Having talked about golden handshakes I ought to mention the “golden hello”, which is a payment made to a future director or employee. It is just possible (only just!)that a payment received from someone other than the new employer – a third party - could be construed as non-taxable.
Where a lump sum payment is made to a prospective new employee, it will be taxed as advance pay for future services unless it represents compensation for some right or asset given up on taking up the employment. An example going back to the 1950s was where an amateur rugby player gave up that status upon turning professional. In those days there was no turning back to amateur status and therefore to return to Rugby Union from the professional Rugby League. His payment was held not to be taxable. In modern times the case for a payment escaping tax would be hard to sustain given the general attitude of HMRC where even a perfectly arguable situation would fall in the face of the expense of defending it.
Usually a payment to a prospective employee about to join will be an emolument of his or her employment and therefore subject to tax and NIC. Effectively it is a signing-on fee similar to that offered to former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton upon his transfer from Nottingham Forest to Southampton (Shilton v Wilmshurst (64TC78) 1991). Lord Templeman explained “An emolument 'from employment' means an emolument 'from being or becoming an employee.' The authorities are consistent with this analysis and are concerned to distinguish in each case between an emolument which is derived 'from being or becoming an employee' on the one hand, and an emolument which is attributable to something else on the other hand.'”
Peter Shilton's payment was found to be taxable in full and almost always this will be the rule for payments made to employees prior to or upon their starting a new job.
© Jon Stow 2010