HMRC's Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) tool has moved to a new platform. It improves the user experience of the tool, giving more flexibility and a better understanding of the outcome.

  • CEST provides determinations regarding an individual's Employment status and whether or not the Off-Payroll Working rules apply to a contract.
  • The tool has been moved to the OCELOT platform, a more flexible offering that can be updated as and when required, whether due to user experience and feedback or changing case law. It is also expected to provide a greater uniformity in its responses. Overall it is hoped that these changes will increase confidence in this often maligned HMRC tool.
  • The CEST 2.0 update now allows users to:
    • Review and change answers after each section.
    • Check relevant sections of HMRC's manuals, with links opening up new pages, without leaving the tool.
    • Understand the outcome by giving reasoning based on particular answers or sections.
  • This is phase one of updating CEST, with future phases seeing a potential change in questions asked and the logic applied to the outcome, although details on this have not yet been released.
  • It is anticipated that these future changes are linked to the forthcoming decision in HMRC v Professional Game Match Officials Limited from the Supreme Court. The decision may include a ruling on the Mutuality of Obligation test which, if the decision goes against HMRC, will require a further update to the CEST tool.


Having had a quick run-through of the 2.0 version, it does feel like a more user-friendly and coherent experience. However, the option to review answers at the end of each section is not accompanied by any indicator of what the outcome would be based on those responses, which is not as helpful as it could be. Neither is the reasoning for the outcome comprehensive, merely focusing on the one area which provides the basis for the decision as opposed to a more rounded review of all of the sections. Whilst it is a great tool to get an overview of the issues and the tests involved in determining employment status, it may still be best used as a sense-check for a more detailed review in more complex cases.

Useful guides on this topic

Employment status & detailed checklist
Why is it important to check my employment status? What tests should I use? What is the recent case law?

Off-Payroll Working: PSCs & Private Sector Engagers
What is Off-Payroll Working? Who does it apply to? What are the rules?

Employment Status: Mutuality of Obligation
What is mutuality of obligation? Why is mutuality of obligation not considered by HMRC's Check Employment Status for Tax tool?

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