HRMC briefing on how to avoid IR35 penalties

Published on: 18/02/2021


Prefer to listen? Then check out our Podcast: How to avoid IR35 penalties

On 15 February 2021 HMRC published its policy paper explaining how it intends to help and support organisations which must comply with changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35). The IR35 rules will apply to all medium and large sized businesses in the private sector with a UK connection from 6 April 2021.   The policy paper sets out HMRC’s compliance principles and when HMRC is likely to investigate suspected tax avoidance. It contains examples and helpful links to further HMRC guidance.     

HMRC clearly recognises the complexities faced by organisations now having to prepare for  IR35 rules.  It promises to help “customers trying to do the right thing” and work with those who make genuine mistakes about the employment status of the individuals they contract with through personal service companies. HMRC has reiterated its pledge that in the first 12 months it will not impose any penalties for inaccurate status determination statements, providing  that ‘all reasonable care’ has been taken.  This penalties exemption will not apply where there is deliberate non-compliance or fraud.

While this supportive compliance regime is to be welcomed businesses should not be complacent. Genuine mistakes will not be penalised but they may not be forgotten either. If HMRC identifies mistakes in the way a business has applied the off-payroll working rules HMRC will expect it to ‘self-correct’. And HMRC may do follow-up checks by reviewing available data such PAYE Real Time Information (‘RTI’).

If a business agrees to correct a mistake by changing a contractor’s status determination, HMRC may check that tax and NICs have been accounted for. If a business agrees to update the client-led status disagreement processes, HMRC may contact them to check that the new process meets the requirements of the legislation.

HMRC says that it will (as opposed to may) follow up business to confirm they become compliant and pay taxes that are due if they identify that the business:

  • Didn’t take the opportunity to correct mistakes
  • Are continuing to make mistakes
  • Are making new mistakes

Read the full policy paper HMRC issue briefing: supporting organisations to comply with changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35) - GOV.UK 

Download our FaQ  How to prepare for IR35 tax rules this April 

If you would like further assistance on the many challenging issues around IR35,  please contact us on 0118 958 5321 or email


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional and legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.