The collective fear for contractors ahead of this week’s spring statement from chancellor Phillip Hammond centred on more details being revealed about prospective IR35 reforms in the private sector.
It therefore came as something of a surprise that the subject wasn’t broached at all. Those who had feared that a clear, definite plan that would see reforms to IR35 in the private sector, giving power to the employer and causing havoc for contractors, may well have breathed a sigh of relief.
It didn’t take too long for the government to clarify the issue however. In a statement released the day after the spring statement, the government said that the review of IR35 was still planned and would be released ‘in the coming months’.
The government said that it would be producing a review of “Off-payroll working – a consultation on how to tackle non-compliance in the private sector, drawing on the experience of the public-sector reform.”
The government reiterated its intention to “work with businesses and individuals to mitigate potential administrative burdens of any future changes.”
Consultation coming - but when?
No real surprises there. But the vagueness around when said review will come out could be good news for contractors.
If the review were released in the next 2-3 months say, then there’s a fair chance that any reforms would be introduced for April 2019. But the fact the government isn’t committing to releasing any concrete plans that soon.
However, Hammond ignored the topic completely in the spring statement. This seems to hint at reforms not being at the immediate forefront of the government’s thoughts at present. It also hints towards any private sector IR35 changes being no earlier than April 2020.
There might be bigger fish to fry. Has the shiny disco ball that is targeting online retailers for the tax they owe come more to the front? Or perhaps the government may be starting to heed some of the vociferous opposition that the reforms have faced.
Could the delay be because Hammond and his cronies are beginning to realise that the UK’s contractor workforce won’t just sit there and let the reforms ruin their positive impact on the private sector the way they have in the public sector? It’s plausible. Unfortunately only time will tell.
What’s certain is that vociferous opposition will only get louder. Certainly so if it looks like the government is moving in the direction of reforms. Fingers remain crossed for the long list of reasons not to reform IR35 in the private sector - we'll see...