One in 10 contractors out of work due to controversial tax changes

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One in ten highly skilled freelancers are currently out of work due to the impact of controversial reforms to IR35 tax legislation, according to new research.

A survey of more than 1,300 contractors in highly skilled roles found that 21% are not currently working, with half of them attributing this to the impact of reforms to IR35 tax rules.

Meanwhile, 55% of contractors said they had rejected an offer of work in the past 12 months due to it being deemed ‘inside IR35’ by the client. Furthermore, 24% said they intend to seek contracts overseas this year to escape the rules.

The survey, run annually by IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), tracks the impact of the IR35 changes – known as the ‘off-payroll working’ rules – on contractors.

Now in its second year, the survey shows that changes to the IR35 rules continue to impact hiring for skilled contract workers after being rolled out in the private sector in April 2021.

Read the report

Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s Policy Director, said: “Three years later, the off-payroll rules are still keeping thousands of highly skilled individuals out of work. It’s staggering that the Chancellor is happy for this to continue at a time when economic inactivity is one of his biggest concerns.

“Our findings show that contractors want to prioritise clients who are willing to hire them on a freelance basis, and happy to walk away from those who won’t – even if this means not working at all.

“The blame for this impasse doesn’t rest with clients – it rests with the culture of fear that is propagated by the IR35 rules. Having noted HMRC’s dogged determination to win high profile IR35 battles with TV stars – brushing off successive court defeats in the process – hirers are concluding that working with freelancers risks inviting too much hassle from the taxman.

“This is a damning legacy for a Chancellor who claims to be on the side of business. If he is serious about cutting inactivity and growing the economy, he would get round the table with those who dealing with the real-world impacts of these reforms and urgently address them.”

IR35 Hub

For 20 years, IPSE has been not only campaigning against IR35, but also advising contractors and the self-employed on how to navigate it. Learn more about IR35 and how it may affect you by visiting our IR35 Hub.



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IPSE is the leading association for contractors, consultants, interims, freelancers and the self-employed. We strive to bring our members the most comprehensive and useful range of information and services and all the latest news about what affects your business.