IR35 Guide: Contract Review Options

A definitive answer on your IR35 is always going to be tricky. It’s difficult to get a 100% cast iron guarantee that IR35 doesn't apply and responsibility rests with the worker. There are several routes open to you:

  1. Ask us what we think. As part of our normal watching-your-back-stuff we’re interested to talk to you about new contracts as you get them, and let you know if we think you need specialist advice.IR35 - disguised employment
  2. HMRC offer an IR35 assessment service. You can write to, or email, the IR35 unit to get an opinion on an existing contract; if you're fairly confident and want to be sure then this might be the thing to do. Although the written contract is important, HMRC will wish to establish the underlying working arrangements – this often means contacting the End Client. Be careful, as if you disagree with the decision, then challenging HMRC might mean visits to the Commissioners or even the law courts. Many freelancers decide the HMRC option is a bit like driving home late at night, pulling over to wave down a police car, and asking them to check whether the tread on your tires looks OK.
  3. Form your own opinion. Review your contract and come to your own decision on self-employment. Make sure you've documented all the reasons for your conclusions. Joining a group like IPSE entitles you to legal support through any investigations.
  4. Get legal advice. Some specialist legal firms offer an assessment service. You’ll usually have to pay around £150-£200 for a contract review - perhaps more for a package including insurance. Ultimately, any legal assessment relies heavily on the answers you provide related to actual working arrangements. A positive assessment should provide peace of mind and, so long as your responses are honest, there is the benefit of some serious legal backup if HMRC challenge the assessment. We'll happily pass on contact details of advisors our other clients recommend.

Remember, HMRC are interested in the genuine working arrangements as well as what the contract says; however, the contract itself remains the most significant indicator of IR35 status.