Contracting & IR35 Explained: Do You Qualify?

You may vaguely be aware of IR35, you may have never heard of it or you already know all the intricacies of it. In essence, it is a mechanism for HMRC to address potential pseudo-employee situations which deprive HMRC of tax payments. This was to address a trend in the 1990s when a large number of IT professionals became contractors.

Whether you know much about IR35 for contractors or not, this article outlines what it is and how to know if you qualify for it.

What is IR35 for contractors?

Essentially, IR35 are rules, rules that affect all contractors who do not meet HMRC’s definition of “self-employed.” These rules or legislation were put in place to stop contractors working as ‘disguised employees’ by taxing them at a rate similar to employment.

Who does IR35 apply to?

The off-payroll working rules apply to:

  • A worker/contractor – who provides their services through their own limited company or another type of intermediary (e.g. a partnership, a personal service company or an individual).
  • A client – who receives services from a worker through their intermediary.
  • An agency – providing workers’ services through their intermediary.

If IR35 applies, tax and National Insurance contributions must be deducted from fees and paid to HMRC; this will effectively prevent contractor companies from retaining profits to grow their business in the future.

As of 6 April 2021, the ways the rules are applied will change. All public sector authorities and medium to large-sized private sector clients will be responsible for deciding if the rules apply. If a contractor provides service to a small client in the private sector, then the worker’s intermediary will remain responsible for deciding the worker’s employment status and whether IR35 for contractors applies.

What are the determining factors for IR35?

When HMRC review a contracting situation, they are looking for various indicators. The following is an extract from the HMRC website that helps you to decide whether your contract falls under IR35 or not.

Would I have been an employee of my client?

The IR35 rules only apply if you would have been an employee of your client, had it not been for the existence of your Personal Service Company or partnership.

If you can answer ‘yes’ to most of the following questions, you would probably have been an employee of your client for the contract in question and therefore within the new rules.

  • Do you work set hours or a given number of hours a week or a month?
  • Do you have to do the work yourself rather than hire someone else to do the work for you?
  • Can someone tell you at any time what to do, when to work or how to do the work?
  • Are you paid by the hour, week or month?
  • Can you get overtime pay?
  • Do you work at the premises of the person you work for or at a place or places he or she decides?
  • Do you generally work for one client at a time, rather than having a number of contracts?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to most of the following questions, you would probably not have been an employee of your client and therefore outside the new rules.

  • Do you have the final say in how you do the work for the client?
  • Can you make a loss on the contract?
  • Do you have to provide the main items of equipment you need to do the job for the client, not just the small tools many employees provide for themselves?
    Are you free to hire other people on your own terms to do the work you have taken on?
  • If you are free to hire other people on your own terms, do you pay them out of your own pocket?
  • Do you have to correct unsatisfactory work in your own time and at your own expense?
  • Do you have a number of clients at the same time?

You will have to think about each contract individually. Some people will find that they have some contracts which would have been classed as “employment” and so come within the rules and others which do not.