With real and proposed changes to the government’s dealings with contractors and their state of tax on the brain of many of the UK’s sole traders, the future of IR35 still remains a mystery. Following the recent Treasury announcements however, and with the possibility of changes occurring this week, the promise that IR35 ‘will be strengthened’ casts an ominous shadow over contractors nationwide.
The IR35 rules are something that what is IR35 should be made aware of, and whether or not they consider themselves under threat of inquiry or not, being well versed in HMRC’s guidelines is beneficial should any tax involvement occur. IR35 in general has been bandied around the newspapers and websites often of late, the recent Autumn Statement mentioning further efforts and time being put into tackling and enforcing the legislation. As a result of this, contractors should be extra vigilant of HMRC activity. Following the recent business entity tests, tools such as the IR35 calculator have been produced to determine a contractor’s position regarding their tax status, and although it is argued that test scores aren’t reliable regarding IR35 bearing, gaining knowledge will better a contractor’s chances in the event of an inquiry tenfold.
Being subject to an IR35 case can have devastating effects on a contractor, both financially and also timely, cases often lasting far more time than the actual contract would take to carry out. Because of this, IR35 insurance exists, protecting a contractor should any involvement regarding IR35 result in financial loss. As an actual policy, IR35 insurance covers the costs of any potential HMRC enquiry, but other forms of contractor cover can also have advantageous effects on a contractor’s position regarding IR35.
HM Revenue and Customs have a large dictation over the professional position of contractors, therefore it must be realised the effects that their involvement can have on both contractor finance and status. IR35 is a hugely important topic; the recent changes being enforced by the treasury only reinforce the importance of the legislation and its effects. The amount of interest that IR35 has sparked this year has been far more intense than it has previously been, and this shows a clear pattern emerging regarding interest from the tax office and the treasury. Concerning IR35, this new surge of activity and interest will no doubt increase the risks of investigation and inquiry, HMRC already showing an upward trend when it comes to the number of investigations actually carried out this year.
Most contractors recoil at the mention of the IR35 legislation, and to be honest, I understand why. This being said, the knowledge and know how gained from research and a little digging into the legislation’s rules and effects can have a huge impact on the way a contractor operates as a business. At the end of the day, no contractor wants to receive a letter from HMRC (let’s face it, they never owe US money) so being well versed in IR35 rules is highly advised.