On 3 March, the Agile Methods SG hosted an event at BCS London to explore, amongst other things, what the IR35 changes mean structurally; where the risk sits and what can be learnt from the public sector rollout.

This Lean Agile London and BCS Agile meetup was an open discussion with Radtac’s CEO Gus Bjorkeroth on the upcoming IR35 legislation. Radtac is a an established Agile training and consultancy business, working with a range of companies in a variety of industries across the globe.

Definition

‘IR35 refers to the United Kingdom’s anti-avoidance tax legislation designed to tax disguised employment at a rate similar to employment. In this context, “disguised employees” means workers who receive payments from a client via an intermediary, for example, their own limited company, and whose relationship with their client is such that had they been paid directly they would be employees of the client.'

Wikipedia

What do these changes mean structurally and where is the determination for IR35 status now being made?

The determination is still based on ‘control’ and who controls the work being done. Some work remains outside, some work is inside. So far, no real change. But, what has changed is the liability for tax owed on those deemed ‘inside’ has shifted upstream so that (ultimately) the end client carries liability.

How is Radtac contracting with associates to stay outside of IR35?

Radtac has implemented three key changes when dealing with associates:

  1. Clear statement of work (SOW) packages with the client, built solely on outcomes, not time & materials.
  2. Replicated partial outcomes-based contracts with the associate.
  3. Changes to our contracts for all parties.

What roles and work sit inside vs outside IR35? (e.g. scrum master vs coach)

It is all about control and not about job titles. Who is controlling your work? A coach could be inside or outside. Some examples include:

  1. If you have been working at a single company for multiple years as a contractor (e.g. developer or scrum master) then you are likely to be within IR35.
  2. If you work multiple contracts, don’t assume you are outside. There is a chance you can be both in and out of IR35 on differing contracts.
  3. If you are a subject matter expert, operating to deliver a genuine service, which you shape for the customer, that is not something which can be or needs to be done by a perm employee, you are probably outside of IR35.

How are big corporations reacting?

  1. Typically, not dealing with contractors directly, and are pushing people through an agency (sole traders and limited companies).
  2. Insisting contractors work through umbrella companies or not at all.
  3. Tending to opt for a blanket ban over individual assessments.

Conclusion

There is not enough information coming from HMRC to help with implementation. This is causing confusion and rash decisions. There are a good number of people genuinely outside of IR35 who are being lumped in with those who are inside, due to blanket assessments.

The best advice is to not panic and wait and see what happens post-April. An umbrella contract, no matter how undesirable it might be for someone genuinely outside of IR35, remains an option to keep the lights on and stay in regular work while things settle down in the private sector.

Update

The government has announced it is postponing the reforms to the off-payroll working rules (IR35) from April 2020 to 6 April 2021. This is a deferral of the introduction of the reforms, not a cancellation.

Disclaimer: Gus is not an accountant or legal expert and the advice offered comes from how Radtac understands the situation and how they are dealing with it.