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ESS Tool Deemed Untrustworthy

by Qdos Contractor

Qdos Contractor

85% of contractors do not trust ESS Tool just one month in Public sector IR35 changes were enforced on 6th April. Just one month in, and research into 1508 UK contractors by leading contractor tax advisor, Qdos Contractor, highlighted that 85% of UK contractors do not trust HMRC’s ESS Tool to make accurate decisions about the IR35 status of their public sector contracts.

When asked about the ESS Tool, contractor responses included:

“It’s in a constant state of flux. I understand the advantages of Agile delivery, but if ever there was an example of something that needed to be finished before it was released, this is it. How can I trust that a decision that the tool gives me today will still be valid tomorrow?”

“They keep tweaking it, which constantly moves the goalposts.”

“It might provide an indication but doesn’t take into consideration the unique circumstances of each contract.”

“Since it was introduced it has changed many times. It’s so difficult to get a definitive baseline. Not convinced.”

The regular changes to the tool seem to be of biggest concern to contractors using the tool. Despite the lack of faith in the ESS tool however, Qdos Contractor’s findings also include:

88% of public sector bodies and agencies have now contacted contractors, a 30.29% increase compared to before 6th April

62% of contractors have not seen any change to their IR35 status

Qdos Contractor CEO, Seb Maley, commented:

“That such a high proportion of contractors just don’t trust the very tool used by many public sector clients and agencies to determine their IR35 status is worrying. On release, the tool was found to give inconsistent results, and regular changes and on-the-go updates have hardly helped.

While the majority of contractors surveyed have not seen any change to their IR35 status, that isn’t to say any tweaks made to the ESS Tool going forward won’t change the initial decision. We’re noticing that contractors undertaking very similar projects are being given completely different results, along with some blanket decisions given to entire contractor workforces. Given how much rests on this, it’s important that a fair, accurate and proper test is carried out, with each case looked at individually.

That the vast majority of agencies and public sector employers have now contacted contractors about their IR35 changes is positive news. Clear, direct communication between the contractor, the public sector employer and – if involved – the agency can only improve the situation.”