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HMRC minister claims improvements to CEST service

17/01/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

A Government minister has said HM Revenue & Customs has made significant improvements to its digital service for contractors to check their tax status.

Jesse Norman

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman (pictured) said an enhanced version of the Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) service was launched in late November following work with over 300 stakeholders.

The original version was launched in March 2017 as part of the move to make contractors to government departments determine themselves whether they had IR35 tax status, under which they would be subject to additional payments if they were judged to be an employee in all but name.

Critics have claimed it was inaccurate and has provided flawed assessments.

Norman provided the information on the new version in the answer to a parliamentary question from fellow Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope.

Clarity and questions

He said the improvements include making the questions and answers clearer, increasing the number of questions to provide a more thorough assessment and built-in features to reduce user errors. There have also been changes to the language and presentation used.

“CEST is accurate,” he said. “It has been tested rigorously against known case law and settled cases.

“HMRC stands by its results if it is used in accordance with HMRC guidance and the facts put into CEST are correct.”

He added that it currently provides an employment status determination for tax purposes in around 85% of uses, excluding the most complex or finely balanced cases.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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