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Can IR35 contractors still work through a limited company?

Posted by Ross Bramble on Mar 10th, 2019 | Tax

Crunch - Westminster - Government consultation on off-payroll working (IR35) rules effective from April 2020. Image of houses of parliament

The government’s reform of off-payroll working rules (known as ‘IR35’) is forcing many contractors operating personal service companies to review their options. Some have moved into direct employment, others have decided to work through an Umbrella Company on temporary assignments or even revert to being a sole trader.

Whilst these solutions offer a simple way to pay employment taxes, they often mean closing your limited company. However, there are other options.

It’s possible to continue working through a limited company even if your contract is deemed to be inside IR35. You’ll need to ensure you pay the correct PAYE tax and National Insurance (NI) for any contract which is inside IR35 because you are, in the eyes of HMRC, an employee. You can, however, manage this through your limited company.

At Crunch, we already do this for a number of clients. The reasons vary, but often a contractor is working on multiple contracts and only one of them is inside IR35, or perhaps the contract that is inside IR35 is of short duration and the contractor expects to work on contracts which are outside of IR35 in due course.

However, you need to aware IR35 rules are changing, and means your end client will usually be responsible for deciding your employment status from April 2020.

Expenses allowance

You can continue to enjoy advantages in operating your limited company – including an expenses allowance.

Keeping your limited company open means you continue to have flexibility in the work you choose to take on. You continue to set your own fees and you can work on contracts of any duration you want.

Another advantage of keeping your limited company operating is that you may be entitled to a 5% tax allowance. Let’s try to explain how this can benefit you.

The business expense rules for contractors working on contracts inside IR35 are very strict. You cannot usually claim for things like normal travel to and from work or subsistence if your contract with an end client is deemed to be inside IR35. Your tax status is the same as the employees of the end client.

HMRC recognises you incur expenses in running your limited company and therefore allows you to calculate the employment tax you owe based on 95% of the amount your company receives from your contracts which are inside IR35.

However, you need to be aware that the allowance does not apply to any contracts deemed to be inside IR35 by your public sector clients. Additionally, the government is proposing extending these rules to the private sector from April 2020 – so you don’t have long to take advantage of this tax allowance.


Jack is a contractor working through his own Personal Service Company. He has taken on a contract with a private sector client due to end in March 2020 which is worth £50,000. The end client will pay Jack’s company this amount. Jack has assessed the contract and concluded it’s inside IR35. He knows he needs to pay employment taxes on the income of £50,000.

The effect on Jack’s personal tax and company accounts is shown below.

Personal Tax – deemed employment payment computation
£ Notes
Income 50,000 Amount Jack’s company is paid by the end client
Less: 5% allowance (2,500) Allowance for expense of running a limited company
Gross deemed payment 47,500 Amount used to calculate tax liabilities.
Less: Employers NIC (5,760) Amount to be paid to HMRC by Jack’s company
Net deemed payment 41,740 This is the amount Jack’s company will pay him as salary. He will need to include the gross deemed payment amount of £47,500 on his Self Assessment as employment income.



Company accounts and corporation tax
£ Notes
Turnover 50,000 Amount Jack’s company is paid by the end client
Less expenses
Director salaries (41,740) Salary paid to Jack by his limited company
Employers NIC (5,760) Amount to be paid to HMRC by Jack’s company
Profit before tax 2,500 5% allowance on the deemed employment payment.

If the company has no other business expenses, the profit on this contract is £2,500 and will be taxed at the prevailing Corporation Tax rate.

How does the 5% allowance work?

As the allowance is part of the company’s taxable profit, it will remain within its retained profits until it’s distributed to shareholders. On an annual basis, the amount can be used to cover normal business expenses such as accountancy fees, cost of running payroll, promotional and marketing costs for your limited company. If you don’t have any business expenses, you’ll pay corporation tax on the amount.

What does the future hold for IR35?

The government has decided that the reform of the off-payroll working rules in the public sector will be introduced for private sector assignments from 6th April 2020. In March 2019, the government published further consultation into how the rules will be implemented – we’ve summarised the key parts of the consultation in our Knowledge article.

If you’d like to know more about how our expert accountants could help you navigate the upcoming IR35 changes, and help you either continue as a limited company contractor or move to an Umbrella contractor, speak to one of our advisors or book a free consultation. Our “What is IR35?” hub is the place to head for all things IR35 – we have an independent IR35 Calculator tool to help you see if you’re at risk from IR35, a jargon-free IR35 business guide as well as articles explaining everything you need to know about IR35.

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