12 June 2023

HM Treasury, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) have been working heard to understand the umbrella company sector. This market has received a lot of bad press with disguised remuneration schemes becoming prolific after the introduction of off-payroll working rules. However, it is important to understand that using an umbrella company to engage workers is an appropriate method if the company is acting compliantly. Government bodies have been collecting information to allow them to tackle the unscrupulous companies, without being a burden to those who act compliantly.

The government response to the call for evidence: umbrella company market has been published.

The response explores the role of the umbrella company market, from the point of view of employers, employees and the umbrella companies. With the advantages and disadvantages for each being very different, all angles need to be considered.

With regards to employment rights and non-compliance, the response found that the main tool the market uses to tackle issues is ‘preferred supplier lists’. This is contentious as it can lead to employees needing to engage with different umbrella companies for different jobs and can remove an individual’s choice of company to engage with. Businesses tend to prefer their use as it reduces the burden of completing due diligence on each different company and allows a relationship to be built between hem and the umbrella company.

Along side this response, a new consultation has been released: tackling non-compliance in the umbrella company market. The consultation closes at 11.59pm on 29 August 2023.

The consultation explores implementing umbrella company standards, how to enforce them and who they apply to. Defining what an umbrella company is must be the first step to understand how the standards can be fairly and appropriately applied.

Further to this, targeted options to combat tax non-compliance in the industry are put forward. These include mandating due diligence, transferring tax debt to others in the supply chain and making the employment companies responsible for operating PAYE. VAT flat rate schemes and the employment allowance are also under the microscope due to mini umbrella company fraud.

At 52 questions, this is a large consultation, fully weighing up the benefits and risks of the options proposed. If you are in the sector, or regularly engage with umbrella companies, we encourage you to dive deeper and consider responding to the consultation.

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