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What is the 40% Tax Bracket? Why am I paying 40% Tax?

Updated: Jul 13

Understanding The 40% Tax Bracket | 40% Tax Bracket Explained

Pay rises, bonuses, and onboarding new clients are all milestones worth celebrating. However, as your earnings increase, you might find yourself edging closer to the 40% tax bracket. But what does this mean for your finances?

In the United Kingdom, the 40% tax bracket is a critical threshold that affects how much income tax you pay on your earnings above a certain level. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you grasp the essentials of the 40% tax bracket and why it might apply to you.

When do I pay 40% tax?

2023/24 and 2024/25 Income Tax Rates and Thresholds

For the tax years 2023/24 and 2024/25 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the income tax rates and thresholds are structured as follows:

Income up to £12,570 falls within the Personal Allowance threshold, where no income tax is applicable. Earnings between £12,571 and £50,270 are subject to the Basic Rate Income Tax of 20%. Income falling between £50,271 and £125,140 is taxed at the Higher Rate of 40%. Any income exceeding £125,140 is taxed at the Additional Rate of 45%. These thresholds and rates determine how much income tax individuals are liable to pay based on their total earnings within each respective tax year.

What is the 40% Tax Bracket?

The 40% tax bracket, often referred to as the higher rate tax band, applies to individuals whose income surpasses the basic rate threshold. As of the latest tax year, the basic rate threshold is set at £37,700 (after the personal allowance) in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, it varies due to the devolved tax powers.

How Does the 40% Tax Bracket Work?

If your total income exceeds the basic rate threshold, any earnings above this threshold up to £150,000 (as of current tax regulations) are subject to a 40% tax rate. This rate is higher than the basic rate of 20% applied to income within the basic rate threshold.

How Much Do I Have to Earn to Be in the 40% Tax Bracket?

To fall within the 40% tax bracket, your total income for the tax year must exceed the basic rate threshold. Specifically, for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 tax years, you must earn between £50,271 and £125,140. Any income within this range is taxed at 40%. Income exceeding £125,140 falls into the 'additional rate' band, which is taxed at 45%.

Does the 40% Tax Bracket Ever Change?

The thresholds for the 40% tax bracket can be adjusted based on government decisions made during the annual budget. However, current personal tax-free allowances and tax bands are frozen until 2028. It’s essential to stay updated on your personal allowance and the current tax rates to plan your finances effectively.

What Does the Marginal Tax Rate Mean?

The marginal tax rate is the rate of tax you pay on your next pound of income. For example, if you earn £60,000 per year, your marginal tax rate is 40% because you are in the higher rate tax bracket for any additional income.

Why Am I Paying 40% Tax?

why am i paying 40% tax?

There are several reasons why you might find yourself in the 40% tax bracket:

Higher Earnings: If your income from employment, pensions, savings interest, or other sources exceeds the basic rate threshold, you will start paying the higher rate of 40% on the portion of income above this threshold.

Additional Income: Income from self-employment, rental properties, or investments can push your total income into the higher rate tax band.

Taxable Benefits: Certain benefits-in-kind provided by your employer can also contribute to your total income, potentially placing you in the 40% tax bracket.

Will I Pay 40% Tax on All My Earnings?

No, you will not pay 40% tax on all your earnings. This is a common misconception. The 40% tax rate only applies to the portion of your income that falls within the higher rate tax band.


If you earn £55,000 per year:

0% tax on the first £12,570 (personal allowance)

20% tax on income between £12,571 and £50,270

40% tax on income between £50,271 and £55,000

In this example, you would only pay 40% tax on £4,729 of your earnings.

Calculating Tax in the 40% Bracket

To illustrate, if your income reaches £70,000 in a tax year and you live in England or Northern Ireland, here's how your tax would be calculated:

The first £12,570 would be tax free as per the standard personal allowance, in which you would be on Tax Code 1257L.

The next £37,700 is taxed at 20%.

The remaining £19,730 (income above the basic rate threshold) is taxed at 40%.

Therefore, your total tax on a £70,000 salary would be £15,432.

Managing Your Tax Liability

Understanding your tax bracket is crucial for effective financial planning:

Tax Planning: Consider strategies like pension contributions or charitable donations, which may reduce your taxable income and lower your liability in the higher rate band.

Self-Assessment: If you have additional income sources or self-employment, you may need to file a Self-Assessment Tax Return to ensure accurate tax calculations.

What Higher Rate Tax Means for Your Savings Allowance

If you fall within the higher rate tax bracket, your personal savings allowance decreases. While basic rate taxpayers can earn up to £1,000 in interest tax-free, higher rate taxpayers only get a £500 allowance.

Strategies to Reduce Your Taxes If You’re in the Higher Rate

Reaching the 40% tax bracket signifies increased earnings, but it also means higher taxes. Here are some strategies to reduce your tax bill:

Check for Tax Allowances or Deductions

You may be eligible for various tax allowances, such as the marriage allowance if you and your spouse meet the requirements. Self-employed individuals can deduct allowable expenses to reduce their taxable income.

Efficiently Manage Your Income

Consider forming a limited company if you run a business. This allows you to pay yourself a director’s salary and take dividends from profits, which can be more tax-efficient than sole proprietorship.

Utilise Savings Accounts

Save up to £20,000 tax-free annually in an Individual Savings Account (ISA). This reduces your taxable income, and any interest or dividends earned within the ISA are tax-free.

Contribute to Your Pension

Contributing to your pension can reduce your taxable income as pension contributions are tax-free. Both employed and self-employed individuals can benefit from tax-efficient pension payments.

Explore Salary Sacrifice Schemes

Some employers offer salary sacrifice schemes where you exchange part of your salary for non-cash benefits like additional pension contributions, reducing your taxable income.

Donate to Charity

Donations to charity or amateur sports clubs are tax-free. Keep records of your donations to deduct them from your taxable income.

Additional Information on the 40% Tax Bracket

higher rate tax vs additional rate tax

What is the Difference Between the 40% Tax Bracket and the Additional Rate Tax Band?

The 40% tax bracket applies to income between £50,271 and £125,140 (for 2023/24 and 2024/25 tax years), where income within this range is taxed at 40%. The additional rate tax band applies to income above £125,140, taxed at 45%. This means individuals earning above £125,140 face a higher tax rate than those in the 40% tax bracket.

Can I Reduce my Income to Avoid the 40% Tax Bracket?

Yes, there are strategies to reduce taxable income and potentially avoid the 40% tax bracket. For instance, contributing to a pension scheme is tax-efficient as contributions are deducted from taxable income. Charitable donations also qualify for tax relief, while salary sacrifice schemes allow exchanging salary for non-cash benefits, reducing taxable income.

What Happens if my income Fluctuates Around the 40% Tax Bracket Threshold?

If your income fluctuates around the 40% tax bracket threshold (£50,271), HMRC applies marginal relief to prevent a sudden jump in tax liability. This ensures that only the portion of income within the higher rate band is taxed at 40%, with the rest taxed at lower rates.

Are there Regional Differences in the 40% Tax Bracket Within the UK?

Yes, tax thresholds can vary across different parts of the UK due to devolved tax powers. Scotland, for example, has its own income tax rates and bands, which may differ from those in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It's important to check regional tax rates if you reside in Scotland or other devolved regions.

How Does Marriage or Civil Partnership Affect Taxation Within the 40% Tax Bracket?

Marriage or civil partnership can impact taxation within the 40% tax bracket through marriage allowance. This allows couples to transfer a portion of their personal allowance between spouses, potentially reducing the higher earner's tax liability. Joint filing options may also optimise tax efficiency for married couples.

What Deductions or Allowances Can I Claim Within the 40% Tax Bracket?

Within the 40% tax bracket, individuals can claim various deductions and allowances to reduce taxable income. This includes allowable expenses related to employment, self-employment, rental income, or investments. Additionally, tax relief is available for pension contributions, charitable donations, and other eligible expenses. You can use our Tax Rebate Calculator to see if you are eligible for a Tax Rebate.

How Does Rental Income Impact Taxation Within the 40% Tax Bracket?

Rental income is treated as taxable income within the UK tax system. It contributes to an individual's total income, potentially pushing them into the 40% tax bracket if the combined income exceeds £50,271. Landlords can deduct allowable expenses such as mortgage interest, maintenance costs, and letting agent fees to reduce taxable rental income.

Expert Assistance from Ultra Tax Ltd

Navigating the complexities of tax brackets and ensuring compliance with HMRC regulations can be challenging. At Ultra Tax Ltd, we provide tailored advice and support to help you optimise your tax efficiency and manage your tax obligations effectively. Whether you need assistance with understanding your tax bracket or preparing your tax returns, our dedicated team is here to assist you every step of the way.

Take Control of Your Tax Situation

Don’t let uncertainties about tax brackets affect your financial peace of mind. Contact Ultra Tax Ltd today to explore how we can help you navigate the 40% tax bracket and ensure your tax affairs are in order. Our proactive approach and expert guidance aim to maximise your tax efficiency and minimise potential liabilities.

For more information on the 40% tax bracket or to discuss your specific tax situation, reach out to Ultra Tax Ltd. We’re here to empower you with the knowledge and support you need for sound financial decision-making.

Understanding the 40% tax bracket and how it affects your income is crucial for effective tax planning. By being aware of the thresholds and implementing tax-efficient strategies, you can manage your tax liability better. At Ultra Tax Ltd, we are here to help you navigate through these complexities and ensure you maximise your tax efficiency. 

Contact us today for personalised tax advice and services.

More Essential Information:

Understanding Tax Bands, Tax Rates, and Tax Brackets

Tax bands, tax rates, and tax brackets are fundamental components of the income tax system in the United Kingdom, administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). These elements play a crucial role in determining how much tax individuals are required to pay on their earnings each tax year.

Tax Bands and Thresholds

Tax bands refer to specific ranges of income on which different rates of income tax are applied. Each tax band has a corresponding threshold, which is the amount of income up to which the applicable tax rate applies. For instance, as of the 2023/24 and 2024/25 tax years in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland:

Personal Allowance: Income up to £12,570 is tax-free, representing the threshold for the Personal Allowance.

Basic Rate Tax Band: Income between £12,571 and £50,270 is subject to the Basic Rate Income Tax of 20%.

Higher Rate Tax Band: Income between £50,271 and £125,140 incurs a Higher Rate Income Tax of 40%.

Additional Rate Tax Band: Income over £125,140 is taxed at an Additional Rate Income Tax of 45%.

These thresholds are adjusted annually by the government and vary depending on individual circumstances and geographic location within the UK.

Tax Rates

Tax rates refer to the percentage of income that is paid as tax within each tax band. The rates typically increase with income, reflecting a progressive tax system designed to distribute the tax burden based on ability to pay. The current rates as of the specified tax years are:

Basic Rate: 20% on income within the Basic Rate Tax Band.

Higher Rate: 40% on income within the Higher Rate Tax Band.

Additional Rate: 45% on income within the Additional Rate Tax Band.

Tax Brackets

Tax brackets are divisions within the tax system that separate different ranges of income, each with its own applicable tax rate. Moving into a higher tax bracket means that additional income is taxed at a higher rate than income within lower brackets. This structure aims to ensure that individuals with higher incomes contribute proportionally more in taxes.

Calculating Tax Liability

Understanding how tax bands, rates, and brackets interact is essential for accurately calculating tax liability. Employers deduct income tax through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system based on the tax code provided by HMRC. Individuals with more complex financial situations may need to complete a Self-Assessment Tax Return to report additional income sources or claim tax reliefs.

Importance of Tax Planning

Effective tax planning involves optimising your financial affairs within the framework of tax bands and rates to minimise tax liabilities legally. This may include utilising tax-efficient investment vehicles, pension contributions, or charitable donations to reduce taxable income or qualify for tax relief.

Reviewing and Updating Tax Information

Regularly reviewing your tax situation ensures that your tax code accurately reflects your current circumstances, preventing overpayment or underpayment of taxes. HMRC issues notifications such as the P2 Notice of Coding to inform taxpayers of their tax codes and any adjustments made based on updated information.


Tax bands, tax rates, and tax brackets are essential concepts for understanding how income tax is calculated and applied in the UK. By staying informed about these elements and seeking professional advice when necessary, individuals can manage their tax obligations effectively and ensure compliance with HMRC regulations.

This section provides a comprehensive overview of the key components of the UK income tax system, empowering taxpayers to navigate their financial responsibilities with confidence and clarity.

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