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Ensure your contract keeps you out of IR35

What can contractors and freelancers learn from HRMC’s win against Sky Sports presenter Alan Parry? Here are tips to make sure you stay out of IR35.

Earlier this month Sky Sports pundit Alan Parry lost his IR35 appeal against HM Revenue & Customs over a £356,000 tax bill. The football commentator, 74, contested an HMRC claim that the contract held between his own company, Alan Parry Productions Ltd, and BskyB over the five years to April 2019, amounted to an employee relationship, rather than self-employment.

Under IR35 rules, a set of tax laws which govern off-payroll freelancers, if a contractor is deemed to be a “disguised employee” for tax purposes, and not genuinely self-employed, they must pay PAYE and national insurance contributions.

HMRC’s IR35 win came down to how tightly worded Parry’s contract was, giving BskyB more control than it needed, according to Parry’s lawyer Chris Leslie.

Commenting on the case, Dave Chaplin, chief executive of tax compliance firm IR35 Shield, told the Financial Times that contractors and employers should be aware that “the contract is king”.

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What the Alan Parry case means for freelancers
HMRC’s win against Alan Parry will no doubt be uncomfortable reading for freelancers. Once again it brings into sharp focus, HMRC’s intent on tax equality and its use of the off-payroll rules. While a fair tax system is a good thing, the legalities are difficult to navigate.

If there is one thing to learn, it’s that you must also take responsibility for managing a status determination of inside or outside IR35 yourself and avoid any reason for doubt in the contract. Quoting Chris Leslie, the lawyer who represented Parry, Parry’s contract contained ambiguity which gave Sky “more control than was needed or wanted”.

This word “control” should be the biggest learning from this. You must ensure you are the controlling party, not the hirer, so take responsibility for generating a contract to reflect it. As the Parry case shows, standard company contracts won’t work when it comes to IR35.

Instead, they must reflect the work you will undertake, how you will do it – e.g. with your own equipment in your own working hours, and that you have the right to substitute yourself for another professional.

Substitution clauses are a helpful way to show you are operating as a business and not as a quasi-employee, as Lorraine Kelly successfully argued when she proved she was instrumental in determining who covered for her when she was on holiday.

Here are some other things you can do to ensure you stay the right side of the law:

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Recognise that off-payroll represents a risk to a client
They want and need to get it right, because they don’t want a tax bill for getting it wrong. It’s true that when off-payroll first came into the private sector, there were some companies that were so concerned about getting determinations wrong that they banned contractors altogether. The world has moved on, as the impact of not having access to flexible contingent skill hit home.

Despite seeing some blanket use of inside IR35 contracts to manage the risk, it’s starting to become the anomaly.

Overall, the decision to engage contractors and freelancers has been good news not just because it opens options for work, but because it’s highly likely that a company will be ready to discuss the arrangement and create a contract which clearly falls outside IR35. But you need to be informed to do this and understand the nuances of the legislation.

There are three specifics to prioritise:

Mutuality of obligation
People who get a contract right are using statement of works to set out exactly what they will do by when. This also meets another HMRC test called “mutuality of obligation” (MoO) whereby you show that you are not like an employee and paid simply for being at your client’s disposal, instead you are paid to deliver a specific piece of work.

Overall, being savvy about how MoO helps determine a status will help you get into a position where you can confidently negotiate – there’s evidence that the more informed you are, the more likely you will secure an outside status determination which will hold with HMRC.

Many self-employed professionals find it helpful to undertake their own assessment of all the rules first, so they can adjust their approach to working with a client and create a watertight seal.

Understand being in business on your own account
In the high-profile Kaye Adams case, Kaye demonstrated that she was in business on her own account, and this was pivotal to being deemed outside IR35. Things that will help you show this are to have multiple concurrent clients, a dedicated office, and even employees.

Show you are not part and parcel of the organisation
Working practices are critical to compliance. If you behave like an employee, then you will be treated like one, giving HMRC more justification.

Get in touch with us today to speak with a specialist Contractor Mortgage Advisor.

Quick wins to stay out of IR35

Quick wins to avoid scrutiny are:

  • Develop a brand, and have a dedicated website and social media presence
  • Trademark your company name
  • Invest in your own phone, computing equipment, printer etc
  • Invest in yourself through training and memberships to professional bodies
  • Ensure you have things like professional indemnity and liability insurance.

Things to avoid to stay out of IR35

For all the do’s there are also a lot of do nots. Here are just a few of the things that can get you into hot water:

  • Going to company training and social events
  • Getting involved in appraisals or any HR matters
  • Accepting performance bonuses open to employees, or take advantage of things like gym memberships
  • Being misrepresented as an employee – make sure it’s clear you are a contractor or associate on your ID badge, email address and org charts
  • Taking on new work before you have adjusted the terms of the existing contract
  • Taking days off with permission – you should inform your client you’re not available
  • Working the same working pattern as staff

These things combined with knowledge and understanding, and following good practices and behaviours, will stand you in good stead when it comes to running an IR35 status assessment with a client. The way you conduct business and engage with them should be clear and correlate to an outside determination.

James Poyser is CEO of inniAccounts and founder of OffPayroll.org.uk

By James Poyser

Source: Small Business

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Contractors at risk of being taken in by bogus badges from ‘sham’ accreditation outfits

Contractors must start double-checking the badges that umbrella companies display on their website, experts are appealing to readers of ContractorUK.

The advice to check that the provider’s badge is a stamp of approval from a genuine, verifiable accreditation body featured in a new umbrella company checklist for contractors.

But an avoidance scheme blacklisted by HMRC – Peak PAYE Ltd — has since been observed using a badge emblazoned with ‘The Institute of Freelancing & Contracting Professionals.’

The institute describes itself as: “The UK’s most prominent professional membership association; promoting compliance, maintaining standards, and certifying the UK’s leading umbrella companies, contractor accountants, and payroll providers for freelancing contractor professionals.”

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‘Accreditation from unverified parties’
But established in 1999 and visible lobbyist against IR35 ever since, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed has never heard of the institute.

“IPSE has not been previously aware of ‘IFCP’ and is not therefore in position to verify its legitimacy, or otherwise,” says a cautious Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s policy director.

He further told ContractorUK: “We…advise contractors to take great care when choosing a provider. We would also add that contractors should be wary of any claims of accreditation from unverified parties.”

‘Unconvincing attempt to provide a veil of legitimacy’
Attempts to verify the institute’s legitimacy are complicated by the institute itself however, as it also calls itself, ‘The Society for Professional Freelance Contractors and their Associates.’

Its website has a third name, ‘Independent of Freelancing and Contracting Professionals,’ and a fourth (minus the “of ” blooper), ‘Independent Freelancing and Contracting Professionals.’

A long-standing adviser to the self-employed has heard enough.

“This is fairly obviously a very unconvincing attempt to provide a veil of legitimacy to at least one non-compliant operator,” said the adviser.

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‘Sham organisation’
Declining to be named the adviser added: “I [have been advising the self-employed for 12 years] and don’t know of anyone who works [at the IFCP].

“And as far as I can [see]…no evidence of them [exists] on Companies House, and even their ‘links’ to their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles don’t actually take you anywhere. It’s a sham organisation – so contractors beware.”

Also having tried to run some checks on the IFCP is WTT Consulting – an HMRC dispute advisory recommended in last week’s umbrella company checklist as a bonafide assessor.

‘Paper-thin entity’
The advisory’s tax director Graham Webber described the ‘organisation’ to ContractorUK last night as a “paper-thin entity” appearing to have “little or no substance.”

Lucy Smith, managing director of Clarity Umbrella agrees.

“When a contractor looks at a website and there is very little information available on the site, it [should] lead [them] to question why.”

Get in touch with us today to speak with a specialist Contractor Mortgage Advisor.

‘Question what they have to hide’
Referring to Peak PAYE Ltd but applying equally to the IFCP, Ms Smith continued: “The website is very bare, says very little and would lead me to question what they have to hide.

“If a….[provider] has nothing to hide then they should have no issues in explaining it all via the website.”

But equally, an abundance of explanations or claims, particularly those like the ones made on the institute’s website, can verge on the comical — or they would do if the risks to contractors of being hoodwinked were not quite as grave as they are.

‘Etc, etc’
Recruitment lawyer Adrian Marlowe of Lawspeed explained: “Peak PAYE [being outed] by HMRC is highly topical as tax avoidance [is] very much back on the agenda [at HMRC].

“But Peak PAYE’s website shows it is accredited by an outfit called the Institute of Freelance Contractor Professionals which claims to be [lots of good-sounding things] like ‘independently audited’, and ‘fully disclosed to HMRC.’ Etc. Etc. Someone clearly has a sense of humour.”

Neither Peak PAYE Ltd nor the Institute of Freelancing and Contracting Professionals responded to questions or written requests for comment.

By Simon Moore

Source: Contractor UK

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Barclays makes major lending push with £2.3bn deal for Kensington Mortgage Company

In a major push to broaden its lending offering, banking giant Barclays said this morning it has agreed a deal worth around £2.3bn to buy specialist lender Kensington Mortgage Company.

Barclays said the acquisition will allow it to offer more mortgage options to the self-employed and people who have multiple or variable incomes.

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The bank will also take ownership of a portfolio of mortgages offered by Kensington Mortgage Company, worth £1.2bn, in efforts to lend to a greater variety of customers.

The deal comes after the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of self-employed borrowers and those with complex incomes due to the impact of the Government’s furlough scheme and the wider effect on job volatility.

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The Maidenhead-based specialist lender has around 600 staff and offers buy-to-let residential mortgage options as well as owner-occupied lending.

The transaction is expected to complete towards the end of 2022 or early 2023.

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Matt Hammerstein, chief executive of Barclays, said: “The transaction reinforces our commitment to the UK residential mortgage market and presents an exciting opportunity to broaden our product range and capabilities.

“KMC is a best-in-class specialist mortgage lender with an established track record in the UK market, strong broker and customer relationships and data analytics capabilities.

“KMC complements our existing UK mortgage business and broker relationships through the addition of a specialist prime mortgage originator and the utilisation of our strong UK funding base,” Hammerstein concluded.

By Michiel Willems

Source: City A.M.

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Just Mortgages launches marketing service for brokers

Just Mortgages has launched a white-labelled digital marketing package for self-employed brokers.

The service is aimed at brokers who want to promote their own trading style and brand.

Carl Parker, national director of the self-employed division of Just Mortgages, described the offering as a full-service marketing solution, with the group aiming to match the level of service provided by a dedicated marketing agency.

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Self-employed brokers will have access to in-house marketing professionals, who are also experts on the subject of mortgages, and will be offered branding and logo development, content creation and social media support.

An initial consultation between the broker and the marketing team is followed by a brand set up with logo and brand guidelines to establish the look and feel of the business, as well as website and social media content in line with financial promotion regulations.

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On-going support is then provided to the broker to help raise their business profile and attract new clients, according to Parker.

“Our aim is to provide the best possible showcase for the brokers’ business while they get on with the important job of helping clients with their mortgage and insurance needs,” he said.

Get in touch with us today to speak with a specialist Contractor Mortgage Advisor.

Figures from IBISworld show there are 5,580 mortgage broker businesses in the UK in 2022, an increase of 2.6 per cent from 2021.

Last week, Just Mortgages also announced a new training initiative for those wanting to become mortgage and protection advisers.

By Jane Matthews

Source: FT Adviser

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High inflation boosted IT contractor jobs market in May 2022

High inflation appears to have boosted the less quickly growing IT contractor jobs market, as the slowdown in growth in temporary technology billings paused in May.

In Report on Jobs, the REC suggests that rising costs made employers scrutinising the bottom line turn to temps rather than add members of staff to the payroll on a full-time basis.

REC chief executive Neil Carberry gave this assessment in the report on Friday, potentially part explaining how demand for IT contractors shot up in May to 66.1 from 63.7 in April.

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‘Inflation-induced caution’
Mr Carberry said: “The market for temporary work is stabilising faster than for permanent staff, which could suggest a little caution creeping into employers’ thinking in the face of high inflation.”

Kate Shoesmith, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s deputy CEO returned last week from a hiring expo in Brussels, only to similarly acknowledge inflation’s tight grip.

“We have been through tough times [chiefly due the coronavirus pandemic], followed by record-breaking successes. But the economic headwinds are [still] there,” she said.

‘Rethinking growth plans’
As to inflation’s effects, Claire Warnes of KPMG spoke of employers “starting to rethink their growth plan” as — like candidates — they face ‘the greatest costs in recent years.’

“And these are expected to increase, at least in the short term,” said Ms Warnes, KPMG’s head of education, skills and productivity.

As well as “rising business costs” for both candidates and end-users alike, she sounded more sympathetic to the latter, by pointing out organisations also face “supply chain disruption.”

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‘IT Operations and Helpdesk keeping pace with inflation’
But only last week, Indeed said that as “the economy starts to weaken,” the phenomenon of “soaring inflation” was eroding the pay gains of “most” workers.

The jobsite found exceptions though – seven occupations in total, including IT Operations and Helpdesk where pay has climbed by a healthy 7.1% in the 12 months to April 2022.

“A handful of occupational categories are seeing wage growth keep pace with inflation, largely the ones facing the most acute hiring challenges”, said Indeed’s Jack Kennedy.

The jobsite’s economist, he added: “Employers in these sectors are having to raise pay to deal with the combination of high vacancies and falling relative jobseeker interest.”

‘Hot market for the sector-qualified’
Compounding the situation, candidate availability is falling too, the REC found in May, and one consequence is “it remains a hot market for those well-qualified in their sectors.”

But another consequence of lower candidate availability is frustrated recruiters.

“Jobs that are paying well for super companies = no applicants. No amount of hunting is getting responses. Very, very few if any candidates,” posted recruiter Roseanne Stockton.

Boss at Nu-Recruit, she added: “Candidates….are excellent. But in the main, up to that point [of meeting them], I cannot find many. [There are just] two candidates per job [opening] at the moment!”

Get in touch with us today to speak with a specialist Contractor Mortgage Advisor.

‘None of their clients would touch a career-breaker’
However some recruiters aren’t helping themselves by excluding professionals who have CV gaps due to taking a career break.

The disregard of individuals with lives beyond just work disappoints agents like Kieran Boyle, owner of CKB Recruitment, who took to LinkedIn.

“Spoke to a candidate this morning [with] bags of experience, [but] taken nine years out to have children.

“The [candidate] was told by a rather well-known insurance recruiter that they didn’t want to work with her, and none of their clients would touch someone whose had a career break”.

“What a load of poppycock,” Mr Boyle continued online, reflecting in his own post. “The industry faces an unprecedented skills shortage, so why would you not try and help someone back into this amazing industry, and help one of your clients fill a role at the same time?”

‘Flexibility trumps pay’
The shortage in the IT sector in May was severe for Developers, Software Engineers, and IT and Technology generalists, as these four were scarce on both a permanent and contract basis.

No other IT contractor skills were “in short supply” in May according to REC’s member agencies, which struggled to find full-time applicants for Analysis, CAD, Data, Digital, Software and Technical Sales positions.

But the confederation has repeated its advice to employers that cash is no longer king.

“Flexibility [now] trumps pay, “ said the REC’s Ms Shoesmith. “[And that’s] closely followed by [company] culture in [terms of] candidate job search [preferences] right now.”

By Simon Moore

Source: Contractor UK

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Contractor sector sceptical of potential tax cuts from an under pressure Boris Johnson

Contractors being potentially among the one in three adults who can afford basics but not always luxuries isn’t making the contractor sector into Boris Johnson’s whispered tax cuts.

Reportedly recommended to the prime minister as a way to heal rifts after he narrowly survived a confidence vote, any tax cuts would usually be embraced by contractors.

After all, contractors are “up against IR35 reform, dividend tax rises and [potentially] an incoming hike to corporation tax,” Qdos’s Nicole Slowey pointed out yesterday.

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‘Token gesture’
But another specialist in contractor taxation, Graham Webber of WTT Consulting, says he expects any tax cut from Mr Johnson to be only a “token gesture”.

The PM’s trying political circumstances, plus the government’s tendency to legislate against contractors rather than incentivise it via tax cuts, makes his expectation creditable.

But in a thread featuring both the tax specialists, a Test Analyst said that if any of the tax cuts resemble Spring Statement’s 5p cut in fuel duty, the government can “keep it.”

‘Forced bribe’
“At this stage [from Mr Johnson], it would be a forced bribe,” said the analyst, a self-employed contractor. “It would only be announced to make Boris look better, not to help us”.

The prospect of tax cuts has prompted Mr Johnson’s most supportive national newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, to identify a fuel duty reduction as the most important of five he may make.

The right-leaning broadsheet said a close second would be for the PM to abolish the 5% VAT charge on heating fuels — as Mr Johnson has previously promised to do.

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‘Attacks on contractors’
Yet a consultant posted yesterday that it’s not ever Number 10’s decision to cut taxes – it’s Number 11’s.

“[Chancellor] Rishi [Sunak] and the Treasury are in charge of taxes, not Boris,” the consultant said.

“[Following the many] broken promises and attacks on contractors over the last few years, it will take a lot [for either Mr Sunak or Mr Johnson] to win back support — and trust.”

‘Government handling taxation badly’
A YouGov reading of June 2nd shows 69% of adults believe the government to be handling of the issue of taxation “badly.”

Income tax is the levy which people would least like to be increased by the government, followed by council tax, and then National Insurance, the pollster found in May.

Speaking since the findings, Keith Gordon QC has pinpointed what he would most like to see in relation to the contractor sector’s most notorious tax rule.

In a phone-in with LBC about the off-payroll rules, the tax barrister said: “I hope someone will go back to the drawing board and decide IR35 is not fit for purpose.”

Get in touch with us today to speak with a specialist Contractor Mortgage Advisor.

‘Unwelcome letters from HMRC’
A revoking of the Intermediaries legislation is even more of an outside bet than tax cuts from the prime minister, so accountants say it’s ‘business as usual’ this tax return season.

“With tax returns on the mind of many pro-active taxpayers, something often forgotten on the tax returns of those submitting early, is benefits-in-kind,” advises Adam Dove, senior client accountant at Orange Genie.

“With P11Ds not due for submission until July 6th 2022, it is important to ensure your employer has submitted your P11D and you have the details before you complete your self-assessment tax return, to avoid any unwelcome letters from HMRC with amendments, interest and, or, penalties.”

By Simon Moore

Source: Contractor UK

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Contractor mortgage broker underlines ‘get in quick’ advice, as approval times slow

A contractor mortgage broker is underlining its ‘get in quick’ advice of last week, due to a new and significant delay in how long lenders are taking to approve home loan applications.

Only on Thursday, Freelancer Financials explained that acting quickly to remortgage was key for contractors who want to mitigate the impact of future increases in the BoE base rate.

But now the broker says moving fast to lock-in a fixed rate is even more urgent, because lenders deciding to test borrowers’ resistance to the cost of living crisis is stalling approvals.

Get in touch with UK Contractor Mortgages today to discuss your Buy to Let & Residential Mortgage requirements.

‘Not just contractors’

“Mortgage applications are taking much longer to process due to lenders asking for much more information than before,” warns Freelancer Financials’ chief executive John Yerou.

“But this applies to everyone, not just contractors, as no matter who you are lenders want to accurately gauge people’s current and future living costs.”

An expert on contractor mortgages, Yerou says lenders are factoring such higher costs into their affordability calculations for customers, “which will make it more difficult to borrow.”

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‘Properties being down-valued’

But not all price tags are inflating — at least not in real-terms.

In a statement this morning, Freelancer Financials revealed to ContractorUK:

“In the past few weeks we’ve noticed that more of the lenders’ surveyors are down-valuing properties, because they don’t think they’re worth what buyers are prepared to pay.

“[Yet] we’re not expecting a sudden price reduction to hit the market, as right now, demand is still outstripping supply, which is likely to keep prices from dipping.”

Get in touch with us today to speak with a specialist Contractor Mortgage Advisor.

‘Bit more caution’

In the longer-term however, even in “the coming months,” the broker predicted that house price increases would “slow,” partly as buyers “exercise a bit more caution.”

Freelancer Financials added that the currently extended processing time to get a mortgage fully signed off means it won’t just be lenders ‘taking their time,’ but potentially buyers too.

By Simon Moore

Source: Contractor UK

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Self-employed mortgage guide – how to get a mortgage when you work for yourself

A self-employed mortgage is no different to any other home loan, but you may need to jump through a few more hoops to get one. You will have to prove your income (which can be more complex when you work for yourself) and have sufficient information (in some cases up to two years worth) to share with your mortgage lender.

If you can’t supply the required information, you may not be able to borrow as much, or may not be approved for the mortgage at all. There are specialist lenders available, but you may find that you are charged a higher premium as you are deemed a higher risk to lend to.

Get in touch with UK Contractor Mortgages today to discuss your Buy to Let & Residential Mortgage requirements.

Can I get a mortgage if I’m self-employed?

Yes, most lenders offer self-employed mortgages at the same rates and under the same terms as to employed borrowers.

If they usually lend up to a maximum of 4.5 times your income, for example, that doesn’t change just because you work for yourself.

Is it harder to get a self-employed mortgage?

It can be, because every borrower needs to prove their income to the lender to get the best mortgage rates. That can be more difficult if you’re self-employed, as your finances are often more complex.

There are many reasons the self-employed struggle to prove their income. Maybe you’ve had a bad year of trading, invested in your business (which has reduced your profits), or your company is new.

Mainstream lenders (such as high street banks) like to see a track record of self-employed earnings over two or three years. If your profits are variable or your income on paper doesn’t reflect what you can really afford, it can be hard to get the numbers to stack up.

If that’s the case, a lender may not offer you the size of mortgage you need.

Nick Morrey said: ‘In reality, it is more difficult for self-employed applicants due to the nature of how they are paid and taxed, and the documentation required to evidence their earnings. This complexity, compared to employed people, who can evidence their earnings by supplying payslips and bank statements, makes the process significantly harder.’

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Will I pay more for my mortgage if I’m self-employed?

Not necessarily. Providing you can afford the mortgage and prove your income in the way the lender requires, you have exactly the same access to mortgages as an employed borrower.

Many self-employed borrowers won’t encounter any problems.

But many others can’t prove their income to the strict requirements of a mainstream lender and can end up struggling to access a mortgage.

Luckily, there is another way. Specialist mortgage lenders are experts in dealing with self-employed borrowers.

They look at each case on its individual merits and have more flexible criteria around how they assess what you can afford, and how you can prove it.

Because these specialists are willing to lend to borrowers that can’t get a mainstream mortgage, they often charge a premium, so you could end up paying more.

What information will I need to provide for a self-employed mortgage?

A mortgage lender will want to see the same information as they do with any borrower – proof of ID, proof of address, and proof of your income and outgoings.

The major difference is that proof of income can be more complicated if you’re self-employed.

Instead of payslips, you usually have to provide at least your last two SA302 forms from HM Revenue and Customs, which show your tax calculation for the year. Lenders might also ask for your full audited accounts.

Morrey adds: ‘Lenders may also request three months’ business bank statements to see how the business is faring at the moment. For contractors they may ask for a minimum of 12 months’ worth of contracts in lieu of accounts.’

‘Lenders can request anything they deem necessary as part of their decision to lend, so be prepared to supply these documents to make the process as smooth as possible.”

Get in touch with us today to speak with a specialist Contractor Mortgage Advisor.

Do I need to have been self-employed for a certain amount of time to qualify for a mortgage?

Usually lenders will want to see at least two years’ accounts before lending to self-employed borrowers.

Although there are exceptions, says Jane King: ‘For some occupations (usually professions such as doctors and lawyers) a lender may accept one year,’ she explains. ‘However the vast majority require at least two.’

Some specialist lenders also accept just one year’s accounts, regardless of profession, although they may charge a premium.

Will most lenders offer mortgages to self-employed people?

Yes, if you work for yourself, you can usually access the full product range of most lenders.

For example, Aldermore is a specialist mortgage lender that supports the self-employed with flexible lending criteria and smaller building societies are often willing to look at each case individually to see if they can find a way to lend. There are also many lenders you may not have heard of that a mortgage broker has exclusive access to.

A broker can also help you navigate the market. They’re experts in helping self-employed borrowers find a mortgage and have access to specialist lenders that don’t deal directly with borrowers, helping widen your search.

By Christina Hoghton

Source: Ideal Home

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Accountant’s advice on getting a mortgage if you’re self-employed

The property market is booming, but not for the first time, flourishing for a select group of people. Unfortunately, for those that are counted as self-employed, it is harder than ever to achieve the dream of owning your own home.

More than four million people in the UK are classified as self-employed and recent industry research found 71 percent of participants in a survey of UK freelancers, said that they are worried about saving for later life or buying a home following the pandemic, with women most likely to be affected.

There has been rapid growth in people who are their own bosses seeking advice on how to secure that ever elusive mortgage and get the first step onto the property ladder. In response, accountancy and tax platform founder Darren Fell, of Crunch, has shared his top tips on how to get a mortgage while being self-employed.

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Top tips from an accountant

Speak to brokers: Not all brokers will offer you the same deal and have the same connections. Shop around and get as many quotes as you can. Some lenders may have more lenient or strict lending criteria and it is important not to commit yourself to a bad deal.

Check your credit rating: Ensure your credit file is in the best possible shape by getting on the electoral roll, staying away from short-term high-interest loans and if possible staying out of your overdraft.

Make sure your accounts are up to date: To earn the best rates you can, make sure all your accounts and tax filing history is up to date. Though a struggle for some self-employed businesspeople, it pays off when applying for a mortgage.

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Minimise credit checks for other insurance or credit applications: Multiple credit checks in a short space of time can reduce your overall credit score, according to some experts. Using comparison sites for insurance quotes could potentially affect your credit history as well as applying for new credit cards, as can often end up running various checks which might then affect your credit history.

Get yourself an agreement in principle: Some estate agents in charge of in-demand properties may not allow you to even view a property without a decision in principle. By getting this decision, which effectively gives you a definitive budget, you can house-hunt with confidence.

Knowing your budget and sticking to properties within it will make your mortgage application more likely to be accepted.

By Robbie Purves

Source: Daily Record

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IR35 reform ‘stifling’ access to talent

The recent reform of IR35 legislation is “stifling” access to specialised talent in the UK, according to research.

Some 50 per cent of companies said IR35 was the main obstacle to hiring contractors in the past 12 months.

This has led to 70 per cent of businesses and recruiters seeing a reduction in their limited company contractor workforce, according to a survey of 1,200 contractors, recruitment businesses and end clients in February this year by Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance.

The same percentage of contractors will now only look for roles that are outside IR35 rules over the next six to 12 months, despite these accounting for 41 per cent of roles on offer.

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Two thirds (66 per cent) of contractors said they would not even consider a role inside IR35 rules.

Paul Havenhand, chief executive of Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance, said the UK economy is “being hampered” by a severe recruitment crisis.

“Contractors, as a highly skilled, flexible resource, could be providing a much-needed interim solution to keep things working and avoid major disruption to UK businesses,” he said.

“But there has been a 11 per cent drop in working contractors in the last twelve months.

“The complexities of IR35 and perceived risks are putting businesses off.”

The research was conducted for Kingsbridge, as part of a whitepaper called ‘IR-35 – One Year On’.

The white paper said half of recruiters surveyed feel that end clients were not prepared for the reform in the private sector, which Kingsbridge said suggests that “further education” is required.

Furthermore, it said HMRC’s Employment Status for Tax tool (Cest) is ‘not fit for purpose’ and is ‘hampering business growth’ by blocking access to contract labour.

“Recruitment agencies who reported that their end clients use Cest have seen a larger reduction of limited company contractors engaging in providing services compared to independent employment status tool users,” it said.

This was based on 38 per cent of the recruiters surveyed who said their end clients who use Cest have seen a 61 per cent or greater reduction in their contractor pool, compared with 23 per cent who use independent employment status tools.

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One criticism of the tool was that it produces indeterminate results 21 per cent of the time.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC will stand by Cest’s results provided accurate and correct information is used, in accordance with our guidance. The tool was rigorously tested against case law and settled cases by officials and external experts.”

Legislative reform

IR35 is a tax law that was reformed in April last year to require the end client, and not the contractors they hire, to decide if the working relationship resembles a self-employed engagement or employment. As part of this reform, the fee-paying party (either the end client or recruitment agency) now shoulders the liability.

The aim of the reform was to stop the promotion and misselling of disguised remuneration schemes, however the legislation has received criticism.

In April last year, the All-Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group said the government needs to accept the “obvious reality” that IR35 legislation is “fundamentally flawed”.

The group said while it understood and supported the aim of stopping employees from seeking tax advantages for falsely claiming to be self-employed, the IR35 rules had “ironically muddied the waters and unintentionally made it harder, not easier, to define contracting and freelancing”.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “The off-payroll working rules ensure that individuals working like employees, but through their own limited company, are taxed like employees.

“The changes that took effect last year ensure that rules which have been in place since 2000 are applied correctly. We consulted extensively on off-payroll working and are continuing to deliver an extensive education and support programme to help industry and contractors implement the reform.”

“How an organisation decides to engage its workers remains a business decision for organisations to make.”

By Sally Hickey

Source: FT Adviser

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