What is IR35 ??? And what does it mean to an IT Contractor
So, you’ve decided to embark on the world of contracting? If so I imagine that you are finding a lot of the legislation quite daunting. You may be scrolling the internet trying to figure out why you have been asked to sign all these forms when you have no idea what they mean or how signing one way or another may affect you.
What is IR35? Are You Working Inside Or Outside of IR35
Hopefully by the end of this article your headache will be at ease and you will have a clear understanding of what the IR35 actually is and why this is in place.
So, what is IR35?
If you are an IT contractor who has tried to read IR35 in full and still feel a little confused, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Through extensive searching after firstly being a bit dumbfounded myself, my mind finally feels more at ease, but trust me this wasn’t an easy topic to wrap my head around.
17 years ago, back in April 2000, HMRC introduced the ‘intermediaries legislation’, otherwise known as IR35. This was introduced as an anti-avoidance tax legislation targeting employees who claim to be self-employed but actually fell in the bracket of a worker employed directly by a company (in this case these would be temporary workers).
The legislation helps the HMRC differentiate between an employee and a self-employed IT contractor that offers their services acting as a limited company or commonly known as a ‘personal services company’ (PSC). The latter are often known to the HMRC as ‘disguised employees’ as they are not employed via the company but offer their services usually for a designated project, for a set fee, over a set amount of time.
So how can you determine your IR35 position? Well, if you are you being supervised on the project and reporting to someone every day, if you have set working hours like every other employee, are being told how to do the job you have been asked to do and are receiving all the benefits that an employee receives who is employed directly via the company then the HMRC has solid grounds to argue that you are too an employee and not acting as a limited company on this assignment. In the eyes of the HMRC this would be classified as Supervision, Direction and Control (SDC). If you work under SDC the legislation will apply.
On the other hand, if you have a bit more freedom to complete your task(s) and your working hours are not set in stone, you are able to come in and do your job without reporting to someone i.e. a line manager every day, and are left to do your job with the skills you are trusted and known to have as opposed to being told how to perform a task, then it would be safe to say you have solid grounds to support your case to be deemed as a PSC acting as an IT contractor. This of course, would mean that you are not working under SDC.
A change on the horizon
In May of last year a consultation document was published by the HMRC which set out a number of proposed changes to how the IR35 operates. These changes will predominantly affect the tax status of PSC’s operating in the public sector (there are no changes to companies operating within the private sector).
The changes that are set to be rolled out on the 6th April 2017 include:
- Change the way PSC’s provide services within the public sector only
- Within the public sector, the end client will be responsible for determining IR35 position as opposed to PSC
- Where a 3rd party is involved i.e. an employment agency like Langley James, the responsibility of determining IR35 position will fall on that 3rd party
- For said 3rd party or public sector, an online tool is being developed to help determine IR35 position of PSC
- Will remain on an assignment to assignment basis but assessment of this will now fall on end user as opposed to PSC.
So as an IT Contractor, how do you know if you’re operating within the public sector? Well here is a list to help:
- Central government departments i.e. Ministry Of Defence
- Health boards & NHS
- Local authorities
- Educational establishments
- Transport within London
- Police and Fire Authorities
- Devolved Administrations
- Legal Authorities
- The bank of England
- BBC & Channel 4
- The UK Sports Council
- The Armed Forces
- Public Authorities
As previously mentioned, these changes will be rolled out on 6th April 2017. So, if you are a contractor working for an end user within the public sector it is well worth scrubbing up your knowledge on the changes in legislation to cover yourself.
IR35 In a nutshell
So to round things up in the most condensed way possible, IR35 was introduced to stop employees who claim to be self-employed from receiving all the tax break benefits a genuine self-employed IT contractor would benefit from. The only people in the workplace who are exempt from the legislation are the legitimate Limited Company IT Contractors.
I hope everything now is a little clearer for you. But remember, keep your eyes peeled, the current legislation is changing and this will have a big impact in how we all operate when it comes to IT contracting.