HMRC quietly publishes IR35 Forum minutes from August 2019, in February 2020
The taxman says there has been no negative reaction to letters he sent to engagers warning about the off-payroll rules making them liable for IR35 from April 6h.
In an unusual disclosure, HMRC used the latest IR35 Forum meeting (for which minutes are available) to say an initial batch of 2,000 letters to “raise awareness” had been well-received.
Referring also to IR35 factsheets offering “further assistance,” the minutes say HMRC “reassured members there had not been a negative reaction to receiving these letters.”
Yet there was a negative reaction last night. “HMRC has finally published the forum minutes, but not announced them anywhere,” an adviser said. “No wonder -- they’re six months late.”
'Why was it necessary to wait?'
ContractorUK understands that the delay is down to errors in the original draft of the minutes which HMRC initially failed to correct but, upon members’ insistence, eventually did.
It is not the first time HMRC has had to reword the forum’s minutes because of its’ industry members’ insistence that what officials recorded took place, or was said, didn’t, or wasn’t.
But delays by the taxman, or just the sheer amount of time it can take him to act, were flagged up at this August 2019 meeting, the minutes from which went live on Wednesday.
In fact, at the summer face-to-face, the “members asked [HMRC] why it was necessary to wait until November” for educational letters on IR35 reform to be sent to “agencies and recruiters.”
'Resources by November'
According to the minutes, HMRC’s reply was that only “by November,” would “necessary resources” be in place to deal with enquiries that the agency-targeted letters would generate.
But to this, the reaction from forum industry members like IPSE and FCSA was such that HMRC agreed to “consider” bringing forward the November exercise, the minutes add.
If HMRC did make such a consideration, it did not act on it -- not before November, in November, or indeed any time since, according to one contractor jobs agency.
'Not heard a dicky-bird from HMRC'
“We’ve not heard a dicky-bird out of the Revenue. We didn’t have any communication from HMRC in November or any time prior,” said Bowers Partnership.
The agency’s founder Natalie Bowers added: “In fact, we haven’t heard from HMRC at all. We’ve been left to self-educate and to make arrangements on a best-guess basis.”
“Given that we have no authority over the SDS, and full liability post April 6th 2020, you would have thought that we would have been at least on the ‘CC’ list for any emailed ‘Education and Support’ package from HMRC.”
'They didn't say anything we didn't already know'
However, another agency was on that list, and was contacted by the Revenue before November 2019.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the agency said. "Yes we were contacted by HMRC before last November.
"We met with them [too], but they didn’t have anything to say that we didn’t already know."
More successfully, an HMRC letter entitled “Off-Payroll Working Rules due to be implemented from April 2020,” was received last month by a company on the radar of HMRC’s ‘Wealthy/Mid-sized business’ unit.
'Icing on the cake'
But according to the recipient’s tax advisory HQ35 Ltd, the company isn’t even affected by the April 2020 framework -- not even remotely.
“HMRC’s letters are supposed to be going to businesses prospectively caught by the new rules, but this particular firm satisfies all of the ‘small company’ criteria , making it exempt,” HQ35 says.
The advisory added: “And the icing on this particular cake? The firm doesn’t even have any engagements with PSCs. This really chimes with the overall feeling of huge doubt that this legislation, and HMRC as its overseer, is ready, well-prepared and not haphazard.”