September 16, 2019 Last updated September 14th, 2019 117 Reads share

A Guide To Tips For Employers In The Food & Catering Industry

Tips Guide Food Industry EmployersImage Credit: Deposit Photos

Understanding the tipping industry and how it’s taxed

Tips whichever way they are given are also taxed. But how they get taxed, whether subject to National Insurance or not, depends mainly on how they are earned.

What are the possible ways in which tips are received and can be taxed and reported on?

  • Through mandatory service charge
  • Gratuity paid as either part of card payment or cheque
  • As discretionary service charge
  • Some cash gratuity placed in the staff tip box; Cash gratuity awarded to the staff member

Definitions of Various Terms related to Tipping in Catering Industry

A Tip/Gratuity:

This is a term describing the type of payment that is freely given by a client or customer in appreciation of outstanding services, waiting, food and so on. It can be given as cash or simply included in the bill.

Service Charge:

An additional charge is usually added to the client’s or customer’s bill. It is an automatic process in those restaurants that have adopted it as their policy and can be optional or mandatory for the customer to pay.

A Tronc:

A pool of tips collected by an employee representative or employer for allocation to the rest of the staff members.

If the industry confuses you or you are not sure about how taxation and NI work for how your employees are tipped, speak to your accountant or hire a good accounting firm if you do not have one.


Tips are subjected to income tax on the basis of how and by whom they are collected.   The NIC treatment is complicated, tips are exempted from the NIC only if they are allocated or paid directly or indirectly to the employees by their employer. Speak to a competitive accountant or expert from an accounting firm when setting up a tipping system in your restaurant, café or bar.

  1. Mandatory Service Charges: These charges are not categorized as tips given that customers are compelled to pay them regardless of whether they have a choice to do so or not. When they are passed to the employees by their employer, they are included in the wages where they become subjected to NIC and tax on the payroll. Make sure your Payroll Accountant is aware of any such tips so they are able to reflect, tax and report them correctly.
  2. Voluntary or Discretionary Service Charges: These are part of the bill to be settled by the customer and are paid to the employer. In case the employer allocates them to the employees, they become part of the employee’s salary. Therefore, the employer is compelled to operate NIC and PAYE on such payments for the employees’ payroll.  In case the employer assigns one of the employees to distribute these service charges to other employees, then NIC is not due. As such the whole responsibility of operating PAYE is placed on the shoulders of the employee. The same case is true for tips given as part of a cheque or card payment as explained below.
  3. Tips paid as Part of Cheque or Card Payment: Although a rare practice, an employer can have a separate record of tips belonging to each staff member in order to pay them individually. If it happens that way, the employer should operate PAYE to make it easy for tax accountability. However, tips become exempted from NIC just in case the employer isn’t making any decisions when it comes to the allocation of the same. In most cases, tips are pooled prior to distributing them among the staff members. In actual sense, this is what is referred to as a tronc. The NIC and precise tax treatment depending on the employer’s decision to allocate these tips to the employees. Speak to your accountant if you are unsure about the treatment of tip collections instead of guessing on how to proceed.


National Insurance


If a member of staff allocates the payments:

The particular employee who does the allocation is given the title of the tronc master. More often than not, the staff member who takes this title is either the head waiter/waitress or the maitre de and the person is responsible for operating pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) on all tips although NIC is not due.

If the allocation of payment is done by the employer:

Here, the employer is said to be taking over the role of a troncmaster and thus the tronc is ignored completely. Therefore, the employer will have the responsibility of operating PAYE through payroll. Also, NIC is due because the payment is being made and allocated by the employer. The same case applies even if the employer decides to delegate the physical distribution of tips to someone else.

  1. Cash paid through the Tip box and then distributed: This is also a tronc whereby the treatment remains identical to that of tips paid via card or cheque payment process.
  2. Cash Given Directly to the Staff Member and Kept: If it happens this way, the employee has full responsibility for reporting the amount to HMRC and preparing a good tax report on the tips.  Employees have the obligation of reporting tips on their tax return as well as contacting HMRC to arrange for their appropriate PAYE registration code for the next year based on an estimated tax on tips. NIC isn’t applicable here. Staff members should find a good accountanttax accountant or accounting firm to help process their self-assessment.


This refers to the arrangement where tips are pooled before they are divided out as opposed to what the staff is given to keep. Here, the responsibility for taking tips and dividing them is delegated to a head waiter or waitress. A separate PAYE scheme applies where a tronc is operational and the tronc master is responsible for operating the scheme correctly in addition to being reliable for the consequences of failing to do. The tronc master is allowed to operate tronc PAYE using the employer’s payroll while the employer acts as an agent. But the tronc records should be kept separately.


Tips are beyond VAT’s scope when they are given freely despite being collected by the employer and subsequently distributed to the employees.

Mandatory service charges become subject to VAT (being part of the underlying supply) because the customer doesn’t have a choice of whether to pay or not.

Restaurant – Deposit Photos

Thao Le

Thao Le

Thao Le is a Senior Accounting Manager at Clear House Accountants. Having worked and grown in the industry for a number of years she is now responsible for a team of accountants, tax planners and bookkeepers, working with them to help clients from a variety of industries, grow, save money and plan for the future. Thao holds a Bachelor and Masters degree in Accounting and Finance and is currently working towards her ACCA, she is also a Xero and Quickbooks Certified Advisor. Thao believes her expertise lies in high-level tax planning, management accounting and strategic business planning based on financial performance and business analytics. Her experience, expertise and knowledge make her an exceptional contributor at clear house towards various articles and research content.

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