House of Lords raises concerns over IR35

April 2022

The Economic Affairs’ Finance Sub-Committee of the House of Lords has written to the Government, listing key recommendations on off-payroll working rules known as IR35.

IR35 legislation aims to prevent tax avoidance by workers who contract out their services through a personal limited company for tax purposes but enjoy the perks a regular employee would.

The Government changed how IR35 worked for the private sector for medium and large businesses in April 2021, putting the onus of determining a contractor’s employment status on the employer, rather than the contractor themselves.

But the extension has resulted in an increased use of “rogue” umbrella companies among workers, according to the Committee.

HMRC estimates 100,000 individuals were working through umbrella companies in 2007/08 compared to at least 500,000 in 2020/21.

The sub-committee said it was “very concerned” by the trend, as it increases the risk of workers becoming involved with umbrella companies operating tax avoidance schemes.

Lord Bridges of Headley, chair of the sub-committee, said:

“The whole point of the off-payroll reforms was to crack down on tax avoidance. Yet, as we warned the Government in our Sub-Committee’s report in 2020, it risks giving rise to a new wave of tax avoidance, as people — many of them on low incomes — end up in rogue umbrella companies.

“The Government must take action to protect workers from ‘rogue’ operators as a matter of urgency.”

The sub-committee also said the Government’s objective to achieve fairness between people cannot be restricted to tax in isolation but also apply to employment rights.

Headley said:

“The Government has said it is committed to fairness in the workplace. However, it is unfair for individuals to be treated as employees for tax purposes without having employment rights.

“Our Sub-Committee reiterates the call we made in our 2020 report for the Government to press ahead with implementing the proposals set out in the Taylor Review.”

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