Pay tax on payments to foreign entertainers and sportspersons

Find out when you should withhold tax on payments to foreign entertainers and sportspersons, and how to make payments to HMRC.

If you pay someone who doesn’t live in the UK for making an appearance or performing in the UK, you must deduct tax if the total payment exceeds the personal tax allowance threshold.

This is called withholding tax. It’s a payment on account against the entertainer or sportsperson’s final UK tax bill.

Even if the payment is made through a third party, you must still deduct withholding tax.

How to register for withholding tax

Before you begin to make payments to an entertainer or sportsperson from outside the UK for a UK performance, you must contact the Foreign Entertainers Unit (FEU) and register for withholding tax.

You’ll need to provide the following information in writing on headed notepaper, or by telephone:

  • the name and address of the company
  • contact name
  • contact telephone number

Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive form FEU 1 at the end of each accounting period.

Entertainers or sportspersons that qualify for withholding tax

As a general guide, the types of sportspeople that should have withholding tax deducted include:

  • athletes
  • boxers
  • cricketers
  • chess players
  • cyclists (track and road)
  • darts players
  • footballers
  • golfers
  • ice skaters
  • jockeys
  • motorcycle riders
  • motor racing drivers
  • snooker players
  • tennis players

The types of entertainers include:

  • actors
  • choirs
  • conductors
  • dancers
  • models
  • musicians
  • puppeteers
  • singers
  • sports pundits
  • television and radio personalities
  • variety entertainers

The entertainer may appear individually or with others.

Appearances that qualify for withholding tax

An appearance can be recorded or in front of a live audience, and it can include:

  • acting in theatre, TV, radio or film productions
  • advertising
  • catwalk modelling at an event where an entrance fee is charged
  • concerts and festivals
  • endorsement of goods or services
  • photo calls
  • promotional activities
  • sports events
  • TV and radio interviews
  • TV commercials

Payments that qualify for withholding tax

The payment doesn’t need to have a direct connection with the UK appearance to qualify for withholding tax.

For example, endorsement fees paid to a tennis player to use particular equipment in a UK tournament would be counted.

Payments could include:

  • achievement bonuses
  • advertising income
  • appearance fees
  • box office percentages
  • broadcasting or media fees
  • endorsement fees
  • exhibition income
  • expenses
  • fees paid to models for appearances in TV or online adverts
  • fees paid to models for catwalk events where an entrance fee is charged (including extra payments for the live streaming or recording of the event)
  • extra payments linked to appearances (such as shares of box office sales), no matter when they’re paid
  • film fees
  • merchandising income
  • prizes, such as a car
  • TV rights
  • tour income
  • winnings

When you don’t have to pay withholding tax

You don’t have to deduct withholding tax on a payment:

  • that’s a cancellation fee
  • if the total of all payments to the entertainer or sportsperson in the tax year don’t go over the personal tax threshold
  • to an employee who pays tax through PAYE in the UK
  • made to anyone on the middleman scheme list
  • for copyright, royalties, or advances on royalties
  • made to other people for supporting services such as venue or equipment hire, ticketing, security or catering
  • made to models at still photographic shoots
  • made to catwalk models at an event not open to the public, even if that event is filmed or streamed
  • made directly to film directors, cameramen or technicians

Don’t deduct withholding tax on payments made for sales of audio recordings in any format (such as digital downloads, USB sticks, CDs, vinyl records and cassettes) if the payments relate to either:

  • the proceeds of sales
  • a non-returnable advance on future sales
  • sales at a live performance

When withholding tax should be deducted

If you pay a group or company with both non-resident and UK resident entertainers or sportspersons, deduct withholding tax from the overall payment to the group.

If there’s any doubt where the entertainer or sportsperson lives, withholding tax must be deducted.

If you don’t deduct withholding tax, you may have to pay the tax from your own funds. If you don’t make the payment when it’s due, you may be charged interest.

How to work out withholding tax

For most payments over the personal allowance, you should deduct tax at the UK basic rate of Income Tax.

If you know in advance that you will make several payments which will in total exceed the personal allowance, you must start deducting tax from the first payment - even if the personal allowance has not yet been reached.

Example 1

A promoter engages with an artist at the beginning of the tax year for a fee of £8,000.

The promoter doesn’t intend to engage with the artist again during the tax year.

As the fee is less than the UK personal allowance, no tax needs to be withheld.

Later in the year, the promoter engages with the same artist again for a fee of £5,000.

As the total now exceeds the UK personal allowance, the promoter should withhold basic rate tax from the second payment. They don’t need to revisit the earlier payment.

Example 2

A promoter engages with an artist at the beginning of the tax year for a fee of £8,000.

The promoter also knows they will be engaging with the artist later in the tax year for a further £5,000.

As the total for the 2 shows exceeds the UK personal allowances, they should withhold basic rate tax from both the first and second payment.

Expenses and assets

If you pay expenses or give assets as a payment, this is treated as if the tax has already been paid.

This means you, the payer, must pay the tax on the payment from your own funds. To work out how much tax to pay:

  1. Use the grossing up calculation to work out how much the gross payment would have been to give this (net) payment.

  2. Work out the tax by applying the relevant tax rate to the grossed up amount.


You buy a £1,000 airline ticket for a singer.

  1. Gross up the net payment of £1,000 at 20% basic rate by dividing the initial payment by 80%, so £1,000 ÷ 80% = £1,250.

  2. Work out the tax due on the grossed up payment of £1,250 by multiplying it by the tax rate, so £1,250 × 20% = £250 to pay to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Reduced tax payment applications

You can make a reduced tax payment application to ask us if you can pay expenses or transfer an asset without having to pay the withholding tax to HMRC from your own funds.

We’ll agree the application if the benefit you provide is an allowable expense of the entertainer’s trade.

If the entertainer agrees that the tax due on disallowable expenses can be deducted from the fee you pay them, you don’t need to gross up the value of the expense.

You can make a reduced tax payment application by writing to HMRC with the following information:

  • a copy of the contract with the entertainer or sportsperson
  • a list of all the expenses you are paying on behalf of the artist including the cost to you
  • details of any assets transferred to the entertainer or sportsperson

You don’t need to include a street name or PO box when writing to this address.

Charities Savings and International 1
United Kingdom

Withholding tax and VAT

Don’t include VAT when calculating withholding tax due.

If a venue pays the gross ticket sales to a promoter or entertainer, the VAT element of each individual ticket price must be taken out.

How to pay withholding tax to HMRC

You’ll receive form FEU 1 by HMRC for each quarterly accounting period.

Use a continuation sheet if necessary. Send the form and payment within 14 days of the end of each quarter.

Quarter end date Payment due date
30 June 14 July
30 September 14 October
31 December 14 January
5 April 19 April

You must send your payment and form FEU 1 (along with a continuation sheet if needed).

You can use your own spreadsheet in place of the continuation sheet, but your spreadsheet must:

  • contain only the exact information requested on the FEU 1 and FEU 1 continuation forms
  • use a minimum font size of 12

Your spreadsheet must be attached to the original FEU 1. If a spreadsheet or FEU 1 is received in an unacceptable format it will be returned.

Tax withheld won’t be credited to the entertainer or sportsperson until the form is sent back in the correct format.

Entertainer or sportsperson’s addresses

You should provide the payee’s (for example the entertainer or sportsperson, agent or promoter) address when sending payment by showing it in the appropriate column on both form FEU 1 and FEU2.

If the payment is being made directly to the entertainer or sportsperson, show their address in column 3.

If the payment is being made to an agent, show the agent’s name in column 2 and the agent’s address in column 3.

Payment chains

Each person making a payment must deduct withholding tax.


A promoter arranges for a non-UK resident singer to perform at a UK venue.

The venue pays £100,000 to the promoter (the net box office). The promoter agrees to pay the singer a fee of £60,000. The payment chain is:

  1. The venue pays over £80,000 to the promoter and £20,000 withholding tax to HMRC.

  2. The venue provides form FEU2 to the promoter showing the gross payment of £100,000 and the £20,000 tax deduction. The venue should include these figures on their FEU 1.

  3. The promoter keeps £12,000 withholding tax from the agreed £60,000, and pays the singer £48,000.

  4. The promoter provides form FEU2 to the singer showing the gross payment of £60,000 and the £12,000 tax deduction. The promoter should show these figures on their FEU 1.

  5. As the promoter has had £20,000 deducted from the payment made to them, they show the £20,000 credit on form FEU 1 (following the instructions at ’note 8’) and attach form FEU2.

  6. The promoter makes no further payment to HMRC because the venue has deducted £20,000 withholding tax from the initial payment

The payment chain can be summarised as:

  • £48,000 to the singer
  • £12,000 to HMRC
  • £8,000 credit available for promoter to set against other withholding tax liabilities or to have refunded

The middleman scheme

Payers on the list of approved payers in the middleman scheme can receive payments without withholding tax being deducted first.

One-off middleman arrangements

You can make a specific agreement with HMRC for one part of a payment chain to take full responsibility to pay the withholding tax.

All other payments in the chain are then made without deduction. This is known as a one-off middleman arrangement.

If you wish to make a middleman arrangement, you must contact HMRC in writing with the following information:

  • a copy of any contracts for non-UK residents
  • details of performance venues
  • dates of performances
  • confirmation that you will be responsible for withholding any tax due

Entertainers or sportspersons with a reduced tax rate

Withholding tax is usually worked out at the UK basic rate. Deductions should be made at this rate unless you receive authorisation form FEU4 from HMRC.

Records of payments

You must record every payment made to a foreign entertainer or sportsperson.

At the end of each 3 month period, show all payments made on your quarterly return form FEU 1. You must show all payments made even if tax hasn’t been withheld.

FEU2 tax deduction certificate

If you’ve deducted tax from a payment made to a foreign entertainer or sportsperson, you should provide them with form FEU2.

You should print and sign 3 copies of the FEU2 and:

  • send one copy to HMRC with form FEU 1
  • keep one for your own records
  • give one to the person you paid

You must not issue a duplicate if the original certificate is lost.

Refunds and underpayment

If the entertainer or sportsperson has an underpayment of tax after withholding tax has been deducted, HMRC will arrange for any additional tax to be paid directly by the entertainer or sportsperson.

If there has been an overpayment of tax by an entertainer or sportsperson after withholding tax has been deducted, you don’t have to issue a refund.

If you choose to do so, you must first retrieve the entertainer or sportsperson’s original FEU2, then issue a new FEU2 with the refund if appropriate.

You can claim a repayment when you complete your next FEU 1.

If you refund the entertainer or sportsperson with some or all of the tax that was paid to HMRC in a previous quarter, then you should show the tax refunded as a minus figure on your next quarterly return of form FEU 1.

This adjustment will result in either:

  • a credit against other tax due on the return
  • an overpayment

If it results in an overpayment, you should attach a letter to your FEU 1 requesting a refund.

Published 8 December 2014
Last updated 31 July 2017 + show all updates
  1. This guidance has been updated to clarify the types of entertainers and sportspersons that must pay withholding tax. The Records of Payment section has been updated to advise that all payments made to non-resident entertainer or sportspersons must be reported. The Reduced Tax Payment Application section has been updated to show when you're eligible to make a Reduced Tax Payment Application.
  2. First published.