Locum Vets Guide


If you’ve decided to join the growing number of locum vets across the country, then there are a few important business decisions to make first.


Going independent can be a daunting step to take – both personally and financially.

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The rewards are usually worth it. Locum vets earn more, have more flexibility with their hours and a more varied working life. And we’re here to help make it easier.


This guide includes a range of accounting and business tips for new locum vets. Click the list below to jump to a particular section.


Your employment status;

Setting up your business;

Filing accounts and tax returns;

Pensions for locum vets;

How IR35 applies to locum work;

Managing your finances.



Should I join an umbrella company, such as a locum vet agency?


As a locum vet, you’ll have a wide range of options to consider in terms of employment.


Joining an umbrella company is an easy way to begin locum work.


In the veterinary trade, the most common umbrella company is a locum vet agency. These are specialist recruitment agencies for veterinary locums.


For a fee, these agencies will take care of contracts, invoices and other paperwork, as well as your tax requirements. You’ll pay tax via PAYE, as if you were a standard employee.


While joining an umbrella company is convenient, going it alone makes it easier to earn more and expand your business. Some agencies also insist on a minimum number of hours, which can feel restrictive.



How should I set up my business: limited company, sole trader or partnership?


Your first important decision is how to structure your business.


There are a range of options available to you at this stage. You could set up a limited company or a partnership – also known as an LLP – or become a sole trader.


Limited companies


Many locum vets choose to incorporate their business as a limited company. There are various advantages and disadvantages to this, so make sure it’s right for you.


Forming a limited company requires a £12 fee to register with Companies House. You’ll also need to register with HMRC to pay corporation tax.


If you’re not technologically-minded, then an accountant can set up your company. Appleby Mall incorporate our clients’ businesses for free – we’ll cover the £12 for you.


You’ll also need to open a separate business bank account.


Sole traders and partnerships


Alternatively, you can become a sole trader.


You’ll need to notify HMRC of your new sole trader status within 90 days of beginning work as a locum vet. Setting up as a sole trader is free and you can easily do it online.


If you’re teaming up with another locum vet, then it might be worth considering a limited liability partnership (LLP). Partnerships and sole traders follow many of the same rules.



Do locum vets need to file accounts? What about tax returns and VAT?


Limited companies must file a company tax return with HMRC and annual accounts with Companies House.


This can be a complicated exercise. If you haven’t filed before, or you have a packed schedule, then an accountant will be useful.


Setting up as a limited company can offer savings on tax.


Corporation tax is fixed at 19% – compared to income tax at 20% or 40% above the personal allowance, plus self-employed national insurance (NI).


You’ll still pay income tax on any salary drawn from your company – but you don’t need to pay any NI contributions when taking a dividend.


Sole traders must file a yearly self-assessment tax return with HMRC.


As a sole trader, you’ll pay income tax on your profits – plus self-employed national insurance, based on your annual business profits.


If you have an annual turnover of more than £85,000, then you’ll also need to register for VAT.

This applies whether you operate as a limited company, as a sole trader, or as a partnership.

You can register for VAT online, or authorise your accountant to sign up on your behalf. VAT returns are filed to HMRC every quarter.



Do I need to set up my own pension?


Becoming self-employed means the responsibility for your pension shifts back to you. You’ll have to choose your own pension scheme and make your own contributions to it.


Whether you run a limited company or act as a sole trader, if you have no employees (like most locum vets) then you aren’t required to set up a workplace pension.


It still makes financial sense to set up a private pension through your limited company.


Your pension contributions will be counted against your company’s profits, reducing your corporation tax bill. Contributions are currently tax-free up to £40,000 per year.


For sole traders, setting up a personal pension is a good idea. You’ll receive tax relief from the government up to the £40,000 annual limit – or up to 100% of your earnings, if lower.


Pensions can often be difficult to understand. An accountant or business adviser can help you to grasp the inner workings of a complex system.



What is IR35? Does it apply to locum vets?


IR35 is legislation introduced by the government in 2000 to prevent companies from using contractors like locum vets to essentially act as regular employees.


This type of disguised employment is usually undertaken to reduce a company’s tax and NI bill.


Working as a locum instead of an employee can also reduce your tax payments. But, if HMRC find you to have been working inside IR35, they could issue you with a large bill.


IR35 is only applicable if you’re set up as a limited company.


The responsibility for making sure IR35 doesn’t apply to your locum contract is currently with you. This is expected to change in April 2020 for larger businesses who use your services. The IR35 responsibility will then be with the company who approached you.


How to prove you’re outside IR35


• Make your own decisions at work. This could include deciding on how you care for your customers’ animals, your equipment and clothing, your diary and working hours.


• Have a service agreement. Someone should be able to act as a substitute for the services you provide.


• Don’t tie yourself to a specific practice. Avoid rolling contracts and look for different practices to work at once your contract is up.



How do I manage my money?


It’s vital to stay on top of your finances as a locum vet. Nobody wants to spend their free time digging through reams of files after a tiring few days out on call.


Cloud-based accounting software like Xero is a handy way to stay on top of your income and spending.


Keeping track of what you spend is particularly important for claiming business expenses. From essentials like fuel to medical goods, you can get money back later.


You can only claim expenses on outgoings that are wholly and exclusively for business purposes.


This information will be declared on on your annual tax return.




I have some more questions. Can you help me out?


While there may seem like a lot of hurdles to jump, becoming a locum vet has some clear financial and personal benefits.


Choosing the right structure for your business, accurately filing your tax returns, and keeping track of your finances will save you time and money in the long run.


If you have any more questions about managing your money as a locum vet, then we’d be happy to help. Give us a call or send an email and we’ll answer your queries as soon as we can.


Check out the next part of this series to discover how Appleby Mall can help your locum vet business.

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