This suggests that private sector firms need to keep information that helped them reach an IR35 decision. While a Status Determination Statement (SDS) must be shared with each party in the supply chain to explain the reasons for a particular status determination, the above extract from the guidance relates to ‘information created, received and maintained as evidence and information by an organisation.’
Despite HMRC’s IR35 tool, CEST, having obvious flaws, relying on it to assess IR35 qualifies as ‘reasonable care’. However, given the tool ignores key aspects of the legislation and its answers have been dismissed in court, we advise businesses to consider independent IR35 status reviews instead. It’s also important to note that the use of CEST is not mandatory.
The HMRC guidance includes the requirement for businesses to ‘fact find’ when considering the key IR35 status tests, which are Control, Personal Service and Mutuality of Obligation. When deciding a contractor’s IR35 status, engagers are expected to stand back and focus on the whole picture before making the decision of whether a contractor is genuine or a disguised employee.
If, for example, a business lacks the understanding of the IR35 legislation, ‘reasonable care’ will be met if the company engages the help of an IR35 expert to help assess status, such as Qdos.
While the term ‘good understanding’ is fairly ambiguous, in our expert view this means businesses shouldn’t hand the IR35 responsibility to a person without a strong grasp of the legislation.
HMRC has reiterated the importance of assessing currently engaged contractors. This is vital in ensuring ‘reasonable care’, but also because from the 6th April the liability will transfer from the contractor to the fee-paying party.
Businesses are expected to continually improve how they assess IR35 status based on experiences.
While the written contract is important in determining status initially, HMRC will often scrutinise the working practices in an IR35 investigation. This is because they tend to reflect the reality of the engagement. Businesses are therefore advised to conduct a review of the contractor’s working practices to ensure IR35 compliance and meet ‘reasonable care.’
Even if a business was, for example, to engage Qdos to conduct IR35 contract reviews, it remains the responsibility of the end-client to ensure that IR35 is administered accurately.
With the final legislation for IR35 reform expected to be unveiled in the Finance Bill on 11th March, private sector businesses will not need to wait long to find out if this draft guidance around ‘reasonable care’ is introduced into the reform rolled out on 6th April.
Qdos specialises in IR35 compliance. We conduct, on average, over 2000 IR35 status reviews every month and have handled more than 1,600 IR35 enquiries. We are currently working with over 200 agencies and end-clients, helping them manage changes to the IR35 legislation.
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