Malcolm ZoppiTue Oct 17 2023

Does IR35 Apply to Sole Traders? Simplifying Tax Rules

IR35 is a set of tax rules introduced by HMRC to combat tax avoidance.
Sole traders may be affected by IR35, depending on their employment status and working arrangements.

does ir35 apply to sole traders

As a sole trader in the United Kingdom, it’s important to understand the tax regulations and implications that may affect you, particularly in relation to the IR35 legislation. IR35 is a set of rules introduced by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) designed to combat tax avoidance by individuals who provide services to clients through an intermediary, such as a limited company, but who would be an employee if the intermediary was not used.

In this article, we will explore whether IR35 applies to sole traders and provide a comprehensive guide to help you understand the impact of IR35 on your business and your tax obligations.

Key Takeaways

  • IR35 is a set of tax rules introduced by HMRC to combat tax avoidance.
  • Sole traders may be affected by IR35, depending on their employment status and working arrangements.
  • It’s important for sole traders to understand their tax regulations and implications under IR35.
  • Compliance with IR35 can help to ensure that sole traders meet their tax obligations and avoid penalties.
  • Seeking professional advice can provide clarity on how IR35 affects your business and help you to take appropriate action.

Understanding IR35: Does IR35 Apply to Sole Traders

As of April 2021, the UK’s IR35 legislation has undergone some significant changes that affect sole traders in the private sector. The off-payroll working rules, which were previously applicable only to the public sector, now extend to the private sector as well.

IR35 is designed to determine the employment status of contractors, with the aim of preventing disguised employment and ensuring that contractors pay tax and national insurance contributions in a manner similar to regular employees. It is enforced by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and failure to comply with IR35 regulations can result in fines and penalties.

Under IR35, a contractor may be considered a disguised employee if their working arrangements resemble those of a regular employee. In this case, they would be subject to income tax and national insurance contributions in the same way as regular employees, even if they are operating through a limited company.

Umbrella companies are often used by contractors to manage their payroll and tax obligations when working under IR35, but this can come at a significant cost. Intermediaries legislation also applies to these companies, requiring them to deduct income tax and national insurance contributions from the contractor’s pay.

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When determining employment status for tax purposes, IR35 considers several factors, including the individual’s contractual terms, working arrangements, and level of control over their work. The changes introduced in April 2021 mean that medium and large private sector companies are now responsible for determining the IR35 status of their contractors.

Working inside IR35 means that the individual is deemed to be an employee and must pay income tax and national insurance contributions accordingly. Working outside IR35 means that the individual is operating as a genuine contractor and is not subject to these deductions. It is essential for sole traders affected by IR35 to understand their employment status and take steps to ensure compliance with tax regulations.

Considerations for Sole Traders and IR35 Compliance

Under IR35, it is crucial for sole traders to examine their current business structure to ensure they are compliant with the legislation. One option is for sole traders to set up a limited company, which may help them to fall outside the scope of IR35. However, this is not always feasible or desirable, so it is important to consider the other factors that determine IR35 status.

Tax and national insurance are important considerations for sole traders affected by IR35. If a sole trader is deemed to be an employee under IR35, they will be subject to PAYE income tax and national insurance contributions (NICs). However, if they are working outside IR35, they will be responsible for paying their own tax and NICs as self-employed individuals.

Employment status for tax purposes is a key factor in determining IR35 status. HMRC will assess whether a sole trader is genuinely in business on their own account or if they are a disguised employee. This will depend on a range of factors, including control, substitution, and mutuality of obligation.

It is important for sole traders to carefully consider their working practices to ensure they are distinguishing between working inside and outside IR35. Working practices should be consistent with the IR35 status determination, and sole traders should be able to demonstrate their compliance with the legislation.

Deemed employment under IR35 can lead to significant financial risks, so it may be worth considering IR35 insurance. This type of insurance can provide protection against the costs of an HMRC investigation or dispute.

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Factors to ConsiderInside IR35Outside IR35
ControlClient has control over how, when and where work is performedSole trader has autonomy over how, when and where work is performed
SubstitutionSole trader cannot provide a substitute to perform the workSole trader has the right to provide a substitute to perform the work
Mutuality of obligationClient may be obliged to provide work and sole trader must accept itNo obligation on either party to provide or accept work

Overall, sole traders must carefully consider their business structure, employment status, and working practices to ensure they are compliant with IR35 regulations. Seeking professional advice from an accountant, commercial lawyer or tax specialist may be beneficial to ensure they are meeting their obligations and avoiding financial risks.

Summary of IR35 and Its Impact on Sole Traders & Self-Employed

In summary, the applicability of IR35 to sole traders remains a complex issue. The regulations can affect contractors, company contractors, and disguised employees, making it relevant to sole traders working both inside and outside IR35. It is essential to recognise the implications of employment status for tax purposes for sole traders working under IR35. Sole traders affected by IR35 must distinguish between working inside and outside IR35 to ensure compliance. They should also consider the implications of being deemed an employee under IR35 and the potential need for IR35 insurance to mitigate risks. It is important to note that limited companies can offer some protection to sole traders from the IR35 regulations. However, they must still consider their tax and national insurance obligations. Overall, sole traders must understand the specific changes introduced in April 2021 that affect them in the private sector. They must also know the role of HMRC in enforcing IR35 regulations and the intermediaries legislation. By doing so, they can ensure they comply with the relevant tax regulations and avoid any penalties.

FAQ

Does IR35 apply to sole traders?

Yes, IR35 regulations apply to sole traders in the United Kingdom. Sole traders need to consider their employment status and ensure compliance with the tax regulations outlined in IR35 legislation.

What are the off-payroll working rules?

The off-payroll working rules, also known as IR35, determine the employment status of individuals working through intermediaries such as limited companies or umbrella companies. These rules aim to prevent disguised employment and ensure that individuals are paying the appropriate amount of taxes and national insurance contributions.

How does IR35 affect sole traders in the private sector?

Starting from April 2021, changes to IR35 legislation impact sole traders working in the private sector. These changes shift the responsibility for determining employment status from the sole trader to the end client or hirer. Sole traders need to be aware of these changes and understand how they may be deemed employees for tax purposes.

What should sole traders consider for IR35 compliance?

Sole traders should consider their business structure, working practices, and the possibility of being deemed an employee under IR35. They may need to assess whether their working relationship falls inside or outside IR35 and evaluate the need for IR35 insurance to mitigate potential risks.

Does IR35 affect sole traders working outside IR35?

Yes, IR35 regulations are relevant to sole traders regardless of whether they are working inside or outside IR35. It is crucial for sole traders to understand their employment status for tax purposes and ensure compliance with the relevant tax and national insurance obligations.

How does IR35 impact sole traders in relation to employment status for tax purposes?

IR35 regulations determine whether a sole trader should be deemed an employee for tax purposes. This assessment is based on factors such as control, substitution, and mutuality of obligation. Sole traders affected by IR35 may have their income tax and national insurance contributions calculated as if they were employees.

Is IR35 insurance necessary for sole traders?

IR35 insurance can provide financial protection for sole traders in case of an HMRC investigation or dispute regarding their IR35 status. It is advisable for sole traders to consider obtaining IR35 insurance to mitigate potential risks and uncertainties associated with their employment status.

What is the summary of IR35 and its impact on sole traders?

In summary, IR35 applies to sole traders, and they need to ensure compliance with the tax regulations. The off-payroll working rules determine the employment status of individuals working through intermediaries. Changes to IR35 in April 2021 affect sole traders in the private sector. Sole traders should consider their business structure, working practices, and the potential need for IR35 insurance. IR35 regulations are relevant regardless of whether the sole trader is working inside or outside IR35, and the employment status for tax purposes is an important consideration.

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Disclaimer: This document has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or financial advice. You should always seek independent professional advice and not rely on the content of this document as every individual circumstance is unique. Additionally, this document is not intended to prejudge the legal, financial or tax position of any person.

Disclaimer: This document has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or financial advice. You should always seek independent professional advice and not rely on the content of this document as every individual circumstance is unique. Additionally, this document is not intended to prejudge the legal, financial or tax position of any person.

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Get the specialist support you need

Whether you require specialised knowledge for your business or personal affairs, Gaffney Zoppi can support you.