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BMA ‘alive to the issue’ that Scottish GPs could be taxed as salaried

Exclusive The BMA and Scottish Government may have to tinker with the new contract to stop GPs being taxed as employees, the GPC has admitted.

Scottish GP Committee chair Dr Alan McDevitt told Pulse that the new contract, announced on Monday, retains the independent contractor model, and does not represent a move to a salaried service.

However, he said the BMA is ‘alive to the issue’ of HMRC considering the new model to be a salaried service.

If this is to be the case, the BMA and Scottish Government may have to make adjustments to the agreement, including changes to the way expenses are reimbursed.

The new Scottish contract, which will have to be approved by the profession through a ballot, will see practices having their full staff and premises expenses reimbursed and a minimum level of earnings for GP partners.

The NHS will also provide interest-free loans for premises, with a view for no GP to own their premises by 2043, and will employ staff attached to the practices.

Dr McDevitt rejected the idea that is a move away from independent contractor status, and said the BMA is taking advice to reduce the risk of GP partners being taxed as salaried. 

He told Pulse: ‘We are very alive to this issue and we did take specialist tax advice. It is a changing world but our express intention is to maintain that independent contractor status. And it will mean a certain proportion of expenses will be outside [direct reimbursement]. We have no wish to change our status and we will continue to take advice.

’We will come to the detail in stage 2, taking further advice and the Government will also be making sure that is acceptable. This is an independent contractor model.

’What HMRC will say is you can do the online calculator tool but it’s dynamic and they won’t say in advance. So the way we approach it is to take very extensive tax, accountancy and legal advice and we will make adjustments accordingly. And if they turn around and say you have to give GPs more expenses then we’ll do that.’

Pauline Hogg, the Scottish board member for the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants, told Pulse: ‘One of our concerns has been that you go so far down the line you’re almost seen as salaried, although there will be additional services on top.

‘My understanding is the BMA has been very careful in their negotiations. There are a lot of benefits that you don’t usually get as self-employed and they will have to be careful it still meets the criteria.’

A HMRC spokesperson said: ’We don’t comment on individual cases, Employment status is never a matter of choice and is always dictated by the specific facts.’