What is IR35 and How Does it Work?

What is ir35 and how does it work

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If you’re a contractor, thinking about becoming one, or running a business with contractors, understanding IR35 is crucial. In 2000, the UK government introduced something called IR35, officially called the ‘Intermediaries Legislation,’ to tackle tax issues with contractors who were kind of acting like regular employees but avoiding taxes. This guide is here to break down the details of IR35, talking about how it came about, what it means for contractors, recent updates, and some tips to help you understand it better.

What is IR35?

IR35, or the ‘Intermediaries Legislation,’ was established in 2000 via the Finance Act as a measure to prevent contractors from acting as ‘disguised employees’ and evading fair taxation. It specifically targets those who provide services through an intermediary, often a limited company, and would otherwise be considered full-time employees. HMRC identifies these individuals as “disguised employees” for receiving similar benefits without corresponding tax contributions. IR35 seeks to close a tax system loophole, ensuring that workers using limited company status pay their fair share of taxes. The term “IR35” refers to Chapter 8 Part 2 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003. Determining one’s status involves a mix of common-sense criteria and specific legal considerations, with gray areas that can significantly impact tax status. Given the complexity, seeking expert advice is crucial to navigate IR35 compliance and avoid potential legal and financial consequences.


How Does IR35 Work?

For contractors operating through a limited company, IR35 significantly influences the tax landscape. Previously, these contractors could benefit from tax advantages, including a 19% corporation tax rate on profits under £50,000 and NIC avoidance through dividends. However, IR35 shifts the paradigm for those deemed ‘inside IR35,’ mandating them to pay income tax and NIC akin to traditional employees.

Inside vs. Outside IR35

Inside IR35:

Contractors falling within IR35 boundaries are required to pay taxes in a manner consistent with employees. This classification may also grant them additional employment rights, such as minimum wage entitlement, maternity pay, and protection from discrimination.

Outside IR35:

Contractors deemed ‘outside IR35’ retain the ability to maintain a tax-efficient structure. They can continue paying themselves a salary and withdrawing income as dividends, with their limited companies subject to the 19% corporate tax rate if profits remain under £50,000.

IR35 Changes

The most significant IR35 changes were implemented in April 2021, shifting the responsibility of determining IR35 status from contractors to clients in both public and private sectors. However, a crucial exception exists for small businesses in the private sector, allowing contractors to maintain control over their IR35 status.

Assessing IR35 Status

Determining whether a contractor falls ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ IR35 involves evaluating key factors:

1. Substitution:

   Substitution allows a contractor to provide a replacement to fulfill the contracted service, indicating a lack of personal service and a stronger case for being ‘outside IR35.’

2. Mutuality of Obligation (MOO):

   MOO implies an obligation on the work-provider to provide tasks and on the individual to carry them out. Limited MOO suggests a contractor is ‘outside IR35,’ providing a specialist service.

3. Control:

   Examining whether a worker operates independently, with factors like independence in work behavior and the ability to choose when and how to work, is crucial in determining if IR35 applies.

4. Risk:

   Contractors who bear financial risks, such as the potential for profit or loss, are more likely to fall ‘outside IR35.’

Contractors are advised to undergo detailed IR35 assessments, reviewing both service contracts and daily working practices to ensure accurate classification.


The Impact on the Private Sector

Since April 2021, medium and large businesses in the private sector have shouldered the responsibility of assessing IR35 status. If a contractor is determined to be ‘inside IR35,’ the business is obligated to deduct taxes and NIC from the payment, aligning procedures with the public sector.


In conclusion, IR35 remains a pivotal aspect of the contracting landscape, shaping the tax responsibilities of contractors and the practices of businesses engaging them. Staying well-informed about IR35 rules is paramount for contractors to navigate the complexities of self-employment successfully. Seeking professional advice on IR35 status and staying abreast of legislative changes will help contractors maintain compliance, avoid legal issues, and ensure fair taxation. In this ever-evolving regulatory environment, adaptability and proactive measures are key for contractors and businesses alike.

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