Does IR35 apply to sole traders

Does IR35 apply to sole traders?

As a sole trader, the IR35 tax law does not impact you as it targets contractors working through intermediaries like limited companies. Yet, you must adhere to employment status rules determining your tax classification as an employee or self-employed.

If you’ve ever wondered, “Does IR35 apply to sole traders?” you’re certainly not alone. As a sole trader or someone considering this path, it’s crucial to understand your tax obligations. Let’s dive into the world of IR35, its implications for different kinds of contractors, and, most importantly, its relevance to you as a sole trader.

What is IR35?

Introduced in 2000, IR35 is a tax law applicable to contractors operating through an intermediary, such as a limited company. This legislation prevents businesses from exploiting intermediaries to dodge tax and National Insurance contributions. But where does this leave sole traders?

Who is affected by IR35?

If you’re working through an intermediary like a limited company, IR35 affects you. The law aims to ensure that workers, who would be considered employees if they were providing their services directly, pay broadly the same tax and National Insurance contributions as employees.

Who is not affected by IR35?

The good news for sole traders is that IR35 doesn’t apply to you. Sole traders aren’t seen as intermediaries. Instead, you’re viewed as self-employed individuals. But that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from all regulations.

What can you do if you are affected by IR35?

If you are affected by IR35, you have a few options:

  • You can ask your client to make you an employee. This would mean that you would no longer be affected by IR35 and would be entitled to all of the benefits of being an employee.
  • You can set up your own limited company and become a contractor. This would mean that you would still be affected by IR35, but you would have more control over your business and your finances.
  • You can use an umbrella company. Umbrella companies are businesses that manage the tax and National Insurance contributions for contractors. This can be a good option for contractors who are affected by IR35 because it can save them time and money.

Employment status rules

Although IR35 doesn’t cover sole traders, they’re still subject to employment status rules, just like other contractors. These rules help distinguish between employees and self-employed individuals for tax purposes.

If a sole trader is deemed an employee, they’re liable for income tax and National Insurance contributions on their earnings. Additionally, they might qualify for certain employment benefits like holiday and sick pay.

So, as a sole trader, it’s vital to comprehend these employment status rules and ensure your correct classification for tax purposes.

Factors that HMRC will consider when determining employment status

When deciding whether a contractor is an employee or self-employed, HMRC takes several factors into account:

  • The level of control the client has over the contractor’s work
  • The degree of risk assumed by the contractor
  • The contractor’s ability to substitute themselves for another person
  • The contractor’s right to use their own equipment and materials
  • The contractor’s freedom to work for other clients

How can you determine your own employment status?

Determining your employment status as a sole trader isn’t an impossible task. It involves a thorough evaluation of certain factors, including the level of control your client has over your work, the risk you bear, your ability to substitute for another person, your rights to use your own equipment and materials, and your freedom to work for other clients.

Each factor carries a different weight and should be considered relative to your unique work circumstances.

However, if you’re uncertain, seeking professional advice from HMRC, a tax advisor, or a lawyer is crucial. It can also be helpful to read your contract carefully, discuss it with your client, and analyze your working practices.

Remember, your employment status determines your tax and National Insurance contributions and your entitlement to certain employment benefits. Thus, ensuring you have the right classification is key to correctly fulfilling your rights and responsibilities.


It is crucial to understand IR35 and its applicability to your situation as a sole trader. While IR35 doesn’t directly affect sole traders, the employment status rules do. Awareness of these rules can help you navigate tax obligations confidently and efficiently.

If you need more clarification about your employment status or have any questions about IR35, consider contacting Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance. They have the expertise to guide you and help ensure you meet all tax obligations appropriately.