JOSHUA KATO: Understanding the Difference between Contract of Service and Contract for Service


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By Joshua Kato

In the realm of employment and business relationships, it is important to understand the distinction between a “Contract of Service” and a “Contract for Service”. These are two different types of agreements that govern the legal relationship between parties involved. In this article, we will delve into the definitions, characteristics, and implications of each contract type to provide a clearer understanding of their significance.


Contract of Service.

A Contract of Service, also known as an employment contract, is an agreement between an employer and an employee. It establishes an employer-employee relationship where the employee agrees to provide personal services under the control and direction of the employer. The employer has the right to determine the work to be done, how it should be done, and the tools or equipment to be used. This type of contract typically involves a degree of subordination on the part of the employee.

Major characteristics of a Contract of Service Include

  1. Control and Direction: The employer exercises control and supervision over the employee, providing instructions and guidance in performing the assigned tasks.
  2. Personal Service: The employee is expected to personally perform the agreed-upon work and cannot readily delegate it to someone else.
  3. Employer’s Responsibilities: The employer assumes certain obligations, such as providing a safe working environment, paying wages, and offering benefits in compliance with labor laws.
  4. Termination: The termination of a Contract of Service may involve specific notice periods, severance pay, or other legal considerations, as governed by employment laws.

Contract for Service

A Contract for Service, often referred to as an independent contractor agreement or a consultancy agreement, is a legally binding agreement between a service provider (contractor) and a client (principal). It engages a contractor to perform a specific task or provide a service, but they retain control over how the work is carried out.

Characteristics of a Contract for Service

  1. Independent Work: The contractor has autonomy and control over the methods, tools, and timelines required to complete the agreed-upon task.
  2. Service-Based Agreement: The focus is on the results or outcome of the work, rather than the direct control exercised by the client.
  3. Payment and Obligations: The contractor is responsible for their own tax obligations, insurance, and other business-related expenses. Payment is typically made upon completion of the task or as per the agreed-upon terms.
  4. Non-employee Status: Independent contractors are not considered employees of the client and are not entitled to the same benefits or protections under labor laws.

How important is it to know the difference?

Distinguishing between a Contract of Service and a Contract for Service will help you determines the rights, obligations, and legal responsibilities of the parties involved. Misclassification of a worker’s status can lead to potential legal issues, such as claims for employment benefits or disputes over tax liabilities. Properly categorizing the relationship between parties helps ensure compliance with tax and labor laws and provides clarity regarding the rights and obligations of both parties.

The tax implications of a Contract of Service (employment contract) and a Contract for Service (independent contractor agreement) can differ based on the classification of the worker and the applicable tax laws in a particular jurisdiction. Here are some general tax considerations for each contract type.

  1. Contract of Service (Employment Contract).

Income Tax Withholding. When an individual is engaged under a Contract of Service as an employee, the employer is typically responsible for withholding income tax from the employee’s wages. The employer deducts the appropriate tax amount from the employee’s salary and remits it to the tax authorities on their behalf.

Social Security Contributions. Here in Uganda, both the employer and the employee are required to make contributions to the National Social Security Fund. These contributions are calculated on the basis of 5% from the employee’s salary and the employer also contributes 10% of the gross pay towards the scheme in favor of the employee.  The 5% deduction of the employee’s salary is deducted by the employer before issuing the net pay.

Payroll Taxes. Any additional benefit that accrues to the employee has to pass through the payroll and subjected to tax if any.

Benefits and Allowances. Employees may receive various benefits and allowances, such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid leave, or transportation allowances. The tax treatment of these benefits can vary, and some may be subject to specific tax rules or exemptions.

  1. Contract for Service (Independent Contractor Agreement)

Income Tax: This tax is paid on the profits or earnings generated from self-employed activities. The income tax rates for individuals vary based on income brackets, as determined by the URA. It’s important for contractors to keep records of income and expenses to accurately calculate taxable income.

Local Service Tax: Local governments in Uganda impose a local service tax on individuals engaged in specific service-oriented businesses, including independent contractors. The tax rate and specific requirements vary.

Value Added Tax (VAT): If an independent contractor’s annual turnover from taxable supplies exceeds 150m as set by the URA, you’ll be required to register for VAT. VAT is a consumption tax levied on the value added at each stage of the supply chain. Contractors registered for VAT shall collect VAT on taxable sales and remit it to the tax authorities, while also being eligible to claim for VAT where input VAT credits exceed output VAT paid on business-related purchases.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE): When an independent contractor hires employees to assist with their business operations, they are required to deduct Pay As You Earn (PAYE) from their employees’ salaries. PAYE is an income tax withholding system for employees, and the contractor is responsible for remitting the deducted tax to the URA on behalf of the employees.

Local Government Taxes: In addition to national taxes, local government authorities may impose various taxes, licenses, or fees on independent contractors operating. These can include trade licenses, property taxes, signage fees, and other local levies specific to the area where the contractor conducts their business.

The writer is a chartered tax Accountant and Advisor.

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