Planned IR35 changes confirmed in 2018 Budget

Posted by David on October 30, 2018
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Earlier in 2018 the government consulted on whether to alter the so called ‘IR35 rules, in effect whether to transfer the IR35 obligations from the hired Personal Service Company (PSC) to the hirer of the service.

These extended rules were first introduced in April 2017, though at that time the changes applied only to hirers in the Public Sector. However the latest Budget 2018 documentation confirms that the new rules will be extended to the Private Sector, from April 2020.

Make no mistake this is a very significant switch in responsibility. Whilst the latest information suggests that the precise nature of the changes will themselves be subject to consultation (including perhaps exclusion of ‘small businesses’ from applying the new rules), at this stage it is fair to assume the new Private Sector obligations will mirror the Public Sector equivalent. This will mean:

  • The body hiring the PSC and worker has to make a decision whether the particular contract is ‘caught’ within IR35. In short, the hirer must decide would the worker be their employee if the PSC had not been used. Employment status is of course a very complex employment case law test, which requires a full understanding of how the contract will operate practically (simply agreeing robust written terms will not be enough in itself).
  • If the contract is caught, the body paying the PSC must deduct and account for PAYE and NIC before it pays the PSC. If the hirer pays though an intermediary agency or employment business etc., the hirer must inform the intermediary agency of the PAYE/NIC obligation.
  • Apart from the extra cost to the hirer (e.g. the employer’s NIC cost) the practicalities of deducting PAYE/NIC at the same time as paying a limited company, which may have other obligations e.g. VAT payment, may mean that specialist software is needed.

What can be done?

We admit there is unlikely to be a ‘one size fits all’ solution that we can dust off the shelf. However the announced timescale and promised HMRC guidance should ensure that, with very careful planning and a flexible approach, any increases in outgoings can be managed.

Please contact ET4B if you would like to discuss this further.

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What is a Managed Service Company and why do you need to know?

Posted by David on December 31, 2016
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Can you spot the difference between a Managed Service Company (MSC) and a Personal Service Company (PSC)? If not, you may be subject to not only reputational, but also financial risks.

We suspect many hirers of labour feel little incentive to try to understand how their temporary workers (if engaged through an ‘agency’) are actually paid, or how any contractors’ business operates. However, when undertaking Employer Compliance Reviews (sometimes using the euphemism of ‘Know Your Customer’) we do now see HMRC expecting the hirer or ‘Client’ to take an active role in policing the arrangements. A recent Tax Tribunal decision has also now brought this matter into sharper focus.

In fact it can be very difficult to identify the difference between a legitimate intermediary e.g. an employment agency which makes payment to contractors via different (authentic) routes including PSCs, and the riskier type of operation which perhaps offers the contractor an off the shelf ‘complete payment solution’ albeit where the worker is also paid by ‘their own’ limited company.

If the contractor trades through a PSC, they can expect to be subject to the IR35 considerations. In short the IR35 rules say that if the worker would be an employee of the hirer but for the interposition of the PSC, then the PSC must account for PAYE/NIC on nearly all the income from that contract (NB: if they supply their services to a Public Authority client then, under new rules which apply from 6 April 2017, the Public Authority must take that IR35 decision, with tax/NIC being withheld from the PSC at source).

Whilst application of the IR35 rules appear to be in a constant state of flux, the advantage from the hirer’s perspective is that (outside of the Public Sector) these rules must be considered solely by the contractor company rather than the hirer.

MSCs on the other hand are potentially much more troublesome. They tend to be run by organisations and individuals who are not risking significant capital; hence these businesses can be ‘folded’ in the event of any significant HMRC enquiries (and they often are). If this happens, MSC rules indicate that any unpaid PAYE/ NIC duties may then be transferred further ‘up the supply chain’ to any other person or business who has encouraged or been actively involved in the MSC arrangements. Thus any attempt by the hirer to ‘shoehorn’ workers through a particular agency etc engagement route (perhaps based on a lower cost margin charged by that agency etc) could be seen as ‘encouragement’, and if so this becomes a PAYE/NIC risk for the hirer.

Although the MSC rules were introduced to significant fanfare back in 2007, little has been heard of these since, so there may be a temptation to think that the legislation has been forgotten about. However a recently published Tax Tribunal decision (involving Christianuyi Limited and others v HMRC, TC05045) indicates that HMRC is indeed taking a more robust approach. The case has only proceeded to the First Tier Tribunal and therefore does not yet constitute legal precedent, however it gives a good indication of how HMRC is likely to perceive the difference between a compliant and a non-compliant business.

We can therefore expect to see some further publicity from HMRC over the coming months, as they seek to gain traction from this (perhaps belated) Tribunal success. As a first step, on 7 November 2016 HMRC issued some guidance entitled ‘Use of Labour Providers‘. This was HMRC’s suggestion of a ‘due diligence’ approach which end-users or hirers of workers’ services ought to adopt. This guidance included reference to various statutory obligations, mixed in with a number of ‘recommendations’ (the latter may reflect ‘best practice’ in HMRC’s eyes, but these are non-statutory and may not always be achieved by the hirer, realistically). Nonetheless the document is an accurate reflection of HMRC’s intention to challenge non-compliant payment arrangements, including those offered by some Managed Service providers.

So what do you need to do? If the end-user client makes payment via a reputable employment business or agency, then the agency is likely to be first in the firing line (i.e. because the it is the agency rather than the end-user client which will then decide whether to engage with any ‘MSC’). However the business which hires the worker should also be aware of the distinctions. Often there will be several contractual layers in the engagement chain, and it is difficult to know how temporary workers are actually being paid. At the very least the hirer or Client will not wish to be tainted by association, with potentially negative publicity and reputational damage if it were to appear that they have (at best) acquiesced to large numbers of their workers being paid via non-compliant methods.

For any organisation seeking to persuade HMRC that the MSC legislation is not in point, it would be very useful to be able to show that any ‘PSC’ maintains full control of its own company bank account. This would include paying its own VAT and Corporation Tax bills as they become due, rather than a third party merely deducting these sums as a percentage of total contractual income. The PSC should also take personalised decisions on how each director and/or shareholder is to be paid or rewarded (rather than following a prescribed ‘off the shelf’ payment methodology).

Engaging a third party adviser to help with the mechanics of running a PSC should not be a problem so long as bespoke advice is given and the adviser’s fees are not set as a regular proportion of the income from the contract.

If you would like any assistance in this complex area please of course contact us.


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New agency withholding and reporting rules – a further update

Posted by David on March 10, 2015
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At ET4B (and sad though it seems) we have been ‘eagerly’ anticipating some updates and clarification from HMRC in respect of the new withholding and reporting obligations for employment intermediaries (i.e. employment businesses or agencies). It is only very recently that the final reporting Regulations have been published.

Our overall impression remains that HMRC still hasn’t done enough to clarify its interpretation in some areas, particularly as regards how the rules may affect Personal Service Companies (PSCs). Anyway, our current understanding of the new withholding and reporting rules (insofar as they affect most UK agencies), can be briefly summarised as follows:

– There has to be client involved, which in turn pays an intermediary for the service (i.e. if the agency simply hires and pays for a service itself without passing the costs to a client, this payment would be outside the new rules).
– Also an individual (worker) must personally provide services to the client.
– If these tests are satisfied, the agency must apply PAYE/NIC on all worker payments, unless it can be shown that either:

  • The manner in which the worker provides the services is not subject to (or to the right of) supervision, direction or control, by any person (this is a very difficult test to meet), or:
  • That any remuneration receivable by the worker already constitutes employment income. HMRC would generally accept payments made to a bona fide UK PSC falls within this second exception.

– Payments which fall within either of the previous two exceptions must then be included within the new quarterly reports, which are to apply from 06/04/15.

HMRC has now confirmed that PSCs would be expected to be included within the quarterly reports issued by the ‘first tier’ intermediary employment business, and this does raise some concerns. We do feel that HMRC has been somewhat disingenuous in its earlier statements here. HMRC had stated consistently that PSCs were not the direct target, whilst introduction of the additional legislation was being discussed. The new quarterly reports will now inevitably provide HMRC with a rich vein of additional data with which to consider each PSC’s IR35 compliance position (i.e. this assumes there is no PAYE/NIC failure for the agency, which itself is not absolutely clear given the limited guidance issued by HMRC).

What do ‘first tier’ agencies have to do now?
We would suggest that employment businesses i.e. those that are the ‘first tier’ below the client in any engagement chain, would need to:

  • Review their contractor take-on processes, ensuring that what is and what isn’t a PSC is recognised fully (if the organisation is not a genuine PSC, there may be not just a reporting obligation, but a PAYE/NIC withholding obligation as mentioned above). This represents a challenge because, amongst other things, HMRC has not clarified fully what it regards as a genuine PSC.
  • If the contractor is not a PSC (e.g. it is an umbrella payroll) a full and robust review of the payment processes adopted by that organisation (including any subsequent contractor in the engagement chain) would be warranted. This is because, if the ‘umbrella’ etc. defaults on its obligations and doesn’t account for PAYE/NIC, the first tier agency will now be liable under the new rules.
  • Include the payments to PSCs (and any other payees e.g. umbrella payrolls) in the new quarterly returns.  These returns are expected electronically, and the latest template supplied for these reports is available on the HMRC website.
  • Recognise the additional IR35 risk to the contractor that the new quarterly reporting obligations may present. Any other factors which can therefore be introduced or clarified to create reduced IR35 risk for a PSC may help to allay contractor concerns.

What do clients and service end-users have to do?
Most of the obligations under the new rules would be placed on the first tier agency. However as a minimum the hirer of the service should review contracts with those agencies, e.g. to ensure that the agency is contractually required to hire and pay the worker (i.e. so that the agency will clearly have the obligation under the new rules). If there is no agency involved then the hirer would itself have to undertake a proactive ‘due diligence’ approach when taking on any new contractor. Amongst other things the hirer would want to be comfortable that all parties being hired are UK registered business. There must be no suggestion of the payee (or indeed anyone lower down in the contractual chain) being based overseas (and perhaps paying workers offshore for work performed in the UK).

In summary, the new rules do present a substantial additional compliance burden, primarily for agencies but also potentially for hiring organisations. We do not feel HMRC has helped here, i.e. the department has failed to provide sufficient and clear enough advice which would assist fully compliant businesses.

Although genuine UK-based PSCs are unlikely to create direct PAYE/NIC obligation for the hirer or the agency, once PSC contractors become fully aware of any potential increased IR35 risk to their own business, we can expect additional focus on those IR35 obligations. If you require assistance in these complex matters, e.g. in reviewing contractor take-on processes and policies, or reviewing actual contractual terms and working practices (i.e. not just written contracts) in order to minimise these IR35 risks more effectively, please of course contact ET4B.


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ET4Bs Winter 2014/15 Newsletter

Posted by David on January 08, 2015
CIS, Expenses and benefits, HMRC, News articles, Status / Comments Off on ET4Bs Winter 2014/15 Newsletter


Please click here for a copy of the ET4B Winter 2014_15 Newsletter

In our Newsletter we provide additional details on changes proposed by the Office of Tax Simplification (as confirmed in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement), an update on the current round of HMRC ‘Know Your Customer’ reviews (aka PAYE Compliance Reviews), the abolition of the IR35 Business Entity Tests, and further information on the new reporting obligations which will apply to employment agencies from April 2015.


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ET4Bs Autumn 2012 Newsletter

Posted by David on November 15, 2012
CIS, Expenses and benefits, Flexible Benefits, National Insurance, News articles, Payroll, Status / Comments Off on ET4Bs Autumn 2012 Newsletter

017_ET4B Autumn 2012 Newsletter

This Newsletter contains details of recent employment status and IR35 issues, an RTI update, and information on other topical employment tax matters

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ET4Bs Autumn 2011 Newsletter

Posted by David on November 01, 2011
CIS, Expenses and benefits, HMRC, National Insurance, News articles, Payroll / Comments Off on ET4Bs Autumn 2011 Newsletter

015_ET4B Autumn 2011 Newsletter

This Newsletter provides an update on the RTI proposals, VAT on salary sacrifice, third party benefits and much more.

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