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New IR35 Forum data revealed by HMRC

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs has revealed just which of the recommendations of the IR35 Forum it will be adopting – and which ones it just cast aside.

The IR35 Forum, a group of stalwart blokes and birds that sought to make the disguised employment regulations somewhat less burdensome for contractors and other self-employed Brits, made 32 total recommendations for how the legislation should be changed to make it better. A total of five of those recommendations had some relationship to the Contract Review Service for the tax authority – but HMRC ended up only accepting one of them (though it did agree to have the IR35 content on its website revisited).

In other words, there’s a grand total of two potential recommendations the taxman is deigning to consider. For what it’s worth, I’m not surprised at all. I’m bloody furious but I’m certainly not surprised. Now don’t get me wrong, the CRS was a step in the right direction to provide a way for contractors to get a better view of how HMRC considered contract terms and the like as a great way to prevent running afoul of IR35 or other forms of tax avoidance. The free helpline is fantastic, but there’s something like maybe three advisers that man the phones, and I can only imagine how long the queue is if you ring up CRS right now.

Honestly I’m not even sure if CRS is working as advertised right now. There were 80 contract review requests fielded by HMRC through the helpline in 2013 and only 12 of them were reviewed by the taxman; the next year there were 16 total reviews, but the overall figure of those making requests dropped to 64 – a clear indication that the word has been put out that the programme, while well-intentioned, just isn’t doing much for anyone.

So yes, i’m so glad that HMRC took two of the IR35 Forum’s recommendations to take a better look at CRS and perhaps revise it in some way. Honestly though what about the rest of the damned recommendations the Forum made? How do you go to 32 to five to two with a straight face and claim that you’re thoroughly considered all the recommendations? It drives me absolutely mad, but then again what else can you expect?

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