HMRC’s Farcical Report Into Public Sector Off-Payroll Reforms

A farcical research report has been published by HMRC which aims to consider the longer-term impact of the public sector off-payroll reforms which came into effect in 2017.  The research only looks at the effect the reforms had on public authorities, i.e. without looking at the bigger picture impact on the contracting profession and the individuals directly affected.

Some of the findings make for interesting reading, including:

1. There was no detrimental impact! A  direct contradiction to the numerous reports of contractor shortages and project delays at the time.

“The majority of sites and central bodies found no change in their ability to fill contractor vacancies.  However, a fifth of sites (19%) and a third of central bodies (34%) reported it had been more difficult to fill contractor vacancies since April 2017. These proportions were not significantly different to what was found in the 2017 study, showing no additional impact on public authorities in filling contractor vacancies since 2017.”


2. Reforms were easy to comply with!

“The majority of sites (63%) felt it had been easy to comply with the 2017 reforms to off-payroll working. Central bodies were more evenly split with around half (53%) saying it had been difficult, and slightly fewer (46%) saying it had been easy.”


3. Contrary to the experience of thousands, there were no blanket bans!

The majority of sites (88%) and central bodies (89%) assessed contracts on a case-by-case basis, while around three in ten used role-based determinations (sites: 31%, central bodies: 31%). Only 1% of central bodies and sites determined all contracts to be inside the rules without carrying out a formal assessment, also known as blanket determinations.


4. The CEST tool works and is easy to use! But this report fails to consider whether CEST is actually being used correctly, or if HMRC will fine them at a later date for inaccuracies!

“Among those that said it was easy to comply, the most common reason was that the CEST tool made assessments quick and easy (sites: 29%, central bodies: 27%).


The report has already sparked outrage amongst the contracting community on social media, which is not surprising because so many of it’s findings seem to bear no resemblance to the direct experience of most professional contractors affected.

The research remit was restricted to simply considering the impact on public sector, but notwithstanding it seems incredible that we are expected to believe that the IR35 reforms had very little impact despite the considerable wealth of evidence suggesting the opposite.  It really is a farce that is not representative of what actually happened.

You can read it for yourself here:


(Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash)

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