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Locum GPs charged admin fees to ‘prove’ self-employment amid IR35 ‘confusion’

Locum GPs charged admin fees to ‘prove’ self-employment amid IR35 ‘confusion’

Exclusive Locum GPs are being asked by out-of-hours organisations to provide proof that they are self-employed amid ‘confusion’ over changes to IR35 tax rules, Pulse has learned.

Some have been charged admin fees, such as for invoices, while others have been asked for business cards to demonstrate they are a business, GP leaders told Pulse.

Under IR35 anti-tax avoidance measures that come in from this month, responsibility now falls on large or medium private sector bodies to determine whether contractors are self-employed or employed for tax purposes.

However, IR35 has applied to the public sector since 2017, according to BMA guidance.

Now locums across the South West, Home Counties and the Midlands have raised concerns that out-of-hours organisations are unnecessarily seeking to mitigate the changes, the BMA and National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) told Pulse.

BMA sessional GP Committee chair Dr Ben Molyneux said out-of-hours organisations had come up with ‘imaginative solutions’ to demonstrate that locums are self-employed, thanks to ‘confusion’ around whether or not the changes apply to them.

He told Pulse: ‘[IR35] already applied to the NHS and those who provide NHS services but it didn’t apply to the wider private sector.

‘I think some of these out-of-hours organisations hadn’t realised that it already affected them and have started to look at how they can mitigate [so] they’ve come up with some imaginative solutions to demonstrate that people are self-employed.’

Some out-of-hours providers are now charging locums administration fees, including for processing invoices, although these are ‘unlikely to make any material difference to an HMRC determination of employment status for tax purposes’ and should be ‘discouraged’, he added.

Others are ‘insisting on peculiar things like business cards to show that you’re a definite business and evidence of working elsewhere, [or] evidence of invoicing other companies to show that you are obviously a company’, Dr Molyneux told Pulse.

The fees are ‘nominal amounts’, but out-of-hours providers are ‘ultimately just creating impediments for locums working effectively for a provider [that] are unlikely to offer any protections’, he said.

NASGP chair Dr Richard Fieldhouse added that members in Devon and Leicestershire had raised concerns about the ‘blunt’ and ‘not very well thought out’ measures, including monthly admin fees associated with SOLO forms.

The BMA is asking locums to report any similar incidences so that it can challenge them and its legal team is ‘reviewing the situation’, Dr Molyneux said.

The latest IR35 reforms were due to be implemented in April last year, but were postponed due to the pandemic.

GP leaders warned at the time that the locum workforce could face ‘instability’ as a result of the changes and called for them to be reviewed by the Government.

It comes as GP locums in Wales have been told they will not be indemnified by the state unless they join a staff bank.

And in March, NHS England was forced to clarify a clause in its locum bank framework that would have allowed GP practices to cancel locums on the day without facing a short-notice cancellation fee.