The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has stated that the recent changes to the rules relating to off-payroll workers, commonly known as IR35, ‘undermine the self-employed at the worst possible time’.
The changes to IR35 took effect on 6 April 2021 and shifted responsibility for making the decision on employment status on each contract away from contractors and personal service companies (PSCs) and on to the client receiving their services. This has already been done in the public sector.
Research carried out by IPSE found that 50% of contractors planned to stop contracting in the UK once the changes took effect unless they could secure contracts unaffected by them. 24% are planning to seek contracts abroad; 12% plan to stop working altogether; 17% will seek an employed role; and 11% are looking to retire within the next year.
Additionally, 24% of contractors said their clients are planning to blanket-assess all their contractors as ‘inside IR35’.
Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, said:
‘The changes to IR35 would do serious harm to the self-employed sector at the best of times, but now they are adding drastic, unnecessary damage to the financial carnage of the pandemic – undermining the UK’s contractors at the worst possible time.
‘The crucial problem with IR35 is still its complexity: in fact, it is so complex that HMRC has lost the majority of tribunals on its own legislation. And there remains serious doubts about the CEST tool HMRC designed to supposedly cut through this complexity.’
Internet link: IPSE website
The IR35 rule was introduced in 2000 to equalise the tax position between employees and individuals who provide their services, usually using a company (often called a Personal Services Company — PSC). The IR35 legislation, which aims to ensure that contractors are paying the appropriate amount of tax, is also changing for some businesses in the private sector. Currently, most contractors are required to determine their own status as employee or contractor. From 6 April 2021 the liability to determine a contractor’s tax status will pass to clients/employers.
This change was due to be introduced in April 2020 but was delayed until April 2021 due to the Covid-19 crisis. It is expected that this change will lead to a significant number of “contractors” having to pay extra tax and National Insurance as it is estimated that only 10% correctly determine their tax status. The change is being introduced to move the responsibility from the contractor to medium and large-sector clients. Smaller clients will be exempt from this obligation and the contractor remains liable for determining their own tax status. A medium to large business is one that has two or more of the following:
- turnover of more than £10.2 million
- balance sheet totals, or is more than, £5.1 million
- has 50 or more employees.
Where a determination is made that a contractor is not caught by the IR35 rules it is essential that reasonable care is taken in the decision-making process as the decision itself must be reasonable. If care is not taken, status determination statements may not be valid and the client may be liable to pay any unpaid taxes.
In February 2021, the Government published new guidance which confirmed that companies will not have to pay penalties on any inaccuracies within the first 12 months of the new rules coming into effect, unless there is “clear evidence of deliberate non-compliance”. The aim of this is to help companies implement the new rules while also recognising the difficulties they may be under as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, “deliberate defaulters” will be named and shamed to encourage them to get their “tax affairs in order”. For this reason, the Government has urged businesses not to cut corners when introducing these new rules.