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Frequently Asked Questions

When you register with us, your Account Manager will be happy to go over any details with you as your point of contact and if you would like some more information tailored to your specific needs, please contact our New Business Team on 0800 848 8111. In the meantime below are some frequently asked questions which you may find useful.

To find out more about the various packages available call 0800 848 8111 and quote “Crystal” for a special offer or click the button below.

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What is an Umbrella Company?

In simple terms, an umbrella company acts as an employer for independent contractors who work under temporary contracts, very often through an employment agency, but also directly with end clients. Many providers of more dubious payment solutions (Offshore, EBT, and Composite) use the title Umbrella Company so how do you know which you belong to? Any PAYE Umbrella who is compliant and above board should always adhere to the following values:

  • You should be classed as an employee of that business and have signed an employment contract which you have a copy of. If you are paid, or have a contract under a different company name, ask why?
  • All contract administration between you and the agency or client should be taken care of by the Umbrella and handled on your behalf by an experienced professional.
  • They should raise invoices based on your timesheet information, chase and collect all outstanding funds owed to you swiftly and within agreed payment terms as stated within the contracts.
  • They must deduct PAYE Tax, and National Insurance along with any other deductions indicated by HMRC.
  • They should be open and honest about their administration costs clearly identifying what they will charge you and when.
  • They should extend to you all the usual statutory employment benefits such as statutory sick pay, maternity and paternity pay.
How does Crystal Umbrella operate?

Crystal Umbrella simply offers a PAYE umbrella service only. This means that we enter into a flexible employment contract with each contractor, allowing them to move from one temporary assignment to another, with minimal of fuss and administration. We raise invoices based on your timesheets and send them (usually electronically) direct to your agency / client for payment. We chase any outstanding or late payments owed to you and ensure your agency / client pay you within the payment terms they agreed with you when they offered you the assignment. We calculate and deduct all PAYE Tax, Employers and Employee’s National Insurance at source. We pay all deductions direct to HMRC on your behalf. We also extend to you a whole host of other financial and timesaving benefits which, are clearly stated in the benefits section of the website.

Can only IT contractors use Crystal Umbrella?

Absolutely not, the term Contractor actually refers to any person working on a temporary basis through a recruitment agency, or directly with an end client. We also help temporary workers from many industry sectors and the terminology comes in many different guises: Flexible worker, interims, contingent workers, freelancers or locums. The actual term used is usually dependant on the sector you work in. IT is a prominent industry sector that generally utilises the services of Umbrella Companies, however we also help thousands of workers from many other sectors, including:

  • Engineering
  • Healthcare, Medical and Pharmaceutical
  • Aviation, Aircraft and Aerospace
  • Security
  • Public Sector
  • Hospitality and Catering

Simply put, anyone working on a specific project, or for a set period of time, can use Crystal Umbrella no matter how you choose to describe yourself.

What is IR35 and how does it effect me?

IR35 is a piece of Tax legislation originally announced in 1999, which took effect from April 2000, that effectively seeks to tax contractors, freelancers, consultants and other types of singular trading arrangements, as if the individuals were employed by the end client themselves. Historically, small single person companies were set up and used to reduce the amount of taxation paid through using dividend payments. HMRC viewed this as disguised employment and a way to avoid paying Tax. IR35 was a response to that and over nine years later is still striking fear into the hearts of freelancers! There have been many arguments that small companies should be allowed to trade as if outside of IR35 and thus able to still make tax efficient dividend payments. Today, unlike Crystal, some umbrella schemes still use dividend payment systems and offer IR35 insurance or IR35 friendly contracts. But – and it’s a big but – contractors in these schemes are still at risk of having to pay back underpaid tax going back some six years. In our view, it’s just not worth it. That’s why; when you join Crystal you become a PAYE employee of our company and pay your Tax and NI contributions through the normal HMRC channels. Neither Crystal, nor our contractors, are affected in any way by IR35 because our employment product is neither a disguised scheme nor a service that needs IR35 insurances. To see what your take home pay as a Crystal employee could be contact one of our New Business Advisors, safe in the knowledge that everything is above board and within all UK tax laws. You may have also seen reference to “S660a” in your research. This relates to draft tax legislation aimed at clamping down on paying spouse dividends through a company route, which again HMRC viewed as avoidance. Some schemes still exist that provide this type of trading arrangement but clearly employing a partner/wife/husband who genuinely does not contribute to the business is a very risky approach.

How quickly will I be paid?

Here at Crystal we offer one of the fastest payment cycles within the industry, we process all received funds immediately and transfer them to you within 2 days via BACS. If your agency or client is prepared to issue Crystal with a remittance advice, we will start processing prior to receiving your funds so that you receive your money on the same day as we receive it… That’s fast!

I need paying urgently!

If your agency does not or cannot issue a remittance and you still require the funds as quickly as possible, we can arrange a same day payment for a small contribution of £20. We will also deduct the processing contribution at source so you receive tax relief on it. To request a same day payment, please contact your Account Manager before 10:30am on or before the day of your payroll.

Do you offer a company pension scheme?

Yes we do. It’s provided by Financial Advisors with over twenty years’ experience in dealing with contractor’s retirement needs, there are no initial set-up fees and 100% of your contributions are invested. Payment holidays are even allowed! Click here for more details.

What business expenses can I claim?

As a contractor it can be a bit of a minefield trying to understand what you can and can’t legitimately claim as expenses. For instance, are you allowed to claim for professional subscriptions and textbooks? The answer is, at Crystal, we know it’s perfectly fine to claim for professional subscriptions and text books, as long as they are wholly and exclusively required for the purpose of your contract. Plus, we have the know-how to help you identify absolutely all the expenses you’re entitled to claim for. And, unlike some less reputable umbrella companies, we simply don’t believe in encouraging our contractor employees to exploit grey areas in the system because, as we’ve said before, the taxman is no fool and will just introduce legislation to stop specific contractor ‘perks’ if they’re being abused. Here’s some of the legitimate and above-board expense claims we’ll happily help you with:

  • Mileage
  • Rail, bus, taxi and air travel (subject to your SDC status)
  • Daily food & drink also known as subsistence (subject to your SDC status)
  • Overnight accommodation
  • CRB and employment checking requirements

If you have a specific expense query contact our New Business Team on 0800 848 8888 who will happily talk you through the legalities of claiming expenses. Remember we don’t have an assumptive salary illustrator on our website; we like to be a little more dedicated, so speak to us today to receive your personal, accurate salary illustration and see how you benefit.

What are rechargeable expenses?

Rechargeable expenses (or billable expenses) are costs you incur on a day to day basis whilst on contract, that have been authorised by your agency / client to be reimbursed by them in full. This can include a wide range of things so it is important you agree these and have them written into your contract. Expenses you claim are either rechargeable (reimbursed) or budgeted Crystal business expenses, they cannot be both. Rechargeable expenses are invoiced to your agency / client in the same manner as your worked time, however when funds are received they are processed without Tax and NI being deducted, so paid back (reimbursed) to you in full.

How much will I be paid?

Calculating your pay accurately is immensely important to us here at Crystal, that’s why you won’t find an assumptive ‘do it yourself’ online salary calculator on our website. The calculation is just too complex and has many variables which, when done online, are often incorrect or inflated as does not take into account your individual circumstances. We pride ourselves on supplying a personal service, that includes supplying no nonsense, sound and accurate advice around what expenses you can and cannot budget for within your payment structure. Our team of experienced New Business Advisors are here waiting to take your call and help you make the most of your contract. Call us free today on 0800 848 8888.

Will my pay be the same amount each time I'm paid?

Yes, if you were to work the same hours each pay period, your pay should be the same. However; there are many variables which could change this such as: hours worked, tax details changed by HMRC or payment changes from your agency / client. At Crystal we have no fixed payment day and prefer to get your money to you without delay, so when your funds are received, everything is processed within 24 hours.

Why do I have to pay Employers NI if I'm an employee?

When you leave basic PAYE payroll with an agency or fulltime employment and go to work on a temporary basis through an Umbrella Company, such as Crystal Umbrella, the rate of pay you are offered is generally Increased. Your standard PAYE rate of pay will usually be uplifted to cover the increased cost for Employers NI contributions This enhanced pay is sometimes referred to as ‘uplifted pay’ or a ‘limited rate.’ The enhancement can also include a proportion for holiday pay. It is always best to ask your agency / client what rate you will be on if you use an Umbrella Company and how much higher this is than basic PAYE, as well as what the enhancement covers. Speak to our specialist contract negotiators in the New Business Team on 0800 848 8888 for more help and advice.

How much do you charge?

We don’t charge you a fee as such; we actually retain a small fixed amount from the funds received from your agency / client. As we retain this margin at source, you gain tax relief on it, so after deductions, our margin is £17.25* net (£27.50 gross) for weekly processing and £52.73* net (£85 gross) for monthly processing. We do not charge any fees for setting up or closing down your account. We also have a no work, no contribution policy so the weeks you are on holiday or between assignments you don’t pay a penny. *tax relief calculated at basic rate and with a pension, if you are a higher rate tax payer the relief you receive is even higher.

Should I be concerned about IR35?

All temporary workers in the UK should be aware of IR35 and its implications on their work, however as IR35 is designed to prevent disguised employment, whilst using Crystal Umbrella your status is one of true employment represented by a fully audited contract of employment between Crystal and you. This means that IR35 has no bearing effect on you whatsoever.

Will I be affected by the Managed Services Legislation (MSC)?

In short; no, the MSC legislation only affects those workers who are truly self-employed and chose to process their pay via a limited or dividend route. As Crystal only processes PAYE in line with HMRC guidelines MSC has no bearing effect on you whatsoever, so no worries there!

What will my employment status be with Crystal Umbrella?

You cannot now legally work in the UK without a contract of employment in some form and this carries certain responsibilities by the employer. When you join Crystal you enter into a contract of employment which fully protects you and your employment rights. Our contract of employment ensures all your admin, employment rights, insurance and accounts are fully taken care of and your Tax and NI contributions are paid directly to HMRC.

Will I be entitled to the same statutory benefits?

As an employee of Crystal Umbrella you will be entitled to the same statutory benefits as a permanent employee. Should you need it, you will be entitled to SSPSMPSPPSAP. For any further information please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 848 8888.

How do I register / join Crystal Umbrella?

Joining Crystal is quick and easy, you can complete your registration online or over the phone in minutes with a member of our New Business Team on 0800 848 8888. Remember our account opening process is free and comes with no obligation, if your contract does not go ahead or your circumstances change you can leave at any time without penalty.

What is an induction?

Our induction process is simple. We collect all the necessary documents to ensure you are fully set-up in our system to receive payments. This includes gathering a few documents from you required by law to ensure we verify your details. We’ll also issue you with an employment contract, which requires your signature, so that you can take full advantage of our employment benefits package and insurances. Finally, we’ll need a fully countersigned copy of your Agency contract.

How am I paid?

All Crystal employees are paid via BACS which takes two working days to reach your bank account. We also offer same day payment processing, available upon request for a small charge of £20. We will also deduct the processing fee at source so you receive tax relief on it. To request a same day payment, please contact your Account Manager before 10:30am on or before the day of your payroll.

Am I tied into using Crystal Umbrella?

Absolutely not, we do not tie you into any set minimum or maximum period; you can stay with us for as little or as long as you like, although we hope it will be the latter.

Can I leave Crystal Umbrella at any time?

We hope you don’t, but of course you can. We will happily accept your request to terminate your employment with us, the only delays in allowing this would be; if you have a specific notice period within the agency / client contract or have any outstanding funds to be processed. However, as soon as any notice period is spent and all funds have been processed, we will then be able to close down your account and release your P45 for you to take to your next employer.

How do I know I am paid correctly?

You know you have been paid as you receive a free SMS alert, on the day your payroll is processed, detailing your net payment amount and the date it will be available in your bank account. We also back up all processed payments with a payslip containing all aspects of your payroll including: invoice total, additions, deductions and adjustments. We’ll securely e-mail your payslip directly to your preferred address on the day of processing, but if you’re unable to receive e-payslips, you can stick with good old snail mail and have it posted to you. We will also send a P60 once a year (in May); to anyone who has had payments processed in that tax year, to ensure you are fully aware of Tax and National Insurance payments to HMRC.

Do I need to arrange insurances in relation to my contract?

No, when you join Crystal Umbrella we provide all the required professional insurances you need to work safe and secure. Our Insurances include:

  • £5million Professional Indemnity
  • £5million Public & Product Indemnity
  • £10million Employers Liability
Do I receive holiday pay?

The enhanced rate of pay your agency / client pay you when working via an Umbrella Company includes your statutory holiday entitlement, All payslips issued by Crystal clearly detail what proportion of your invoice is holiday pay, it is entirely up to you what you do with these funds, you can save them and use them when taking a holiday or you can spend them and take holidays as unpaid. Some Umbrella’s do retain a % of your invoice as holiday pay, however this does nothing other than reduce your take home pay and earn the Umbrella interest, which they do not pass onto you. We do not hold back any funds from your invoice; all monies are distributed to you each pay period.

Can you help me with my personal tax return / self assessment?

Yes, our team of in-house accountants can often help, whether it is free advice or actually completing your tax return for you. In most cases, if you are in employment with Crystal and your tax return is for one income stream, we will happily complete your tax return for free. If it is a more complicated return, containing multiple income streams, we may charge a small administration fee, ask your Account Manager for more details.

Can you help me with Financial, Protection and Investment products and advice?

We sure can, working in partnership with an independent group of Financial Advisors we offer market wide access to everything financial. To find our more read our Health, Wealth and Happiness section or fill out your enquiry online.

What level of help can I expect when I join?

You can expect the very best level of service possible as we assign each new member a single point of contact we like to call your Account Manager. You have access to the direct dial number and email address of your AM, so all communication is done directly and not via a call centre or complicated and time consuming telephone options system. From the moment you start an enquiry with Crystal we hope you see how our level of service differs from the competition.

Where do I send my timesheets?

Timesheets are usually completed on our 24/7 web portal, which is the most efficient method of entry. However, if you are unable to use the portal, you can still send in your timesheets via email or fax. Details of where to send timesheets are supplied in a welcome email when you join and remember your AM is always on hand to help you with such queries.

Where do I send my expenses?

Expenses are usually submitted for processing via our 24/7 web portal, however if you choose not to use the portal, you can still send in expenses via email or fax accompanied with a completed expense form. Speak to your AM for further details.

What are the benefits of Crystal Vs a Limited Company?

Crystal provides fast, cost effective payment processing for multiple assignments on a flexible basis whilst allowing you to retain all the benefits of employment. The clear benefits over Limited are:

  • Excellent for short term or sporadic assignments
  • Low cost
  • Free to setup
  • Flexible
  • Free professional Insurance package of £20m
  • Far less administration to complete
  • Minimum financial responsibility required
  • No tax returns, HMRC correspondence or accountancy fees

Overall the important fact to remember is that any type of worker can use Crystal Umbrella, however to go Limited you have to firstly understand the status of your assignments. Failure to do this and simply trade as a Limited Company, without considering your status could result in HMRC investigation for underpaid Tax and NI, ultimately resulting in fines, back taxes and further investigation.

Should I keep receipts for my expenses?

Contrary to what the majority of Umbrellas will tell you and regardless whether they have a �special HMRC approved expenses dispensation� if you claim an expense, you should always keep the relevant receipt or evidence of purchase. This should then be kept safe for 7 years. Where the water gets muddy is when you are allowed to claim set allowances for specific expenses. For example, if you work ten hours in a day you would be allowed to claim £10 for food and drink purchased that day. Although you may have a receipt for a different amount, the scale rate system allows you to claim £10. After all neither the Umbrella or HMRC want to receive four receipts from each person for each day they work, that would be just madness. Crystal Umbrella have adopted a ‘Scale Rate System‘ in relation to subsistence expenses. We have done this as we believe that it is the most realistic scheme and allows our workers to receive the benefits they are entitled to, without increasing the risk by having a huge daily allowance which no worker could spend if they tried. The important rules to follow are; if you claim an expense, you must retain the receipt where possible. If the Umbrella you use has a dispensation, you must still keep receipts, albeit not exactly the right amount, but shouldn’t be too far off.

Will you find me future work / assignments?

Sadly we cannot; due to legislative reasons Umbrella Companies cannot be involved in the sourcing and procurement of further employment. Future work and assignments should be sourced by yourself or with assistance from an employment business. If you need help, we have some fantastic relationships with recruiters from many sectors and we are more than happy to give you their details.

How do I get a tax rebate?

If you believe you may be due a tax rebate it will be necessary to contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) directly on 0845 366 7856. You will need your NI number and your PAYE reference to hand. Your eligibility for a rebate is dependent on your personal financial situation, which HMRC will discuss with you. Normally tax rebates are issues once a tax year has closed. However, if you have been on an incorrect tax code, resulting in you paying too much tax in the current year, HMRC may issue a ‘P6 Change of coding notice’ to correct the situation. Once this has been received your tax will automatically be recalculated when your next payment is made and any overpayment will be repaid with your salary.

What ID do I need to join?

Over the last few years new rules have been brought into play governing employment and immigration, to keep everything compliant and above board you will be required to supply one form of photo ID (such as a passport, drivers license, national ID card), as well as something proving your address (for example a recent bank statement or utility bill) along with proof of your previous earnings and tax coding via a P45. For Non-EU nationals there are further requirements that have to be met, please speak to our New Business Team on 0800 848 8888 for further details.

What if I don't have a P45 from my previous employer?

Not to worry, you can complete and sign a Starter Checklist, which we will send directly to HM Revenue & Customs for them to code manually. The only downside of using a Starter Checklist is that HMRC can take up to six weeks to return the manual coding notice (P6) back to us. This means that you would be put on a Week 1 / Month 1 temporary tax code and you may pay a little extra tax in that first six weeks or so. However, as soon as the P6 is received any overpaid tax will be immediately recalculated and reimbursed back to you in your next available payment.

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