Once you accept a salary sacrifice, your overall pay is lower resulting in you paying less tax and national insurance. In addition, your employer will not have to pay their employers’ national insurance contributions on the part you sacrifice. Some employers may pass on these savings to you.
It has not been possible to sacrifice your salary to pay school fees unless you were a member of staff of an independent school which offered the scheme.
From April 2017, the government has significantly limited the range of benefits offered through salary sacrifice schemes. Members of existing school fees salary sacrifice schemes can continue to benefit until 2021, but no new contractual arrangements can now be made. Company car and accommodation schemes are also protected until 2021.
Work related training, car parking, health screening checks, mobiles phones, computers and tablets and gym membership schemes are all no longer allowed.
Salary sacrifice is still permitted for ultra-low emission cars (ULEVs), pensions savings, pensions advice, childcare and the cycle-to-work schemes.
Salary sacrifice is an especially tax-efficient way for you to make pension contributions as you will also pay less national insurance contributions. There are some potential disadvantages depending on your circumstances:
- If your employment contract provides you with life insurance, the sum insured is usually calculated as a multiple of your salary. Your employer may provide less life cover if you sacrifice some of your salary.
- If you are in a defined benefit pension scheme and you leave the scheme in the first two years, you may not receive a refund of your contributions as they would count as employer contributions.
- Your reduced salary may affect the amount of money you are able to borrow for a mortgage as lenders usually calculate how much you can borrow as a multiple of your salary. Some employers may agree to state your original salary when they supply a mortgage reference, however.
- Your entitlement to certain state benefits, e.g. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), may be affected.
There are fears that the recent changes are a sign that salary sacrifice schemes will be discarded altogether. The government, however, is likely to be concerned about the impact that scrapping pension contribution salary-sacrifice would have on auto-enrolment take-up. On the other hand, salary sacrifice pension schemes result in a big loss to national insurance contributions.