Contractors at Risk in Ill-judged IR35 Crackdown

Thousands of UK contractors face an uncertain future ahead of new tax legislation coming into force, research by Brookson Legal has revealed. More than half of UK firms (59%) admit to considering taking a blanket approach to managing the legislation, because they don’t have the time to assess contractors individually.  In contrast, 41% wouldn’t consider taking this approach as they don’t want to wrongly assess any contractors for risk of losing them.

Ahead of new off-payroll working rules coming into force in the private sector in April 2020 and coinciding with HMRC’s consultation on the changes closing today (May 28th), Brookson Legal has published its IR35: A Ticking Timebomb report. Based on independent research of more than 500 medium and large-sized UK businesses that hire contractors, it reveals how lessons have not been learnt from the IR35 roll out in the public sector.

Just under three quarters (73%) of businesses agreed that IR35 will have an impact on the number of contractors they hire. Of these, 48% confirm that IR35 will encourage them to reduce the number of contractors they hire – resulting in thousands of contractors potentially losing out on work amongst 20,640* UK businesses. 39% of businesses expect there will be fewer contractors available.

Joe Tully, Managing Director of Brookson Legal, said: “Whilst it is heartening that many businesses wouldn’t consider taking a blanket approach to this legislation, the fact that 59% of UK businesses are actually considering doing this is shocking considering the well-publicised impact of this approach in the public sector.

“Businesses may see this blanket IR35 approach as a quick fix but it is anything but and should be avoided at all costs. Far from saving businesses time and money, this approach will lead to serious repercussions – leaving businesses wide open to increased cost, a wide-scale contractor talent drain, reputational damage, and, in some cases, accusations that they have broken the law.”

The Brookson Legal research also revealed:

  • 77% of businesses are concerned that all or some of their contractors previously not captured by IR35 will now be. 9% don’t know and 14% say they are not concerned.
  • 47% of businesses know their exposure to IR35 in terms of the proportion of contractors that will fall inside IR35 and have taken steps to understand their exposure/risk. In contrast, 38% are relying on a ‘gut feel’ of their exposure and 15% have no idea at all of their exposure/risk.
  • According to only 24% of respondents, IR35 won’t make any difference as contractors are vital for their businesses and 4% expect to be taking on more contractors in future regardless of IR35.

When asked what their biggest fears are with regards to IR35, the top three fears are:

  1. Losing skilled contractors – 33%
  2. Wrongly placing workers inside/outside the IR35 rules – 32%
  3. Increased costs – 32%

Only 9% of businesses don’t have any big fears when it comes to IR35.

Joe Tully concludes: “78% of businesses are already being asked questions about IR35 by their contractor workforce, and risk alienating and losing this workforce if they don’t have any answers. 41% of businesses are not considering taking a blanket approach and it is these businesses that will have the competitive advantage by showing that they are taking their IR35 obligations seriously.

“The new IR35 off-payroll rules come into force in April 2020 but the time for UK businesses to put their IR35 house in order is now. By undertaking proper audits, and seeking expert advice, businesses will be able to illustrate that they are taking ‘reasonable care’ with their IR35 assessments and will almost certainly find that the impact of IR35 is not as far-reaching as their own gut feeling leads them to believe.”

To find out more about the IR35: A Ticking Timebomb report: 

Download Here

Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact: Ellen Carroll, 07790631547 or Alex Lomax, 07885965421 at Speed Communications:

The Brookson Legal IR35 research was conducted by Censuswide. 502 decision makers were surveyed across multiple sectors in medium and large companies (50+ employees and with company turnover of £10.2 million or more) who hire contractors/freelancers in GB between 9th and 12th April 2019. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

*According to BEIS, Business Population Statistics, there are 43,000 medium and large-sized businesses in the UK (35,000 medium-sized and 8,000 large businesses). Taking this into account, by factoring in 48% of the medium and large-sized businesses we surveyed confirming that IR35 will encourage them to reduce the number of contractors they hire, a potential 20,640 UK businesses (medium and large) could reduce the number of contractors they hire. Please note, not all these business will have contractors in their workforce.

About Brookson Legal Services

Brookson Legal Services, the IR35 experts, is the only Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulated law firm that focuses on IR35.

Advising on IR35 since it was first introduced in 2000, Brookson Legal carries out thousands of employment status assessments each year. It works closely with hirers, recruiters, and contractors – providing impartial advice and IR35 expertise to help both the public and private sector understand its IR35 obligations, and mitigate risk, whilst maintaining all the benefits that a well-managed flexible workforce brings.

For more information on Brookson Legal visit