delay might lead to penalties, especially if you’re late in submitting your CIS 300 return. Submit any late returns as promptly as possible and be prepared to explain the delay to HMRC.

Registering for CIS as a contractor involves being a subcontractor with a UTR number, having a Government Gateway account, registering as an employer to obtain a PAYE reference, and finally registering as a CIS contractor. While the requirement to register as an employer might seem odd if you’re not employing people, it is a mandatory step in the CIS framework. Understanding these steps and their timing can help ensure a smooth transition to becoming a CIS contractor.

Remember, the construction industry is a dynamic field with opportunities for growth and expansion. By following these steps and staying informed about CIS regulations, you can navigate this transition effectively, ensuring compliance and success in your expanded role.

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Nick Pilgrim

M.D. | CIS Payroll Expert
01245 493832

Nick loves nothing more than chewing the fat over CIS payroll queries – actually that’s not strictly true; he likes playing golf and driving round Europe, but pick up the phone to him anyway!

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