“Hear it Not, Duncan……..

….for it is knell that summons thee to heaven or to hell.”

I know: not quite the cheerful entry to a blog, however, those immortal words from my favourite Shakespeare play: uttered by Macbeth on his way to his dastardly deed, the murder of King Duncan, seems an appropriate proclamation to make regarding the introduction in less than a fortnight, of the new Off Payroll rules.

The cause of much debate, the controversial rules will see a marked change in the approach adopted by both business and HM Revenue and Customs, and not wanting to add to the massive body of arguments published and circulated to date, I thought I’d merely summarise the new rules for those who’ve recently arrived from Pluto (is it or isn’t it a planet: I forget!?), so here goes:

From 6 April 2021, any medium or large-sized organisation engaging a worker operating through an intermediary will be responsible for determining the worker’s employment status. This status must then be communicated to the worker and to any party contracted with for the supply of the worker, such as an agency.

Although the client (the medium or large-sized organisation) is responsible for determining employment status, it is the fee-payer who will have to operate PAYE if the determination means the worker falls within the off-payroll working (IR35) rules. The fee-payer, as the name implies, is the organisation paying the intermediary, and will often be different to the client. The intermediary will typically be a personal service company, but could also be a partnership, LLP, a managed service company or even an individual.

Status determination statement

Regardless of the outcome of the status determination, the client must provide a status determination statement (SDS) confirming the conclusion and the reasons behind it.

If there is a labour supply chain involved, the SDS must be passed down each stage of the chain until it reaches the fee-payer. This is extremely important, because if an agency receives the SDS but then doesn’t pass it on down the supply chain, the agency will be treated as the fee-payer, with responsibility for deducting taxes and paying them over to HMRC. The same for the client, who will be treated as the fee-payer until the SDS is carried out and communicated.

There are other situations where the client can end up being treated as the fee-payer:

  • Failure to take reasonable care when making a determination; and
  • Failure to respond within 45 days to a disagreement regarding a determination.

The issue of status will have to be re-checked if the working practices of the engagement change or a new contract is negotiated with a worker.

HMRC’s guidance to off-payroll working for clients changes in April 2021. Details, along with several useful links, can be found here.

So, as we march towards the end of the current tax year and into the change to current IR35 arrangements, it remains to be seen whether or not Macbeth’s knell will apply to the critical and valuable contribution made by Personal Service Companies to the UK economy.

As for me, it’s Friday, so “I go and it is done” – this piece that is!

Photo by Matt Riches on Unsplash

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