IR35 reform victims launch Self-Employed Alliance (SEA), to combat ‘zero-rights’ employment

A new, militant-sounding contractor campaign “force” set up specifically for limited company workers who are banned or blanket assessed under IR35 reform is calling its first members to enlist.

The Self-Employed Alliance (SEA) says it will be fighting on behalf of “largely undefended” contractors to “halt” the April reform, pending a “radical rethink” by government to end the “War on Contracting.”

Taking aim at what it says amounts to HMRC’s reform mantra, ‘Same Role, Same Tax;’ the SEA says its mantra (when demonstrating in Westminster and beyond) will be; ‘Same Work, Same Tax, Same Rights.’

'Zero-Rights Employment'

Speaking later today, the campaign force will say that the reform is unjust because it is being used to tax bonafide contractors as employees, but without giving them any of the rights of employees.

“These workers have no security or rights, no protection from unfair dismissal. And as with all businesses, they often shoulder risk,” says SEA’s chairman Dr Iain Campbell.

“So the off-payroll rules introduce a new era of ‘zero-rights’ employment for tax purposes.

“Worryingly, there is in principle no reason why clients could not use this situation to undermine a century of workers’ rights progress, by doing this [blanketing en masse].”

'Modern, lightweight'

On its website, SEA says it wants to work with MPs and other IR35 reform critics to be a “modern, lightweight” group, “supporting each other” to address Rishi Sunak with one voice.

But ahead of the new chancellor’s Budget 2020 this coming Wednesday, the alliance believes there are other ‘injustices’ which Mr Sunak must address as well.

“As the count of blanketing clients and small businesses set to be destroyed by IR35 rises ever more,” the SEA says, “[contractors are also] dismayed by the way the government has sidestepped [the previous] erstwhile Chancellor Sajid Javid’s election promise of a review of IR35.

“Restricting the scope to implementation only…[and] allowing HMRC to run it [while] having important bodies…excluded from roundtables [were reprehensible decisions].”

'HMRC lauding itself'

Speaking to ContractorUK last night, Dr Campbell suggested that the Revenue’s involvement – and reaction -- to the off-payroll review was the tipping point that brought about the SEA.

“The sight of HMRC lauding itself over a farcical review of IR35 implementation which places all of the important questions out of scope, highlights the urgent need for reinforcements in the ‘War on Contracting.’”

He also said: “The self-employed now need a strong lobbying force to coordinate their activity, put boots on the ground in Westminster, and have our voice heard through Whitehall and on the airwaves.”

'Potential litigation options'

The legal head of the SEA, Stephen Mhiribidi, said a fully independent investigation into IR35 reform was now needed.

This indicates that the alliance won’t just be fighting, but will be listening too.

“We are committed to exploring both legal and political remedies for SEA Members,” Mr Mhiribidi said.

“And will use membership funds to actively explore potential litigation options against clients and fee-payers who engage in unlawful behaviour [in relation to April’s IR35 rules].”

Online, the contractor-led organisation called out: “More than ever we are under attack due to the government’s War on Contracting. If this is you [under attack], please stand up, for united we are strong. We are committed to bringing about a SEA Change for the Self-Employed.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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