While the lawyers battled it out over IR35 in the High Court on Fleet Street, the Professional Contractors Group, a band of ardent campaigners against the tax measure, set up its war room in a pub across the road.
Upstairs at the Cheshire Cheese in Little Essex Street, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Courts of Justice, members of the PCG beavered away keeping the organisation’s website up to date with the latest news from the court.
Tea urns were on the go, contractors dropped in and out for snippets of news, staff tapped away on laptops, and every now and then the hubbub fell silent as the latest courtroom blow landed against the Inland Revenue was announced.
‘There is a real blitz spirit here,’ said Richard Robson an IT contractor working as a volunteer press co-ordinator for the PCG.
To recap, the PCG has raised nearly #1m for a barrister to appeal against IR35 in the High Court. The Inland Revenue is defending the tax rule, but the PCG believes its case is good.
They claim it unfairly discriminates against small businesses, one-man bands working through service companies, who claim their livelihood is in real danger of being destroyed by IR35.
Corporate finance advisers also appear to be feeling the IR35 pinch.
‘We had one in yesterday,’ said Robson. ‘But because he didn’t know a thing about IT, we thought he was a Revenue spy.’
Spies aside, the Revenue, and paymaster general Dawn Primarolo, say IR35 puts contractors on an equal footing with salaried workers doing the same job but paying more tax.
The case dragged into a second week with QCs and judge clearing their diaries so the haggling over IR35 could continue.
Confidence however, was high among the PCG members drinking tea and eating all-day breakfasts in their public house war room, that there is an awareness that the first tax payments under IR35 are due on 19 April. A decision is needed promptly.
Back at the Cheshire Cheese hush fell as news came through that judge Mr Justice Burton had hinted if the PCG loses the hearing he may issue guidance, with the authority of the High Court, which would lessen the effects of IR35. ‘That’s the best news I’ve had in months,’ said Richard Robson.
– Gavin Hinks is deputy news editor of Accountancy Age.
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