Salary Sacrifice Arrangements


This blog provides an overview of salary sacrifice arrangements and is based on information obtained from the HMRC website

A salary sacrifice arrangement is an agreement to reduce an employee’s entitlement to cash pay, usually in return for a non-cash benefit.

Salary sacrifice arrangements cannot reduce an employee’s cash earnings below the National Minimum Wage rates.

As an employer, you can set up salary sacrifice arrangements by changing the terms of your employee’s employment contract. Your employee needs to agree to this change.

Change the terms of an arrangement

If your employee wants to opt in or out of a salary sacrifice arrangement, you must alter their contract with each change. Your employee’s contract must be clear on what their cash and non-cash entitlements are at any given time.

It may be necessary to change the terms of a salary sacrifice arrangement where a lifestyle change significantly alters an employee’s financial circumstances.

This may include marriage, divorce, or an employee’s spouse or partner becoming redundant or pregnant. Salary sacrifice arrangements can allow opting in or out in the event of lifestyle changes like these.

As a general rule, if an employee can swap between cash earnings and a non-cash benefit whenever they like, any expected tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) advantages under a salary sacrifice arrangement won’t apply.

Work out the affect on tax and NICs

The impact on tax and NICs payable for any employee will depend on the pay and non-cash benefits that make up the salary sacrifice arrangement. You need to pay and deduct the right amount of tax and NICs for the cash and benefits you provide.

For the cash component, that means operating the PAYE system correctly through your payroll.

Calculate a non-cash benefit

For any non-cash benefits, you need to calculate the value of the benefit.

From 6 April 2017, if you set up a new salary sacrifice arrangement, you’ll need to work out the value of a non-cash benefit by using the higher of the:

  • amount of the salary given up
  • earnings charge under the normal benefit in kind rules

However, for cars with CO2 emissions of no more than 75g/km, you should always use the earnings charge under the normal benefit in kind rules.


Exemptions on benefits in kind don’t apply to salary sacrifice schemes. The only benefits that you don’t need to value for a salary sacrifice arrangement, as you don’t have to report them to HMRC are:-

  • payments into pension schemes
  • employer provided pensions advice
  • childcare vouchers, workplace nurseries and directly contracted employer provided childcare
  • bicycles and cycling safety equipment (including cycle to work)

If you set up a salary sacrifice arrangement with an employee before 6th April 2017, you can continue to calculate the value of the benefit as you did before. This only relates to specific arrangements with an employee, not to your overall salary sacrifice policy.

The arrangement will be subject to new rules if the arrangement is varied, renewed or modified unless the change is:

  • connected to an employee’s statutory sick pay
  • connected to an employee’s maternity, paternity, adoption or shared parental pay
  • out of the control of the employee and employer (like a damaged contract)

Most existing arrangements set up before 6 April 2017 will automatically be subject to the new rules from 6 April 2018. However, arrangements will not be subject to the new rules until 6 April 2021 unless they are varied, renewed or modified if they are for:

  • cars with CO2 emissions of more than 75g/km
  • accommodation
  • school fees (even if varied, renewed or modified as long as the arrangement relates to the same child and school)


Reporting requirements for many non-cash benefits are different to those for cash earnings. In general, benefits must be reported to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at the end of the tax year using the end-of-year expenses and benefits online form.

Ask HMRC to confirm the tax and NICs

Once a salary sacrifice arrangement is in place, employers can ask the HMRC Clearances Team to confirm the tax and NICs implications.

In order to be satisfied that the change has been effective at the right time and not applied retrospectively, HMRC would need to see:

  • evidence of the variation of terms and conditions (if there is a written contract)
  • payslips before and after the variation

Childcare vouchers from an employer may affect the amount of tax credits an employee gets. Employees can use a calculator to help them decide if they’re better off taking the vouchers or not.

Earnings related payments

Employers usually decide how earnings related payments such as occupational pension contributions, overtime rates, pay rises, etc are calculated. Such payments can be based on the notional salary or the new reduced cash salary, but this must be made clear to the employee.


Salary sacrifice can affect an employee’s entitlement to earnings related benefits such as Maternity Allowance and Additional State Pension. The amount they receive may be less than the full standard rate or they may lose the entitlement altogether.

Contribution based benefits

Salary sacrifice may affect an employee’s entitlement to contribution based benefits such as Incapacity Benefit and State Pension. Salary sacrifice may reduce the cash earnings on which NICs and charged.

Statutory payments

Salary sacrifice arrangements can affect the amount of statutory pay an employee receives. It can cause some employees to lose their entitlement altogether. If a salary sacrifice arrangement reduces an employee’s average weekly earnings below the lower earnings limit, then the employer doesn’t have to make any statutory payments to them.

Workplace pension schemes

The employer decides whether salary sacrifice affects contributions into a workplace pension scheme. Often, employers will use a notional level of pay to calculate employer and employee pension contributions.

Where an employee has been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension scheme, it will be a registered pension scheme for tax purposes. No tax is charged on the contributions an employer pays to a registered pension scheme in respect of an employee.

Where an employee opts out of a workplace pension scheme, it is possible that they will have received reduced earnings under the salary sacrifice arrangement.

For further information, please contact Payroll Services London.

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