Updated IR35 legislation due this April will reduce tax penalty risk for employers

Paul Roche our consultant managing the role
Author: Paul Roche

The latest changes to the UK’s off-payroll working rules, famously known as IR35, have brought about significant implications for businesses across the United Kingdom. This new development has already started enhancing business’s ability to hire much-needed talent in an increasingly competitive landscape. 

What is IR35?

Introduced in 1999, IR35 has always been a complex piece of legislation aimed at identifying ‘disguised employees’ and ensuring they pay the right amount of tax. However, its implementation, particularly since the roll-out of off-payroll legislation into the public sector in 2017 and the private sector in 2021, caused some concerns within the contractor community.

The problem with IR35 in the private sector

One of the most troubling issues was the onus on companies to assess the employment status of their temporary workers, which led to a cautious approach to hiring limited company-based freelancers. Some companies implemented blanket bans or insisted these workers operate as temporary PAYE staff. Central to these actions was a flaw in the legislation resulting in double taxation, which has now been rectified. This correction became law on February 22nd, following the royal assent of the Finance Bill, and will take effect from April 6th, 2024

What do these changes to IR35 mean for contractors and employers?

This much-anticipated amendment removes the double taxation problem in the off-payroll IR35 legislation, which had previously exposed hiring firms to a disproportionate tax risk when engaging limited company contractors. In the past, companies could have faced quadruple the perceived loss of tax where they had incorrectly classified the IR35 tax status of contractors. This potential risk led some to implement blanket bans, significantly limiting their hiring options. 

Now, under the amended rules, any taxes already paid by the contractor's company will not be paid again. This change ensures fairness and predictability of the tax liabilities associated with contractor engagements. For most earnings levels, the additional tax burden for firms will range from 12.5% to 15% of the contractor's earnings. Moreover, the amendment reduces the need for protracted and costly litigation between firms and HMRC by enabling agreement on settlement figures with the automatic offset. 

A new, positive era for contractors

This legislative modification is expected to herald a new era for contractors and employers. With the reduced tax risk and increased clarity, HR directors may revisit their policies on hiring limited company contractors. Any mistakes in IR35 assessments will no longer result in disproportionate and unfair tax liabilities. Consequently, the path for companies to engage a flexible and skilled workforce has become less daunting and easier to navigate. 

When considering this legislative change, it is paramount for firms to understand these new rules and adapt their recruitment strategies accordingly. This development will make it possible to hire the best and most suitable talent, contributing significantly to the growth and success of businesses across the UK. 

The recent changes to IR35 may have simplified the hiring process, but they have also reinforced the importance of due diligence, the right talent attraction strategies, and a keen understanding of tax legislation.

Find your next contracting opportunity with Marks Sattin

Marks Sattin is a specialist interim management recruitment consultancy. We have over 30 years’ experience placing expert contractors and interim employees. If you are looking for your next contracting opportunity, check out our latest roles on our Interim & Contractor Hub. Alternatively, if you are a business looking to hire contractors to creates a dynamic solution for your business, submit a brief and a member of our team will be in touch.

04/04/24
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