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Revenue takes flak on 'awful' tax status site

NEWS - Employment Status Indicator launches with little publicity and poor format

TAX EXPERTS have at tacked the Revenue's latest attempt to clear up the ongoing confusion over employment status.

HM Revenue & Customs launched an online questionnaire before Christmas designed to identify whether workers are legitimately self-employed.

But contractors and tax consultants have blasted the Revenue for failing to publicise the Employment Status Indicator.

And those that have actually used the multi-choice toolkit dismissed it as 'jawdroppingly awful'.

One contractor said: 'As usual the Revenue has carried out no advertising so hardly anyone knows the ESI exists.

'It's no easier once you get on the Revenue's internet site. It takes seven clicks to get on it from the main home page and is jaw-droppingly awful once you actually get there.' Tax experts are worried that the questions asked are too simplistic and the terms used are not those in common use in construction.

Industry tax advisor Carolyn Walsh of Insite 123 said: 'The ESI is not designed specifically for the construction industry and so fails to ask pertinent questions that could help to determine some construction workers' status as being self-employed.

'Its advantage is that the industry will now be encouraged to look further than the CIS card, and perhaps disregard it as being the only indicator of self-employment. By keeping informed about employment status matters, contractors will be providing protection for their businesses against future HMRC employment status investigations.'

Contractors are worried that the new online service will herald a fresh wave of tax investigations.

One said: 'The fear is Revenue leaders will take the view that they have 'done their job' when it comes to advising people about employment status by putting this up on the internet and will now concentrate more resources on the compliance and enforcement side of things.' An HMRC spokesman said: 'The ESI tool has been extensively tested both internally and externally with a number of user groups, which enabled us to implement improvements before release.

'We told industry representative bodies before Christmas about the release of the Employment Status Indicator tool and have planned further publicity around ESI for early January.'