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Tax helpline set up

HM Revenue & Customs service aims to settle confusion over employment status

TAX officials have set up a helpline to guide contractors through the ongoing confusion over employment status.

The new CIS tax system will come into force in Apr il 2007.

HM Revenue & Customs had already launched an online service to check whether workers should be directly or self-employed.

But industry experts have attacked the web-based Employment Status Indicator for being too confusing.

Revenue officials hope the helpline will clear up any confusion. Financial secretary to the Treasury John Healey said: 'The introduction of the helpline and the online employment status tool are important steps in gearing business for the new CIS.

'They will provide a comprehensive service for businesses needing to find out about the changes to the scheme and to help them determine employment status.' The launch came as Mr Healey was hit with a barrage of questions in the Commons over the CIS scheme by Conservative MP James Dudderidge.

Mr Dudderidge was prompted into action by constituent Carolyn Walsh, a leading tax expert.

She said: 'Part of the ongoing change is a campaign to revoke Gross Payment Status from companies by revoking their CIS6 status as contractors.

'That is the revenue's hidden agenda and it seems set on squeezing the life out of contractors it perceives to be 'bad' employers because they pay long-term workers under the CIS.' Mr Dudderidge asked how many firms had their gross tax status revoked in the past three years but Mr Healey said: 'No record is kept of the number of subcontractors who lose their entitlement to Gross Payment Status.' Ms Walsh said: 'It seems very odd that the Government doesn't hold vital data like this.' The employment status website can be found at www. hmrc.gov. uk/employment-status and the helpline can be contacted on 0845 366 7899.