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Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999

Background

Section 75 provides for a new power to counter the risk of avoidance of National Insurance contributions where an individual (the worker) provides personal services through an intermediary. It is intended that the provisions in this Act will be matched by tax legislation that will, in specified circumstances, require the intermediary to operate Pay As You Earn (PAYE) on the payments made to, or in respect of, the worker. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget that these measures would take effect from 6 April 2000. Consequently, the regulations to be made under Section 75 will come into force from that date. Equivalent provisions for Northern Ireland are contained in Section 76.

Section 75 concerns the situation where the worker is engaged by a business (the client) through a third party (such as a service company). In the absence of such a third party, the relationship between a client and a worker would determine the employment status for the purposes of both tax and National Insurance. Liability would then be assessed according to whether the person was employed or self-employed. However, where a worker is engaged through one or more third parties, it is possible to escape any direct contractual relationship between client and worker. This provides scope for the avoidance of tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs).

The powers in section 75 are intended to deal with the situation where the relationship between a client and a worker would be one of employer and employee, but for the intermediary. They provide for a specified amount of the payments made in respect of the worker to be treated as earnings paid to an employee – and therefore liable for NICs. Regulations under the section will ensure that specified amounts will be regarded as paid to the worker for the purposes of primary Class 1 NICs and the intermediary will be liable for the corresponding secondary Class 1 NICs. The regulations will identify how the amount to be treated as earnings paid to the worker will be calculated.

In order to minimise the administrative burden, the Chancellor announced that certain details of the new rules would only be finalised after discussion with representative bodies. An outline of the proposed new rules was circulated to those who had expressed an interest in this measure and there have been a number of discussions with business representatives on the original proposals.

In the light of this consultation, the Paymaster General announced various changes to the proposal on 23 September 1999. The main changes were:

  • to make the intermediary rather than the client responsible for operating the new rules and deducting and accounting for NICs where required;

  • to ensure that the conventional test used to distinguish between employment and self-employment for individuals not using intermediaries would also apply in cases covered by the new legislation; and

  • to allow a deduction for certain expenses in determining the amount of money which is to be treated as earnings subject to Class 1 contributions in cases where the new rules apply.

These new proposals are reflected in the section.

Section 75 will enable NICs regulations to take effect at the same time as the proposed new tax rules without the need for retrospection. It sets out the general powers on the face of the Act and allows for the technical detail to be contained in regulations. This approach is consistent with current social security legislation.

For example, section 4(6) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 enables regulations to be made for the purpose of treating as earnings certain forms of employee shares (conditional and convertible shares) and the Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 1979 (S.I. 1979/591) (“the Contributions Regulations”) provide all the consequential technical detail. Regulation 18 of the Contributions Regulations provides the basis on which the amount of earnings comprised in a payment of conditional or convertible shares is to be ascertained and regulation 19 provides when such shares are to be disregarded from earnings. This section takes the same approach, which also has the advantage that it provides the flexibility to enable changes to be made more easily should the parallel tax provisions or business practice change in the future.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.

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