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“Umbrella” companies are often set up by employment agencies to supply workers to end user clients. Many of these are compliant with the tax rules, but some use contrived arrangements that claim to allow agency workers and contractors to pay less tax on their earnings. HMRC have successfully challenged many of these arrangements.
HMRC view these arrangements as tax avoidance schemes that use disguised remuneration arrangements to pay the workers. The umbrella company might claim that a payment is non-taxable to try to avoid paying National Insurance contributions (NICs) – currently 15.05% for employers. The arrangements also purport to avoid employee NICs – currently 13.25% between £12,570 and £50,270 a year.
Using these non-compliant umbrella companies could leave the workers at risk of being involved in a tax avoidance scheme and owing HMRC the tax and NICs that should have been deducted.
Under PAYE regulations, employers have an obligation to deduct tax and NICs from employment income on workers’ behalf. However, where this does not happen, HMRC may recover the tax directly from the worker. For updated HMRC guidance see: Warning for agency workers and contractors employed by umbrella companies (Spotlight 60) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
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