Contractors most concerned about impact of IR35 reform in 2022
Despite confidence in the economy returning since the easing of Covid restrictions, IR35 reform, which came into force in April last year, remains the stand-out concern for contractors.
A survey of more than 1,200 contractors by insurance firm Qdos found that three in five (61%) see IR35 as the “biggest threat” to working this way in 2022.
This is more than ten times the number of contractors who see Covid (6%) or Brexit (6%) as the biggest concern. The incoming increase to dividend tax was earmarked as the second biggest difficulty for this sector.
According to research by IPSE, the freelance sector contributes £303bn to the economy annually. However, changes to IR35 – which have seen the responsibility for determining tax status shift from the contractor to the business engaging them –were found to have a big impact on contractors’ income.
Reform driving people out of contracting
IPSE’s survey, which echoes Qdos’ findings, revealed that seven in 10 (70.9%) independent workers believe IR35 to be the most “detrimental” factor on their financial wellbeing.
Andy Chamberlain, head of policy at the self-employment trade body, said: “While newspapers and news programmes are filled with analysis on the pandemic, inflation and the planned rise in National Insurance, today’s research shows that there is one forgotten crisis that has been even more economically damaging to many of those who work for themselves: IR35.
“The changes to IR35 last year have had a devastating impact, with thousands leaving contract work altogether.”
In fact, a study published by IPSE showed that the number of solo self-employed people in the UK fell by five per cent in 2021 – the figure now stands at 4.1 million compared to 4.3 million in 2020.
Chamberlain added: “While it is positive to see research today on IR35, there needs to be more attention from the press and by the government to solve the issues around the flawed reform.
IR35 creates ‘plethora of challenges’ for contractors
“Put simply, without media and industry pressure and a governmental review, the changes to IR35 will continue to burden the whole supply chain – making it increasingly difficult for freelancers to make a living and for UK companies to source the flexible expertise they need to get projects done.”
Seb Maley, CEO at Qdos, said that while some businesses are starting to take a more “fair and pragmatic” approach, IR35 reform has still created a “plethora of challenges” for contractors, which is “jeopardising this way of working.”
“The fact that contractors still see IR35 as the stand-out threat in 2022 – and by some distance – tells you everything you need to know about the journey ahead, along with the progress that needs to be made this year.
“[…] Far too many businesses are insisting that contractors work on the payroll, regardless of their true IR35 status. Not only will this see businesses struggle to attract the flexible talent they need to recover from the pandemic, but forcing genuinely self-employed people onto the payroll will also result in significant and needless cost rises.”
What does this mean for contractors?
Omicron uncertainty and the challenges brought on by IR35 have made life difficult for contractors already this year. And until the government step in or businesses get to grips with the reform, the issues around IR35 could continue for some time.
With this in mind, it’s vital that contractors carry out their own diligence regarding IR35 compliance. And given HMRC can launch investigations retrospectively – to when contractors held the liability – independent workers are advised to hold IR35 defence insurance, which helps mitigate the risks presented by this complex and controversial legislation.