OTS report: tax implications of changing working practices

22 December 2022

The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) has released a report of the evidence collected on the tax complexities driven by hybrid working, including for periods where employees choose to work overseas.

With hybrid working here to stay, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) surveys suggest that about 40% of the workforce can work from home and the evidence is that many are splitting their working time between home and office-based working.

The task to review this field is not simple, however an OTS review can be a preliminary process that may inspire the Government to make reforms. The OTS’s work considered employers of all sizes, both UK and overseas based, and their employees.

The key findings from the report were:

  • businesses see hybrid working as here to stay and are planning accordingly – although many suggested that the approach to different ways of working will continue to develop

  • offering employees the ability to work some of the time at home in the UK is almost universal

  • employers call for a review of the expense and benefits systems, where many concepts are tied to more traditional ways of working. Adding additional tax reliefs would have a significant exchequer cost – but new ways of working present the opportunity to reconsider the approach to employee tax reliefs

  • as well as the government considering policy change, respondents asked for HMRC to improve guidance to help both employers and employees; at present there is limited guidance on hybrid working

  • working abroad for short periods is not taken up by many employees, but still seen by many employers as a crucial business policy to attract and retain staff. Businesses are also permitting a small number of individuals to live and work overseas on a long-term basis whilst the benefit of their services is mainly received in a different country

  • the social security and payroll implications of cross-border working are already complex, and these and the UK’s position on issues such as taxable presence for the business (permanent establishment) were seen by businesses as unclear where the staff are the ones choosing to work overseas for short periods

  • on both cross-border payroll and social security issues businesses want to see improved HMRC processes, turnaround times, more PAYE relaxations and better guidance​

  • multinational businesses want to see the UK taking a lead on how permanent establishment and transfer pricing interact with staff who choose to work overseas on for personal reasons and longer term, and where possible, businesses would like the UK to set out unilateral guidelines that can be clearly understood.

The CIPP held a think tank with the OTS and our members to get their feedback. This evidence was greatly appreciated and provided the OTS with qualitative views on the current systems and how they could be changed. We open up think tanks to full, chartered and fellow members, keep an eye out for emails about future events with government agencies and have your say on key issues.

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