Addressing IR35 Off-Payroll Rules: Tips for Hiring Businesses

Addressing IR35 Off-Payroll Rules: Tips for Hiring Businesses

If you are a hiring business operating in the UK, understanding and complying with the IR35 off-payroll rules is vital if you want to avoid potential legal and financial implications. The IR35 legislation aims to ensure that contractors working through intermediaries, such as personal service companies, are correct for tax purposes.

To help you navigate this complex area of tax law and learn what you need to know about IR35, we have put together a guide full of essential information and practical tips to ensure your company is able to comply with the rules and protect its financial well-being.

What is IR35?

IR35, the off-payroll working rules, was introduced in April 2000 to combat tax avoidance by individuals who work through intermediaries such as limited companies. The goal was to prevent the misclassification of “disguised employees” and for HMRC to be able to recover unpaid taxes and National Insurance contributions (NICs). However, for some companies, the changes in April 2020 shift the responsibility for determining IR35 status to the client. It is crucial that hiring businesses understand these rules to avoid potential penalties and to ensure compliance. Here, we will delve into the key aspects of IR35 and provide practical advice to help hiring businesses navigate this complex piece of legislation.

Key Points about IR35

Size Matters: “Small” Companies Exempt

The IR35 rules apply to companies that are not “small” according to the Companies Act 2006. A company will be “small” if it satisfies at least two of the following criteria:

  • It employs no more than 50 people
  • Its annual turnover is no more than £10.2 million
  • Its balance sheet is worth no more than £5.1 million

For small companies, the responsibility for conducting an IR35 assessment remains with the contractor.

Importance of Contractor Involvement

While clients may now be responsible for IR35 assessments, contractors should actively participate in the process. The government’s Check Employment Status Tool (CEST) has been criticized for its limitations in terms of accurately determining complex working relationships. Contractors should use the assessment process to ensure their status is correct.

Tips for Hiring Businesses

  • Thoroughly Review Contracts

Contracts are a critical aspect of IR35 compliance, which is why businesses must ensure that their contracts accurately represent their working relationships and align with their actual working practices. Generic or templated contracts may not offer adequate protection. Contracts should be updated and checked for each project renewal to provide evidence to support self-employed status.

For Contractors: Consider having your own contracts to maintain control over future assignments. Check any contracts from clients for IR35 compliance.

For Clients: Ensure that agreements distributed to contractors fall outside the scope of IR35. If you don’t have a contract, the contractor might be an employee, potentially leading to complications down the line.

  • Assess Supervision, Direction, and Control

Clients must confirm that contractors have control over where, when, and how work is done. Contractors should not be an employee. Thus, employers can not stipulate their schedules, locations, and work methods.

  • Contractors should not need permission for time off or have any appraisals or disciplinary hearings.
  • Contracts should include comprehensive job specifications outlining the relevant services, working hours, and locations.
  • Evaluate Substitution Clauses

The ability to provide a substitute to perform the work is a crucial factor in determining IR35 status. Contractors must have the right to send a substitute if they are unable to carry out the work themselves.

For Contractors and Clients: Ensure that contracts include a clear and genuine right of substitution to strengthen the case for being outside the scope of IR35.

  • Understand the Mutuality of Obligation

Mutuality of obligation (MOO) is another key factor relating to IR35 status. Contractors should not have obligations to provide or accept work, as is common in employer–employee relationships.

For Contractors and Clients: Contracts should not include clauses that imply an ongoing obligation to work. Instead, engagements should be project-based with no automatic extensions.

  • Avoid Corporate Involvement

Contractors should maintain their independence and not integrate into the client’s organization. Contractors should not be in organizational charts, have company business cards, or possess a work email address.

For Contractors and Clients: Minimize any indications of corporate involvement, such as the possession of keys, security passes, or intimate knowledge of the client’s facilities.

The Value of Professional IR35 Contract Review Services

Given the ever-evolving nature of IR35 and the complexity of tax legislation, arranging a professional IR35 contract review will bring a number of benefits:

  • Accurate Status Determination 

Professionals can provide authoritative assessments of your employment status by analyzing your contracts and working practices.

  • HMRC Compliance 

You can ensure your contracts and practices align with HMRC’s guidelines, reducing the risk of penalties and investigations.

  • IR35-Friendly Contracts 

Experts can help strengthen your contracts to increase the likelihood of a favorable status determination.

  • Evidentiary Support 

The review report and analysis will serve as valuable evidence in the event of an HMRC inquiry. Thus, supporting your position and mitigating potential consequences.


IR35 off-payroll rules remain a complex piece of legislation with significant implications for both contractors and hiring businesses. By understanding the key elements and actively participating in the IR35 assessment process, hiring businesses can successfully navigate the off-payroll rules. Moreover, engaging a professional IR35 contract review service will offer additional security and help ensure compliance with the HMRC regulations. By proactively addressing IR35 concerns, businesses can confidently operate in the ever-evolving landscape of freelance and contract work.

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