HM Revenue and Customs has announced a slight delay to the off-payroll working rule changes that come into effect on 6 April 2020.
HMRC are starting to realise just how difficult these rules will be for businesses to implement” – Andy Chamberlain, IPSE
Off-payroll working rules for larger private sector companies will now only apply to payments made for services provided from 6 April 2020.
Previously, the rules applied to any payments made on or after 6 April, regardless of when the services were carried out. It means businesses will only need to determine whether the rules apply for contracts they plan to continue beyond 6 April, supporting businesses as they prepare.
HMRC announced the amendment today ahead of the publication of the government’s review, due to conclude this month, which has been dismissed as “meaningless” by contractor groups.
The government is extending the 2017 reform of the operation of the rules in the public sector to medium and large organisations in April 2020. This will shift responsibility for operating the rules to the organisation that engages the worker. This is how employment status for tax is decided for the vast majority of people, who do not work through their own company.
However, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) said the amendment will be “little comfort” to self-employed people already facing losing their contracts because of the legislation.
It stated that the move was a response to the fact that during its review, it found that businesses were concerned about “what payments the rules apply to and from when”.
Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s deputy director of policy, said: “As we approach the April deadline, HMRC are starting to realise just how difficult these rules will be for businesses to implement. Delaying the start date to when the work is actually performed, rather than paid for, is a sensible move, but it doesn’t address the fatal flaws in the legislation itself.
“This minor amendment will be little comfort, therefore, to the many contractors already being laid off by companies who are panicking about the approaching changes. We are still campaigning hard for the government to halt the IR35 changes while a full and independent review is carried out into the very serious risks for hundreds of thousands of contractors, the businesses they work with and the economy as a whole.”
The government’s intention is to ensure that an individual who works like an employee, but through their own limited company, pays broadly the same income tax and national insurance contributions as those who are employed directly.
Matthew Sharp, tax specialist at law firm Fieldfisher, described HMRC’s announcement today as a welcome clarification. “While this change gives private sector businesses and contractors who stand to be affected by the new legislation a little more time to prepare, the government has so far failed to address core concerns regarding IR35,” he said.
“Many of the clients we work with have expressed frustration with HMRC’s process for determining employment status for tax purposes, and this announcement reveals no plans to improve this.
“It seems the government has not learned from the mistakes made in 2017, when IR35 was rolled out to the public sector, resulting in legal wrangles that are still going through the courts today.
“Many businesses fear losing vast swathes of their workforce if the processes for assessing tax status is not adjusted to reflect the realities of modern working practices.”
Contractors are being urged by IPSE to march on Westminster against the IR35 changes. A protest, organised by the Stop The Off-Payroll Tax campaign, will be held on 12 February.