The start of the tax year saw changes to the way some contractors pay tax under ‘IR35’ rules, and they are not without controversy.
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) describes the IR35 changes as a “disaster” in the public sector, and claims they are already proving to be “just as devastating” in the private sector.
Under IR35, also known as off-payroll working rules, contractors who would have been an employee if they were providing services directly to a client, pay broadly the same income tax and National Insurance contributions as employees.
Besides tax implications, the IR35 rules are having an impact on some mortgage applications.
And Mortgage Vision director Alan Overy remarks that with the reviews to IR35, an extra layer of scrutiny is necessary to establish if a person is “really an employee or is working for themselves as a true contractor”.
“Each lender will apply their own criteria and tests but it mainly boils down to how the individual pays their tax and the level of autonomy they have from the company in terms of their hours and location,” Overy adds.
Halifax for example, treats contractors as employed for income verification purposes if tax is paid by the company they work for, or they are employed via an umbrella company who deduct tax.
Alternatively, contractors can be treated by the lender as employed if they earn more than £500 a day or £75,000 a year, or are an IT contractor on any income, irrespective of whether they pay their own tax or class themselves as self-employed, with exceptions.
Mortgage Broker Tools’ chief executive Tanya Toumadj remarks that the changes could limit affordability based on income and structure.
“For contractors, previously lenders would take the day rate and turn it into a gross annual amount, using an assumption on the number of weeks' work, usually 46 weeks.
“Now... the umbrella company will be [deducting] the tax and therefore affordability would decrease.”
As Qdos Contractor explains, umbrella companies act as a middleman and provide a payroll service to contractors. Additionally, some clients may require any contractors that come under IR35 rules to use an umbrella company.
An April survey by Qdos of contractors’ experience of IR35 reform found most (64 per cent) were given the option to continue working via an umbrella company.
When it comes to applying for a mortgage, Accord’s Alvarez observes how lenders’ requirements differ on the treatment of contractors.
“Some lenders will accept contractors, some won’t, and some will accept them under certain circumstances. And they have different requirements about how long somebody needs to have been in that type of work and what evidence they have to support that income,” says Alvarez.
According to Chris Sykes, an associate director and mortgage consultant at Private Finance, many lenders require a client to have one to two years’ experience of contracting under an umbrella company arrangement, even if they were to have years of contracting experience through different structures, treating them more like a newly self-employed individual.