Paramount Solutions Logo
Contractor News

How to compare umbrella companies

10th May 2013 - source

As contracting has boomed in recent years, and ever since IR35 became law in 2000 (which makes umbrella companies more attractive for those caught by the rules), hundreds of umbrella companies have sprung up to serve the swelling numbers of contractors and freelancers in the UK.

In order to find a secure, well-run, and fairly priced umbrella scheme, you need to do your homework. We've compiled a list of things you should look out for before joining a scheme.

Compare umbrella companies - 15 key questions to ask

1. Fee Structure

Does the umbrella charge a fixed weekly/monthly fee, or do they charge a percentage of your gross invoice value? Do they charge if you have time off? Make sure you are quoted the gross weekly or monthly fee, rather than the fee after higher rate tax relief, as this may not apply to you.

Paramount Solutions charge weekly.

2. What is the payment frequency?

If you submit your timesheet to your umbrella on schedule, how long before they guarantee payment will hit your bank account? Do they offer BACS, CHAPS or Faster Payments transfers?

We run up to 5 payrolls every day and our payments take a maximum of 24 hours from receiving funds from the client company agency.

3. Does the umbrella provide insurance cover?

You would typically expect to be covered for Professional Indemnity insurance, as well as employers and public liability cover, as most clients require contractors to be adequately insured before starting an assignment. In the case of PI insurance, make sure your specific skill/trade is covered, as less mainstream occupations may be excluded from a blanket policy.

4. Company History / Compliance

How many contractor clients does the umbrella have on board, and how long has the company been operating? Has the company been assessed for compliance with tax legislation? What arrangements has the scheme made to ensure compliance with the Agency Workers Regulations?

5. Expenses Dispensations

If the company claims to have a 'special' expenses dispensation, or says that you can claim for a wide range of unreceipted expenses - be very weary. You can only claim for expenses that have wholly incurred in the course of your contracting work.

Read about our allowed expenes here.

6. Clever Marketing

Slogans like 'HMRC approved' don't mean anything. HMRC doesn't 'approve' any company - this just means they have allowed the umbrella company to have a 'dispensation' to simplify the way expenses are accounted for.

7. Extra Costs

Are there any hidden costs, such as joining or leaving fees? There are plenty of umbrella companies who don't charge extra fees.

8. Payment Schedule

Will the umbrella pay you in full each week / month, or will they hold back any funds for 'contingency' reasons?

9. Preferred Suppliers

Your recruitment agency is likely to have a select number of umbrella companies as preferred suppliers. This doesn't mean you should sign up on the spot - you should still follow the tips in this guide, as there's no guarantee that these umbrella companies have been selected on an objective basis.

10. Keeping Clients Happy

Some schemes offer a guaranteed level of customer service - another factor to consider. You need to feel secure and comfortable with your umbrella provider.


What type of web technology does the umbrella company employ? Ideally, you should be given access to a user-friendly, common sense system where you can input your timesheet details, check on the progress of expenses and salary payments, and submit questions or access online help.

12. Pensions

Find out if the scheme offers a contributory pension scheme if this is something you require. Pensions remain one of the few remaining tax breaks available to contractors, despite the reduction in the tax-free pension contribution limits imposed in recent years (the tax-free annual limit will be reduced from £50,000 to £40,000 per year from April 2014, but this still represents a significant amount).

13. Recommendations

You cannot beat a good personal recommendation. Ask contractor colleagues if they can recommend an umbrella scheme, and browse the web for other contractors' umbrella company reviews and feedback.

Read our reviews here

14. Switching Providers

Remember that if you're not happy with your current provider, you can always move to a new one!


Find out more about what is currently going on in the industry:

  • Tax Advice
  • Contractor Help
  • Business Legislation
  • Growth Figures
  • Accountancy
  • National Insurance
  • Agency Worker Regulations


Refer a Friend

Recommend our services to your friends and colleagues and earn a £50* referral fee when the contractor has completed two months.

Simply complete the form with your details and we will get in touch.


Agency Contactor

Contact Us

For more information about working under our Umbrella Company or starting your own Limited Company telephone Paramount on; 01274 567 744

or email us at;

or get directions...