Umbrella Companies Future
Contractors are asking, now, about Umbrella Companies future after the Chancellor’s summer budget.
In the budget the Chancellor has taken away the ability of onshore umbrella companies to claim tax relief for contractors on travel and subsistence.
This was the main reason for contractors, inside IR35, to be in PAYE umbrella companies.
IR35 Tax and Contractor Umbrella Companies
Contractor umbrella companies sprung up in 1999 when the IR35 tax came onto the statute book.
Very few contractors actually pay the IR35 tax.
From memory, I think that the Government only collect around £12m a year from it which is a tiny amount. It was not worth creating a tax just for that amount of money.
However, what most contractors, who were inside IR35, did was to go into onshore umbrella companies.
Contractors Inside IR35
They paid more tax than their fellow contractors who were outside IR35 and continued to use limited companies.
However, because of the travel and subsistence expenses that their umbrella companies were able to claim on their behalf, for working away from their main office, they paid less than those contractors who paid their IR35 tax.
Estimates show that umbrella company contractors pay, on average, £10,000 a year more in tax than those who use limited companies. They pay around £20,000 a year more than those who are in offshore umbrella companies.
Estimates show that there are 200,000 UK contractors in umbrella companies. That means that the Chancellor gets £2 billion a year more tax than he used to get if those umbrella company contractors were still in limited companies.
Contractors group, IPSE, claimed that the IR35 tax was a failure because it only brought in £12m a year.
However, they forgot to point out this extra £2 billion a year that the Treasury has been getting from contractors who were inside IR35 but went into an umbrella company instead of paying the IR35 tax.
Travel and Subsistence Tax Relief
Estimates show that they could save around 5% of their income a year on tax relief on travel and subsistence expenses.
So, a contractor on £400 to £450 a day would save around £5,000 a year on tax and relief on travel and subsistence expenses.
So, UK contractors are £10,000 a year worse off in an umbrella company than they would be in a limited company.
However, they would have been £5,000 a year better off than someone paying IR35 or PAYE.
How it works is that umbrella companies disguise contractors as permanent staff. Indeed, they pay PAYE.
However, the umbrella companies passed on the tax relief for travel and subsistence expenses for working away from the umbrella company’s offices at client’s sites.
The Labour Government set up IR35 to stamp out the practice where companies laid off people on a Friday from their permanent jobs and started again as contractors doing the same job.
This was, of course, a ruse to save tax.
The Government saw these ‘contractors’ as disguised employees, which, essentially, they were.
However, the IR35 tax caught more than just those fake contractors it its net. It also caught contractors who had been contracting for years, using limited companies, in its net too.
However, the Labour Government saw the extra money it was pulling in and decided that they didn’t want to ‘fix’ it.
The Tories and UK Contractors
Now, the Conservative Government, who in opposition had pretended to be the ‘friend of contractors’ and who promised to ‘look at’ IR35 again on behalf of contractors if they got elected, have shown themselves to be much worse than New Labour. They were satisfied with the their creation of IR35.
The Conservatives did as they had promised and looked at IR35 again.
However, they decided that, if IR35 was abolished, there was a danger that umbrella company contractors would leave their umbrella companies and start up limited companies again.
Damn right they would have!
Who pays £10,000 a year extra tax when they don’t have to?
The government saw this as a bad thing, though.
It was a no-brainer. Whoever thought that, in times of austerity and Government debt that the Government would hand back £2 billion in tax to people earning a couple of grand a week.
Chancellor Strengthening IR35
However, Chancellor Osborne went even further. He said that he was going to STRENGTHEN IR35 and hired 36 new IR35 Compliance Officers based in Croydon, Edinburgh and Stretford to get more tax from contractors.
The assumption was that it was limited company contractors that he was gunning for.
Umbrella Companies future seemed secure.
Umbrella Company owners fondly imagined that HMRC were in favour of them.
After all, the Government decided to keep IR35 because of the threat of contractors leaving umbrella companies and setting up limited companies.
The Conservative Government must like Umbrella Companies then, right?
Rosy Umbrella Companies Future
Umbrella Companies future seemed rosy.
Umbrella Company owners fondly imagined that HMRC, the Chancellor and the Treasury looked kindly on them.
As one told us “HMRC would rather deal with, and legislate for, a few hundred umbrella companies rather than several hundred thousand contractors”.
The umbrella companies extracted PAYE from their contractors after deducting tax relief on travel and subsistence expenses and sent large cheques, monthly, to HMRC.
If those contractors were in limited companies, HMRC would only get the tax in dribs and drabs and would have to wait till well after their year-end to get it.
Therefore, the Government and HMRC were happy to allow contractors to get that 5% extra in tax relief, weren’t they? Umbrella Company operators saw this as a sop to them.
Onshore Umbrella Companies and Tax Avoidance
They, and their marketing directors, saw offshore umbrella companies as tax avoidance and those who used them as tax avoiders.
They turned their nose up at them.
A part of that was sour grapes, though, as they would have rather have had those contractors themselves.
They saw themselves as on the inside, on the side of right.
It turned out that the Chancellor saw Umbrella companies as tax avoidance too and those contractors who used them as tax avoiders.
How that must have stung!
Disguised Contractors and Tax Avoidance
They were kidding themselves. Whereas IR35 was set up to penalise disguised employees, umbrella companies were setting up disguised contractors, pretending that contractors, who had their own clients, were employees and paying PAYE tax for them.
It was a ruse – a device to avoid tax.
They may not like that but that’s how the Chancellor sees them and their brollies, as the budget showed.
Now, umbrella companies future does not look so rosy.
Umbrella Companies Unique Selling Point
So what is umbrella companies future?
The Chancellor has removed their Unique Selling Point.
Now, umbrella companies future is not rosy. It is hard to see it as a growth industry now.
Will contractors pay a fee to umbrella companies every month just so they will do their admin for them?
The answer is that some might.
With umbrella companies future looking bleak, others will decide that it isn’t worth their while. They may look at changing their working practices and contracts to see if they can operate through limited companies again.
Limited Company Contractors Attacked
However, the Chancellor has attacked limited company contractors too and has taken the travel and subsistence tax relief away from them as well.
He is also taxing their dividends to make it not worthwhile, any more, for limited company contractors to pay themselves in dividends rather than salary.
So what options do UK contractor have now?
What options has the Chancellor left untouched?
What are the umbrella company alternatives?
Offshore Umbrella Companies Option for UK Contractors
Besides limited companies, which are less lucrative for contractors now, there are two main options.
Firstly, there are offshore umbrella companies where contractors can get 85% returns on their money or more.
For more information, or to apply, you should click on Offshore Umbrella Companies List