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Advisers keen to see IR35 shortcomings addressed in Autumn Statement

IT’S HARDLY BEEN A YEAR in which tax practitioners have been able to rest on their laurels, with barely a fiscal quarter going by without a Budget, or in this case an Autumn Statement – restored this time to the season from which it derives its name.

And while the chancellor seized the chance to make his mark in the first all-Conservative Budget since 1997 in his previous outing, advisers are expecting a far-from-drab affair.

In particular, IR35 has been earmarked as a likely area of action, and given the headaches it’s caused major organisations including the BBC and the Student Loans Company over the years, few would be surprised.

Advisers suggest there will be fundamental changes to the test, with the current situation deemed ‘unworkable’, despite being designed to prevent people from lowering their tax bill by avoiding being treated as directly employed.

“HMRC doesn’t like that it’s based on deemed employment, so I should think they’ll change the test,” CBW tax partner Robert Maas told Accountancy Age. “They’d like to get everyone they can onto PAYE. The problems stem from the definition of an employee, but it would become workable if they change the test from employment to a simple control test, which they’ve already introduced for agency staff.”

Despite that, most practitioners would like a break from the seemingly ceaseless tax tinkering seen over the last decade or so.

Yet, as RSM’s George Bull points out, with so many consultations yet to produce specific HMRC proposals and a promise of more anti-avoidance and anti-evasion legislation – alongside Europe and the OECD prompting changes to the UK tax regime – that’s a vain hope.

That being the case, and with some level certainty desperately needed, Bull claims there’s a “moral obligation” for George Osborne to lay out his agenda for pensions and renewable energy.

As far as pensions are concerned, the question of whether the minimum age for pension liberalisation will go up, and whether ISA-style pensions will come in, are both prominent in the minds of many whose decisions will be affected by the policy.

Meanwhile, companies that as recently as March felt they could rely on tax reliefs for their green activities now could face serious financial implications – something the chancellor must address.

Of course, as per all of his previous addresses, Osborne is very likely to lift the personal allowance, while the national minimum wage and national living wage could be more closely aligned.

We can expect more, too, on Osborne’s so far despised apprenticeship levy, which experts warn could have a serious chilling effect on the practice, particularly at larger companies.

Other, more wide-ranging changes could see further devolution and regionalisation take place, with more tax powers granted to each of the UK’s constituent nations.

Advsiers will also be keeping an eye out for any further updates, or detail, relating to the planned closure of HMRC offices.

Stay up to date with all the developments next Wednesday with Accountancy Age‘s live blog, Twitter updates and Periscope broadcasts.

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