What Should You Look For in an IR35 Status Assessment Process?

Following on from my blog explaining what assessments are actually for, I’d now like to share my thoughts on what you should expect to experience from a best-in-class contender.

  1. Possibly the most important attribute you should seek out is empowerment. Ideally you'd be able to iterate and refine your responses and ensure you tailor your engagement attributes to deliver a legitimate and feasible Outside IR35 outcome, assuming your engagement CAN qualify as such. What you don't want is a completely opaque, 'black box' experience with no guidance as to how the conclusion was reached and no option to refine. With 34square, you can iterate and refine as often as you like, even start over after you've completed one. Further, you get meticulous guidance as to the impact of your various responses, and direct instructions as to which responses to address in order to switch to outside IR35 or bolster the strength of your outside IR35 status. We have not seen another tool that does this to anywhere near the degree that ours does. HMRC's Check Employment Status for Tax or CEST tool is weak in this regard. You get no guidance and no clarity.
  2. You should NOT have to pay per iteration or even per assessment. You should get unlimited access to your assessment tool at one price. After all, some engagements are three months and some might be a year or more. You also might want to conduct assessments for engagements that you then don't choose to take. And you don't really want to find yourself having paid for an assessment that insists you are inside IR35, when you know if that's the case, you won't engage. With 34square you pay one, probably best value available, annual subscription fee, with a substantial reduction for year two onwards if you don't lapse. And you can use the assessment tool as often as you like.
  3. You should not be scratching your head when your assessment returns its result. You should be expecting absolute clarity as to the reasons for the outcome. You need to know which determining elements have swayed your status, such as substitution, financial risk, mutual obligation or 'part and parcel', or perhaps some combination. With 34square, you get a crystal clear description of the reason for your outcome. It's even graded from A+ through to B+ for outside IR35 strength, and F for inside IR35. And as stated earlier, you get guidance as to how to refine your engagement attributes for a higher outside IR35 grade. Your Status Determination Statement contains all of your responses, with  a description of the impact they have had. With CEST, head-scratching is a highly likely outcome, especially as 'Undetermined' is returned with an alarming percentage of combinations of responses. Which basically means they aren't asking the right questions.
  4. This follows on from number three. You should always get an outcome. Undetermined is simply unacceptable and unnecessary. An assessment just need to ask the right questions.
  5. Your assessment process should be easy and quick to execute. The variables that drive your IR35 status can be expanded almost limitlessly if anyone chooses to do so. You can ask twenty questions or you can ask one hundred or more. The reality is there really aren't that many drivers or pertinent facts you need to collect that make a truly material difference to your status, if you ask the RIGHT questions. The 34square questionnaire has 24 guided questions and a declaration question to close, and can be completed in a few minutes. Clearly you'll need a few extra minutes if you are new to the concept or if you need to think about refining your attributes. We don't ask five questions where one more direct, well-targeted question can achieve the same goal. Neither do we waste your time and effort on irrelevant topics or those with such a debatable or minutely marginal impact that they serve no purpose as long as you define the main attributes as they need to be. We also skip questions rendered irrelevant by earlier responses, something we have seen other tools confusingly neglect.
  6. You need a clear, formal report that has the details of the parties and lays out in detail your responses, the conclusion and the explanation. I've already shared that 34square delivers entirely in this regard. CEST doesn't allow you to relate your assessment to any parties or your engagement and you don't get a report.
  7. Immediate access and self-service is a must. Firstly, you might need it in a hurry. Secondly, if you are relying on someone else to do it, you'll be paying for their time one way or another. With 34square, your questions are meticulously explained, as is your outcome and possible actions to take to improve it. You really CAN do it yourself with confidence. We want it that way because we want to keep the costs and your subscription fee as low as possible.

So there you have it. You need empowerment, unlimited use, transparency, a guarantee of a conclusion, efficiency, a quality, fit for purpose report output, immediate gratification and value for money. Look no further than 34square.