Staffing bosses’ IR35 reform protest letter to Sajid Javid – in full

Following interest in the news that 14 agency bosses have written to the chancellor of the exchequer to urge a delay to IR35 reform, ContractorUK is publishing their letter in full:

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20 January 2020

Dear Chancellor,

Re: IR35 Review

We are writing to you as a matter of urgency to express concern about April's planned changes to IR35 rules, a move which 83 per cent of businesses say will negatively affect their industry.

Every day, firms in the recruitment industry place a million people into temporary and contract work. That makes recruiters experts when it comes to the world of work. We can see that this policy requires a far more extensive rethink than the limited review set up recently on the back of your commitment during the General Election campaign.

We agree that it is vital that people pay the right amount of tax, and that the system is fair. That is why we think you need to pause and think again on IR35 changes that risk poorer treatment of contractors and compliant companies losing out to those who bend the rules.

Our primary concern is that the effective regulation of umbrella companies government has promised will not be in place in time for April - creating huge opportunities for avoidance. At the same time, compliant companies won’t have enough time to understand all the legislation given the significant delays that have taken place. Through no fault of their own, they will have insufficient time to work with their clients to get the approach right. We are already seeing examples of projects being binned  and work taken offshore, damaging growth here - and ultimately, the tax take.

The roll out of the Loan Charge last year showed us what happens when badly designed changes are implemented. Government must be prudent and apply lessons from the loan charge to the IR35 reforms in the private sector. This is even more pertinent given the other significant legislative changes related to the Good Work Plan and Brexit which employers are already busy with.

Making any necessary changes in 2021 would give space for a more detailed review and also grant government sufficient time to implement any suggestions from it - including effective enforcement. The current timetable leaves only 17 working days between the publication of final legislation on March 11 and implementation on 6 April. 

You have our full commitment to working with you on getting this right. We have two main suggestions on how you might approach the issue.

Adopt an independent Chair and body to review 

As with the loan charge review, a review of the off payroll working rules in the private sector must be carried out independently, outside of HMRC. This would enhance the legitimacy of the government’s final position and win business confidence. Major businesses, including most of the banking sector, have already announced they will no longer engage contractors due to a lack of confidence in the legislation. That will just damage growth and productivity. Businesses need reassurance that the reforms will be fair and clear and not leave them vulnerable to unnecessary tax risks. 

Take on board lessons from the public sector implementation 

An assessment of the public sector reform and an analysis of the impact that changes could have on the private sector is fundamental to a genuine review of the private sector reforms. This impact assessment must cover the full tax compliance cycle which concludes in January 2020. There is much evidence which shows there are ongoing issues with the public sector reform. These problems need to be fixed before any changes can be implemented in the private sector. There is no point in creating difficulty in the private sector when it can be avoided through lessons learned in the public sector. 

The UK labour market has withstood tough times, however, it’s resilience should not be taken for granted. Pushing ahead with tax legislation without a considerable review of its impact could severely damage the economy, compliant firms, workers and the tax take.

We look forward to discussing this further.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Chris Moore

REC, Chair

  1. James Reed

Reed, Chairman

  1. Alex Fleming

Adecco, President

  1. Albert Ellis

Harvey Nash, Chief Executive

  1. Simon Winfield

Hays, Managing Director

  1. Julia Robertson

Impellam, Group Chief Executive Officer

  1. Mike Barnard

Independent Clinical Services, Chief Executive

  1. Mark Cahill

Manpower Group, Managing Director

  1. Ged Mason

Morson Group, Group Chief Executive

  1. Tim Cook

nGAGE, Group Chief Executive

  1. Jeremy McGrail

The Staffing Group, Managing Director

  1. Michael Smith

Randstad, Chief Executive Officer

  1. Chris Pullen

Staffline, Group Chief Executive Officer

  1. Andrew Sweeny

Best Connection Group, Chief Executive

  1. Tracy Evans

Pertemps, Group HR & Quality Director

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