HomeTaxWhat is IR35? & What It Means for Business?

What is IR35? & What It Means for Business?

Are you a business owner or a contractor in the UK? If so, then you’ve likely heard of IR35. But what exactly is it, and why does it matter to your business? In this blog post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about IR35 – from who it applies to and what it means for the private sector to the penalties for non-compliance. So grab a cup of coffee, and let’s dive into the world of IR35 regulations!

What is IR35?

What is IR35?

IR35, also known as the Intermediaries Legislation, is a set of tax regulations implemented by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the United Kingdom. These rules are designed to determine whether an individual working through an intermediary, such as a limited company or personal service company (PSC), should be classified as an employee for tax purposes.

The purpose of IR35 is to prevent “disguised employment,” where individuals work as contractors but effectively operate like employees without paying the appropriate taxes. By doing so, these workers can avoid higher levels of income tax and National Insurance contributions.

To determine whether IR35 applies to a contractor, HMRC looks at various factors such as control over assignments, financial risk, and provision of equipment. If the contractor falls within the scope of IR35, they are considered “inside IR35” and must pay taxes similar to those paid by employees.

On the other hand, if a contractor is found to be “outside IR35,” they can continue operating their business under normal taxation rules for self-employed individuals. This means they have more flexibility in managing their finances and typically pay less tax than those inside IR35.

It’s important to note that determining whether someone is inside or outside IR35 can be complex and subjective. It requires careful consideration of each specific engagement based on its unique circumstances. That’s why many businesses seek professional advice from accountants or specialist consultants who specialize in navigating these regulations.

In recent years, significant changes have occurred regarding how these rules are applied in the private sector. Previously, it was up to contractors to assess their status for tax purposes. However, since April 2021, medium-sized and large companies have become responsible for determining whether contractors fall within or outside IR35.

Who the IR35 Rules Apply to?

The IR35 rules, also known as the off-payroll working rules, apply to individuals who work through an intermediary, such as a personal service company (PSC), and provide services to clients. These rules are designed to determine whether these individuals should be considered as employees for tax purposes.

If you work in the private sector and fall under this category, it’s important to familiarize yourself with IR35 regulations. Whether you’re a contractor, freelancer, or consultant, these rules may impact how you operate and how your income is taxed.

It’s worth noting that not all businesses are subject to IR35. The rules typically apply when there is an arrangement where an individual provides their services directly through a PSC but would have been considered an employee if they were contracted directly by the client.

Who the IR35 Rules Apply to?

It is the responsibility of both contractors and hiring organizations to ensure compliance with IR35 regulations. Failure to do so could result in financial penalties or other consequences.

Understanding who falls within the scope of IR35 is crucial for anyone operating as a contractor in today’s business landscape. It’s essential to stay informed about any updates or changes related to these regulations.

What is Inside and Outside IR35?

Inside and Outside IR35 is a crucial distinction that determines whether someone is considered an employee or self-employed for tax purposes. It refers to the classification of an individual’s working relationship with their client or employer.

When a contractor falls inside IR35, it means that they are deemed to be working as an employee, even if they work on a temporary basis or through their own limited company. In this case, the contractor will have to pay taxes and National Insurance contributions like any other employee. They may also be entitled to certain employment rights and benefits.

On the other hand, being outside IR35 means that the contractor is seen as genuinely self-employed. They have more freedom in how they work and can typically benefit from greater tax efficiency. Contractors operating outside IR35 are responsible for paying their own taxes and do not receive employment benefits.

Determining whether someone falls inside or outside IR35 depends on various factors such as control over work, financial risk, substitution rights, and mutuality of obligation. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) carefully examines the specific details of each contract when making this assessment.

It’s important for contractors to understand their status under IR35 since it has significant implications for their finances and legal obligations. Engaging with clients who fall within different categories requires careful consideration of these regulations to avoid potential penalties or disputes.

Who is Exempt From IR35?

Who is Exempt From IR35?

When it comes to IR35, not everyone falls under its jurisdiction. Certain categories of individuals are exempt from the rules and regulations of IR35. Let’s dive into who these lucky few are.

If you’re working for a small client, then you can breathe a sigh of relief as the new reforms do not apply to you. The definition of a small client is based on specific criteria set out by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Generally speaking, if your client meets two or more of the following conditions: annual turnover less than £10.2 million; balance sheet total less than £5.1 million; or fewer than 50 employees – congratulations, you’ve hit the exemption jackpot!

Another group that doesn’t need to worry about IR35 consists of those contractors working through an umbrella company or on an agency payroll. In these cases, it’s typically the responsibility of the umbrella company or agency to determine employment status and handle any necessary tax deductions.

Additionally, there may be instances where certain professions enjoy exemptions from IR35 due to their line of work. However, this is quite rare and generally limited only to very specific circumstances, such as judges and public office holders.

It’s important to note that being outside IR35 offers greater flexibility for contractors in terms of managing their finances and potential tax liabilities.

So there you have it – some fortunate souls who can rest easy knowing they don’t have to navigate through the complexities and uncertainties brought about by IR35.

What Does IR35 Mean for the Private Sector?

The implementation of IR35 in the private sector has caused quite a stir among businesses and contractors alike. This legislation, also known as off-payroll working rules, aims to crack down on tax avoidance by challenging the employment status of contractors operating through intermediaries such as personal service companies.

For businesses in the private sector, the impact of IR35 is significant. They are now responsible for determining whether their contractors fall inside or outside IR35. If deemed inside, they must deduct income tax and National Insurance contributions from their payments to these contractors, just like regular employees.

This change puts more administrative burden on businesses as they need to carefully assess each contractor’s engagement and make fair determinations about their employment status. It also means increased costs for hiring contractors who are classified as inside IR35.

Moreover, suppose a business fails to comply with IR35 regulations and is found to have wrongly classified its contractors or not deducted taxes correctly. In that case, it can face severe penalties from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

To navigate these new regulations effectively, many organizations have sought expert advice from legal professionals or engaged external specialist firms that offer compliance services tailored specifically for managing IR35 risks.

While some argue that this shift creates uncertainty and may lead to reduced flexibility in workforce arrangements within the private sector, others believe it will level the playing field by ensuring that all workers pay their fair share of taxes.

The Penalties for Being Caught Inside IR35

The Penalties for Being Caught Inside IR35

If you’re a contractor working in the private sector, being caught inside IR35 can have serious consequences. The penalties can be quite hefty and can impact both your finances and reputation.

If HMRC determines that you were aware of your IR35 status but did nothing, you will be subject to a penalty equal to 70% of the unpaid tax. If HMRC determines that you intentionally attempted to conceal your IR35 status and underpaid tax, 100% of unpaid tax will be due.

One of the main penalties is that you will be required to pay additional taxes and national insurance contributions. This means that you may end up with less take-home pay than expected, affecting your overall income.

In addition to financial penalties, being caught inside IR35 can also lead to an investigation by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). This takes up valuable time and can damage your professional reputation as it suggests non-compliance with tax regulations.

To avoid these penalties, it’s crucial for contractors to carefully assess their status under the IR35 rules and ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

What is the Difference Between IR35 and PAYE?

The key difference between IR35 and PAYE lies in the worker’s employment status. IR35 focuses on determining whether a contractor is truly self-employed or if they should be considered an employee for tax purposes. On the other hand, PAYE (Pay As You Earn) refers to the system used by employers to deduct income tax and National Insurance contributions from their employees’ salaries.

Under IR35, if a contractor is deemed to be working inside IR35, their engagement with a client is seen as similar to that of an employee. This would require the client to deduct taxes at source and treat them as if they were an employee.

In contrast, when workers are categorized as being outside IR35, they are viewed as genuine self-employed individuals who have more control over how they carry out their work. These contractors are responsible for managing their own taxes and National Insurance contributions.

Businesses need to understand these distinctions so they can accurately determine how workers should be classified under HMRC regulations.

Why is IR35 Bad for Contractors?

Why is IR35 Bad for Contractors?

IR35 can be seen as unfavourable for contractors due to several reasons:

Increased Tax Liability: If a contractor is deemed to be inside IR35, they are required to pay income tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) as if they were employees. This means that they have to bear the burden of both the employee’s and employer’s portions of NICs, leading to higher tax liabilities and reduced take-home pay. This can significantly impact a contractor’s financial situation.

Loss of Tax Efficiency: One of the advantages of working as a contractor is the ability to operate through a limited company, enabling contractors to benefit from tax efficiencies. However, being inside IR35 removes this advantage, making it less financially beneficial for contractors to work in this way.

Reduced Control and Flexibility: Contractors operating outside IR35 have more control over their work, including flexibility in setting their rates, choosing projects, and managing their schedules. However, if a contractor is deemed inside IR35, they may face employment-like restrictions, such as being directed by clients and having limited control over their working practices.

Uncertainty and Complexity: Determining IR35 status can be complex and subjective. There is often uncertainty and disagreement between contractors and clients regarding employment status assessments. This ambiguity can lead to increased stress, legal disputes, and additional administrative burdens for contractors.

Reduced Market Competitiveness: Some contractors may find that being inside IR35 makes them less competitive in the market. Clients may be hesitant to engage with contractors who fall within IR35 due to the additional costs and complexities associated with their engagement.

It’s important to note that not all contractors view IR35 negatively. Some argue that it provides protection for workers and ensures fair taxation. Nonetheless, the perceived disadvantages mentioned above are some of the reasons why IR35 is viewed as unfavourable by many contractors.


The IR35 legislation has always been a complex area of law, and this article should have provided you with a basic understanding of what the rules are and how they can affect your business. It is important to remember that there are some key exemptions to the IR35 rules, so it’s worth doing some research into these before implementing any changes. Ultimately, it is up to businesses to comply with all relevant laws for their workers and contractors to remain in good standing with HMRC.


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