HMRC have been given a red card over their inaccurate classification of professional football referees as employees.
HMRC incorrectly tried to classify 60 referees of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) as employees, as they tried to recoup PAYE and national insurance contributions from the body.
However, the PGMOL successfully argued that the group of referees – some of whom officiated in the Premier League, Championship and FA Cup – should be treated as self-employed.
The tribunal found that the relationship between the referees and PGMOL lacked two key features of employment: mutuality of obligation, and control.
Relating to three seasons between 2013-2016, employment tribunal Judge Sarah Falk concluded that:
“individual appointments to matches were engagements to perform the task of officiating at the match in question for a fee, and not contracts of service”.
This has prompted the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), to call on the Government to provide written legislation clarifying what constitutes self-employment.
Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s Deputy Director of Policy, commented: “HMRC lost this case because, yet again, it misconstrued the concept of mutuality of obligation which it seems to assume is present in every engagement. The tribunal disagreed.
“That, combined with a lack of control by PGMOL over the referees, clearly indicated that this was not an employee-employer engagement. Unfortunately, we have again had to rely on the courts to make this determination.
“This comes on the back of HMRC having lost three out of four cases in the tax tribunal that also turned on a misunderstanding of key employment indicators. What this highlights, is that the rules in this area are very complex, and if HMRC are struggling to determine who is employed and who is self-employed, then so too is everyone else.”
The PGMOL vs HMRC case isn’t the first where a contractor has successfully overturned a case against the taxman. In 2018 so far, four significant cases have been made against HMRC and the controversial legislation, involving various public sector organisations, including the BBC and presenter Christa Ackroyd.
Previously, HMRC have admitted that they hold no detailed information on the accuracy of the self-assessment tool which contractors use to make a decision if they are inside or outside of IR35.
Last month, the Government announced that they had begun to make plans to introduce IR35 legislation into the private sector - causing significant concern amongst contractors.
Furthermore, the case comes alongside news self-employed workers won’t enjoy a promised tax cut this year. Millions of self-employed workers were expecting lower and simpler taxes this year, however, Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has abolished such plans, deciding to keep class 2 National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed.
This could cost self-employed workers around £150 a year.
Plans to scrap class 2 NIC’s were reversed, after a consultation found those earning less than £6,000 would have been worse off, with their pension contributions to increase from £2.85 to £14.45 under new plans.
Treasury minister Robert Jenrick wrote in a statement to MPs: "The Government remains committed to simplifying the tax system for the self-employed, and will keep this issue under review in the context of the wider tax system and the sustainability of the public finances."