What is off-payroll working? What is IR35? What are the tax rules for off-payroll working or IR35? How do you check employment status? What is a personal service company?

Off-Payroll Working is the term used by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to describe the situation where:

  • An individual 'the worker'
  • Provides their own personal services
  • via their own private company 'their Personal Service Company (PSC)'
  • to an end client (the client at the top of the supply chain)
  • and,
  • the following test is met: if that the worker were actually providing those services directly to the end client, the Worker would meet the employment status tests to make them an actual employee of the end client.

When Off-Payroll Working applies, the top party in the labour supply chain has the obligation to assess employment status and the same or a different party deducts PAYE and National Insurance from the fee paid to the worker's company.

  • Different parties in the chain must apply the rules, depending on the type of end client and who is the fee payer.
  • The worker's company is described as a Personal service company 'PSC'.

The off-payrolling labour supply chain generally looks something like this:

Worker > PSC > Agency > End Client

There can be numerous agencies or other intermediaries in the chain. e.g.

Worker > PSC > Agency > Agency > Intermediary > End Client

Tax outcomes

  • The party that operates PAYE/NICs is treated as the employer for tax.
  • The resulting net pay paid to the worker's PSC is treated as the worker's taxed employment income.
  • Any expenses that would be allowable had the worker actually been working for the end client are deductible from the PSC fee before PAYE and NICs.
  • The worker does not acquire any employment rights from anyone under these rules: it has no right to statutory sick pay, types of baby pay or employer-provided pensions.
  • The deemed employer is not required to account to HMRC for student loan deductions: this remains the duty of the worker.

Who does what in the chain?

The Off-Payroll Working rules have different variations which apply as follows, depending on the status of the end client:

End client type Who assesses the worker's employment status Who deducts PAYE/NICs When from
Public sector  End Client Fee payer 6 April 2017
Large or medium-sized private sector  End Client Fee payer 6 April 2021
Large or medium private sector (IR35) PSC PSC Until 5 April 2021
Small private sector (IR35) PSC PSC Ongoing

 

Off-Payroll Working for Public sector clients

  • The end client assesses the worker's employment status and informs the fee payer
  • The fee payer, who is normally the end client or an agency deduct PAYE and NICs from the fee paid to the worker's PSC.
  • See Off-Payrolling Public Sector 

Off-Payroll Working for Large or Medium-sized private sector clients

These now apply from 6 April 2021, having been delayed from April 2020 in March 2020. See IR35 changes postponed for a year due to COVID-19

  • The end client assesses its own size and notifies the worker that it is a large or medium-sized client.
  • The end client assesses the worker's employment status and informs the fee payer and worker.
  • The fee payer, who is normally the End Client or an agency deducts PAYE and NICs from the fee paid to the worker's PSC.
  • See Off-Payroll Working Private Sector

Off-Payroll Working for Private sector clients

a) Rules up to 5 April 2021: 

  • The PSC makes an assessment of its worker's employment status based on its knowledge of the End Client.
  • If IR35 applies, the PSC deduct PAYE and NICs from the fee it receives from the engagement and reports it under its own PAYE reference as a deemed salary payment.
  • See IR35 Off-Payroll Working Private Sector

b)  Rules after 6 April 2021: 

  • The End Client informs the PSC of its size.
  • If the End Client is a small entity, the old 'IR35' rules apply:
    • The PSC makes an assessment of its worker's employment status based on its knowledge of the end client.
    • If IR35 applies, the PSC deduct PAYE and NICs from the fee it receives from the engagement and reports it under its own PAYE reference as a deemed salary payment.
  • If the End Client is a large or medium-sized entity, the new rules apply:
    • The End Client notifies the worker that it is a large or medium-sized client.
    • The End Client assesses the worker's employment status and informs the fee payer and worker.
      • The fee payer, who is may be (depending on the supply chain) the End Client, an agency or an umbrella company deducts PAYE and NICs from the fee paid to the worker's PSC

Who is responsible for notifying who?

It is always the duty of the end client to assess employment status and pass on that assessment to the fee payer and the worker, unless the end client is a small operation. In that case, the worker's intermediary checks their employment status and applies IR35.

WARNING: If the end client or any other party in the chain fails to pass on the results of the employment status test it will become the deemed employer's fault.

How to check your employment status?

  • The end client and PSC should start by using HMRC's Check Employment Status Tool 'CEST'
  • The CEST results of the test are accepted by HMRC provided that the questions are answered as accurately as possible.
  • A worker challenging the CEST result will need also to work through the CEST tool if they are challenging an end client's status determination statement.
  • See Employment Status Tests for run down of the different tests and case law.

What's new?

See a summary of the latest news in our update: Contractors & PSC Planning: November 2019 what now?
This includes a detailed section on working via an 'umbrella' and added some further tips on what you can do with your company if it ceases trading. 

Comments (4)

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I am self employed as a carer.I only provide work for 1 client, my expected workload out weighs the the salary that the agency are willing to pay.I am unable to work anywhere else as this client has been shielding.The agency are profiting over...

I am self employed as a carer.I only provide work for 1 client, my expected workload out weighs the the salary that the agency are willing to pay.I am unable to work anywhere else as this client has been shielding.The agency are profiting over 300% of the monies paid to provide this service to this particular client.However my salary, of which they would not pay realistically, falls short of the minimum wage.Although I have my own tax code, I need to know if I am covered by the employee law, to fight my case of exploitation, or whether I have no rights, due to taking on a fortnightly contract with an agency.

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With an individual being now classed as a Deemed Employee (DE) is the Employers NIC liability a cost that the fee payer/client is having to bear and not the DE?

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With regards to IR35, are you able to clarify something please? If a company, say Company A, employs contractors to work on projects within its various clients workplaces, is Company A the Fee-payer and also the End Client? Company A pays the...

With regards to IR35, are you able to clarify something please? If a company, say Company A, employs contractors to work on projects within its various clients workplaces, is Company A the Fee-payer and also the End Client? Company A pays the contractor directly through its PSC.

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Yes, the fee payer and end client can be one and the same. For example, if the end client is the BBC, it may engage a TV presenter who is working via his/her own PSC. In that case the BBC is the client and fee payer.

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