Categorized | alan's blog, ir35 rules

Who said that IR35 rules have changed?

Who said that IR35 rules have changed?

Another judgement has been handed down that looks like it will further clarify the eternally vexed question of when is an employee not an employee. In the case of Autoclenz vs Belcher, it has been conclusively proven that, despite the contractual terms in place, a group of workers were de facto employees since they failed the key tests for non-employment and were in fact providing their services personally.

The real trick in this case is not that the workers were employees per se, but that the actual working conditions of their engagement, the rules under which they worked and the level of freedom they had in how that work was done contradicted the contractual terms in some key areas. Hence, they are employed.

Furthermore they failed to satisfy the judge in the Appeals Tribunal that they were in business on their own account, which, as we have seen, is now the real key test for both the AWR and IR35. And that is important.

This whole issue of “are you in business” is gaining greater importance and is beginning to rank alongside the triumvirate of Substitution, Direction and Mutuality, which, as any fool knows, are how you decide if you are IR35 caught.

Clearly it is not a revelation that these conditions have to exist in fact as well as in the contract; we got that one sorted in the Dragonfly case, which upheld the arguably self-evident case that the contract has to reflect reality and if it doesn’t it will be ignored in favour of a hypothetical one describing that reality.

So from our side – that of the genuine freelance contractor – this has merely clarified what we already knew and doesn’t actually take the IR35 argument a lot further forward. For the clients though, this presents something of a headache, especially when taking on us real contractors. They may have to consider doing something I’ve been on about for a long time now, use B2B contracts that treat me as a supplier of expertise, not as a temporary employee. That, in turn, greatly reinforces my status as being a genuine business. And that puts me neatly outside IR35 and the AWR without any further discussion needed.

Although I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.

Still, this goes back to the original IR35 legislation, which contains a thumping great non sequitur at its very heart. The question it asks is “Would you be an employee if you were an employee and not working through your own company?”. Well yes, I probably would, but that situation doesn’t in fact exist. It also goes on later to talk about how you treat two contracts, one caught and one not-caught. If you have a not-caught contract, then you’re in business, almost by definition. So how can you possibly also have a caught contract? Confusing, isn’t it? Let’s hope the IR35 Forum has the wit and wisdom to get this whole area sorted out for once and all and we can put HMRC back in their box.

Ah yes, HMRC. You may recall my little contretemps from last week, about them losing a CT payment. I got another reminder last Friday, with even more interest added, so I phoned them up, more in anger than hope, it being close to seven o’clock in the evening. And astonishingly I got to speak to someone. What is more, they identified what had gone wrong – their idiot system had seen two payments and assumed that they must belong to different tax years – and was able to sort it out there and then. So well done them. For once.

Except they still owe me some overpaid PAYE and have done for quite a while now. I suppose I could always try phoning them again….

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: new world park by Paul Keller

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