HMRC has finally updated the Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) tool and manual in preparation for the implementation of the Off-payroll working rules in the private sector.

At first, glance it may not seem much has been changed, but there are changes. The Payroll Centre undertook a test of the changes to see what the impact would be. A test on the old version of the tool had been carried out a few weeks ago, in order to compare this new version, our findings were we could immediately see that the CEST tool has not just been updated but been redesigned.

The Payroll Centre's first test was carried out some weeks ago, the first entry you made was organisation name, worker job title etc, however, the new CEST does not require this until the end.

Many of the questions have either been re-worded or brand new questions, therefore it's been difficult to replicate the results from the first test carried out.

Although only two tests were carried out, the second one came back with a decision of ‘Unable to determine’, so that issue has not been completely eradicated. This is not good for the contractor as it is likely the engager will be on the side of caution and place them on a payroll where they may not necessarily need to be.

Then, there is still a little matter of the area ‘mutuality’. HMRC argue that there is no reason to have a question in the tool on this as some form of mutuality exists. Never mind that they have been berated for not having an understanding of mutuality of obligation in various IR35 cases.

As we know, the tool should be assisting in the determination of the status of a worker so as long as the tool is used in the correct manner any decision should be upheld by HMRC.

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Carsten Staehr
CEO at Cintra HR & Payroll Services

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