HM Revenue and Customs Brief 50/09
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Issued 06 August 2009
Temporary workers: The application of Tax, National insurance and National
minimum wage legislation
Who should read this?
- Those involved directly or indirectly in the provision
of temporary workers to end clients
- End user businesses provided with temporary workers
- Temporary workers
In the last two years HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have seen a growth in
arrangements which are variously described as 'Travel and Subsistence Schemes'
or 'Mobile Worker Schemes'. These schemes are operated by many businesses
involved in the supply of temporary workers to end users: Employment Businesses
and umbrella companies. The labour supply businesses seek to obtain a tax and
National Insurance advantage by the creation of a purported overarching
employment contract which is intended to enable temporary workers who would not
otherwise be entitled to tax relief on travel and subsistence expenses to gain
such tax relief.
These schemes often involve the use of salary sacrifice arrangements and rely
for their effectiveness on the fact that HMRC have issued a dispensation in
accordance with section 65 Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003.
In many cases such schemes are marketed to workers as representing a tax and
National Insurance saving for the worker. However, the major saving is not to
the worker, rather to the party who would bear the higher employer’s National
Insurance contributions costs if it were not for the arrangement.
Following responses to the July 2008 consultation 'Tax relief for travel
expenses: temporary workers and overarching employment contracts', HMRC
commenced compliance activity to identify and take action against those
Employment Businesses and umbrella companies which are operating in
contravention of tax, National Insurance or national minimum wage legislation.
Current compliance activity has identified a number of concerns that are the
subject of more detailed, ongoing investigation. These include:
- Potentially ineffective overarching employment contracts
- Dispensations which are invalid, or which have been wrongly applied
- Not complying with the terms of the dispensation
- “Expense payments” made tax-free without that level of expense, or in many
cases any expense, having been incurred
- Potential illegal deductions from workers’ pay
- Ineffective and sometimes unlawful management processes; and
- Breaches of national minimum wage
HMRC are working with other Government Departments, including the Department
for Business Innovation & Skills, and Authorities, particularly the Gangmasters
Licensing Authority, to identify businesses acting in contravention of
legislation and will penalise breaches of the law as they are identified. In
addition, HMRC are also working with end users of temporary labour to raise
their awareness of the consequences of sourcing their temporary workers from
businesses which act in contravention of the law.
HMRC are concerned that many lower paid workers being paid through such
schemes do not understand the arrangements and in many cases are given little
choice as to whether or not they are paid through such schemes. There are also
concerns about low paid workers in such schemes opting out of the Conduct of
Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 without fully
understanding the implications of what the opt-out means.
End user businesses which use temporary workers paid though Employment
Businesses and/or umbrella companies which do not fully comply with their
statutory obligations, clearly run a risk of damage to their reputation and
their business if HMRC takes action.
HMRC will continue to investigate and challenge non-compliant Employment
Businesses and umbrella companies and will report to ministers in due course on
the outcome of that action and the extent of issues being discovered. Ministers
will then be able to consider the extent to which compliance action is able to
address the undesirable effects of these schemes and whether further measures
Action you should take
If you have concerns regarding the minimum wage, your rights as an agency
worker or the working time directive, you can report these in confidence to the
Pay and Work Rights Helpline Tel 0800 917 2368
If you are concerned about other employment rights, you should contact
Acas Helpline Tel 08457 474747.
End user businesses:
HMRC produce a leaflet -
Use of Labour Providers: Advice on due diligence (PDF 110K), which you are
recommended to read.
If you have concerns about how a business in your labour supply chain may be
using these schemes, you can also provide details in confidence to HMRC by
Others operating in the temporary labour marker sector:
If you have concerns about how a business in the temporary labour market is
operating, you can also provide details in confidence to HMRC by emailing.
*Please note that we cannot guarantee the security of emails you send to us
or we send to you over the internet. Information sent by email over the internet
is not secure and is at risk of being intercepted and read by people other than
those it was intended for. Any information you send to us by email is at your
About the Author
© Crown Copyright 2009.
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educational / informational purposes only. Article reproduced by permission of
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updated regularly and may be out of date at time of reading.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-08-08 00:35:40 in Tax Articles