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IR35 reforms: HMRC confirms compliance checks under way in financial services, oil and gas sectors

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IR35 reforms: HMRC confirms compliance checks under way in financial services, oil and gas sectors

Less than six months after the roll-out of the IR35 reforms to the private sector, HMRC has confirmed it has started writing letters to companies requesting details of their compliance procedures

Caroline Donnelly

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Published: 24 Sep 2021 16:08

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has confirmed that compliance checks are under way within the financial services and oil and gas sectors, out of concern about how firms in these industries are adhering to the revamped IR35 tax avoidance rules.

The government tax collection agency told Computer Weekly in a statement that the action is the result of “changes in engagement models” emerging within these sectors, which are renowned for being  heavily reliant on personal service and limited company contractors.

“We are therefore contacting client organisations in these sectors initially to confirm that they are applying the off-payroll working rules correctly,” an HMRC spokesperson told Computer Weekly.

The reformed IR35 rules came into force within the private sector back in April 2021 and introduced changes that shifted liability for determining how contractors should be taxed onto the medium-to-large companies that engage them.

Previously, it was down to the contractors to self-declare whether or not the work they do, and how it is performed, means they should be taxed in the same way as salaried workers (inside IR35) or as off-payroll employees (outside IR35).

However, in HMRC’s view, this system of self-declaration has been subject to misuse by contractors who have deliberately sought to misclassify their engagements as outside IR35 in the interests of minimising their employment tax liabilities.

Earlier this week, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) published a news alert about letters it claimed HMRC has begun sending out to firms in the oil and gas and financial services sectors, seeking information about their IR35 compliance procedures.

An example copy of the letter, published on the ICAEW’s website, states that the missive is being sent out on behalf of HMRC’s specialist off-payroll working team. It goes on to request information detailing how the recipient is applying the off-payroll rules.

The letter said HMRC is keen to understand the organisation’s hiring process for contractors, and details of the steps it takes to determine their tax status.

“If I decide your systems and processes are suitable, it’s likely I’ll close the check and take no further action,” said the letter. “This is because the risk of you not correctly applying the rules is low.

“If something is wrong, I’ll work with you to correct it or tell you how you can do this yourself… and it may mean you have not paid the right amount of tax, national insurance contributions or apprenticeship levy. You may need to pay us, or we may owe you money.”

The letter added: “If there’s more tax to pay because something is wrong, we may charge penalties. If you tell me straightaway and work with me to correct this, I may be able to reduce any penalties due.”

HMRC confirmed the veracity of the letter in a statement to Computer Weekly. 

In the lead-up to the reforms coming into force, Computer Weekly reported on several instances whereby firms within the financial services and oil and gas markets responded to the changes by issuing hiring bans on limited company contractors to sidestep the incoming IR35 rule changes.

In a similar vein, there were also reports of companies in these sectors failing to take reasonable care when individually assessing the tax status of every contractor they engaged with, and instead resorted to making blanket determinations that resulted in every contractor they engaged with being classified as working inside IR35.

HMRC has also previously offered assurances that it would take a “light-touch” approach to enforcing the IR35 during the first 12 months of their implementation to give firms in-scope of the reworked rules time to adjust to their new responsibilities.

For this reason, the fact that HMRC appears to have already started taking steps to ramp up its IR35 compliance activities may come as a surprise to some, said Seb Maley, CEO of contractor compliance advisory Qdos.

“The light touch [talk] is a red herring and businesses shouldn’t pay any attention to it,” he said. “All it means is that HMRC won’t issue penalties and fines for the first year, not that the taxman won’t investigate businesses and demand tax liability payments.

“I’m not surprised that compliance activity has started already. HMRC is under huge pressure to raise revenue as the government looks to recoup the billions spent and lost during the pandemic.”

Maley said any firm that receives a similar letter from HMRC should handle it with care – no matter how innocuous it may seem.  

“To view any letters sent by HMRC as innocent checks would be naive,” he said. “Experience tells us that letters can easily lead to IR35 investigations if the taxman has any inkling of non-compliance.

“With this in mind, any correspondence must be handled with care by businesses, who should be exploring all options to ensure their compliance and protect themselves from the risks of IR35.”

Conversely, Dave Chaplin, CEO of contracting authority ContractorCalculator, told Computer Weekly that it should be taken as a good sign that HMRC is taking proactive steps to ensure the private sector is not falling foul of the new rules.

Particularly in the light of reports about government departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office, finding themselves hit with multimillion-pound tax bills for compliance failures dating back to the roll-out of similar reforms in the public sector in April 2017.

“Cynically, I was thinking they would wait at least a year for a certain amount of tax to build up to make it even worth their while [to pursue these companies], but it looks like they are actively going out there, trying to make sure clients are doing the right thing now so they don’t end up  with massive tax bills,” said Chaplin.

“The reforms only came in six months ago and already they are starting to look at sectors to check they’re doing it right, because if it’s just a few mistakes that can be easily fixed, it’s much better to find out earlier rather than later.”

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The best Nintendo Switch shooter games

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The best Nintendo Switch shooter games

Nintendo was never known for creating consoles that were home to some of the best shooters, but the company has turned that around with Switch games — offering a robust lineup of shooting games in 2D, 3D, first-person, and third-person, with a little something for everyone. You’ll find indie shooters on the system, some from AAA third parties, and even one from Nintendo itself. While the Switch doesn’t stand toe to toe with the PC, Xbox One, or PS4 shooter games, it has enough variety to make it a solid choice when playing games of that genre.

In this list, we’ll go through the best shooters on the platform — while highlighting what makes them so great. Let’s hope the Nintendo Switch keeps the momentum going as a great system for shooters for years to come.

Below are the best shooter games on the Nintendo Switch, including some free FPS games worth playing.

Doom

Id Software and Bethesda surprised just about everyone when 2016’s Doom reboot managed to not only be worthy of the series’ name, but was miles better than we assumed it would be. The smooth action and brutal Glory Kills system were impressive on PC, Xbox One, and PS4, but the Nintendo Switch port managed to make the kill perfectly playable on a handheld as well. Despite lower resolutions and some muddy textures, Doom runs like a dream on Switch. Its sequel, Doom Eternal, is available on Switch as well, though it’s largely regarded as a downgrade from the first entry.

Read our full Doom review

Metroid Dread

Samus holding cube in Metroid Dread.

If you’re looking for one of the best Metroidvania games on Switch, this is it. Metroid Dread picks up where Fusion left off narratively, but it’s a much more mechanically modern title comparatively. As a shooter, it has the vibe of an old-school 2D Metroid game with some difficult fights. You get access to weapon upgrades, suite upgrades, and a whole suite of abilities to play around with. Dread also ups the series’ horror tendencies as Samus must escape from the robotic E.M.M.I., which stalk her like Alien‘s xenomorphs. It all comes together to form one of the scariest, toughest, and most stylish games Nintendo has made in a very long time. Take a look at our Metroid Dread beginner’s guide to get started.

Read our full Metroid Dread review

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Bethesda’s other major first-person shooter franchise went in a very different direction with the 2014 soft-reboot, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and its sequel Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which is available in full on Nintendo Switch. Set primarily in an alternate-history United States taken over by Nazi Germany, the game’s story sees legendary hero BJ Blazkowicz slaughter fascists in even more entertaining ways and even offers information on his childhood and parents. It’s backed up by excellent first-person shooting gameplay with plenty of challenge, too, letting you play as either a one-man wrecking crew or as a stealthier agent who takes out his enemies from a distance. If you’re a fan of Doom and Doom Eternal, you might like Wolfenstein II. Check out more Bethesda games if you want to go even further.

Read our full Wolfenstein II review

Overwatch

It took a few years, but Overwatch finally released for Nintendo Switch in 2019, and despite some lower-resolution textures and a few loading issues, it’s a perfectly fine way to play the online shooter. The same characters, maps, and modes are intact, and with a Wi-Fi connection when you’re out and about, it’s the perfect way to keep playing and leveling up your account. The game’s blend of tactical team-based objective gameplay with all-out action never gets old, and the continued release of new characters and events has kept players on other platforms coming back for years. There are few games that have been able to pull that off, even as a mountain of imitators have attempted to steal Blizzard’s thunder. Be on the lookout for Overwatch 2 if you like this one.

Read our full Overwatch review

Superhot

Few shooter games are as creative as Superhot, and even fewer are able to execute on their ideas as well. Set in a cyberpunk-infused world with a user-interface similar to The Matrix, you battle against faceless enemies and are killed instantly if you take one hit. The twist in Superhot, however, is that time only moves when you move, so you can plan every step and attack in advance to take down your targets efficiently. It’s a simple gimmick that manages to be extremely effective, and the story that unfolds in between each stage had us invested and frequently laughing from beginning to the very end. It’s definitely one of the coolest Nintendo Switch games out there.

Bulletstorm

A first-person shooter that plays as an exaggerated parody of other first-person shooters, People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm didn’t make much of a splash when it initially released on last-generation consoles. That’s a shame, because the game’s irreverence, ridiculous story, and Skillshot system make it a breath of fresh air compared to all the gray-and-brown military shooters that have become so popular. The Switch version even includes the option to play as Duke Nukem for the entire game, if you’re into that, and you’ll definitely be saying the game’s dumb one-liners after you stop playing.

BioShock

Even 13 years after its original release, BioShock remains one of the best first-person shooters of all time — and thankfully, we can now play it on the go on Nintendo Switch. Its visual style is designed in such a way that it still looks great and will likely remain timeless. The underwater city of Rapture oozes with environmental storytelling, and its inhabitants are just as creepy as ever. We arguably don’t get enough good survival horror games (or many at all), but BioShock is up there with the greats like Resident Evil and Dead Space. When you’re finished with the first one, you can play its follow-ups, BioShock 2 and BioShock: Infinite, as part of the collection on Switch.

Borderlands 2

We also don’t get enough shooter RPGs, but thankfully, the fan-favorite Borderlands 2 is available on Switch. It sends you on an insane quest for loot, with over-the-top weapons and a gameplay loop that will likely sink its teeth into you. It’s important for a game to feel good to play, and Borderlands 2 absolutely hits it out of the park in that department. Unlike a lot of shooters that focus on dark and realistic tones, Borderlands always has emphasized silly themes and sticks out due to its beautiful cel-shaded visuals. You can play the original Borderlands, The Pre-Sequel, and Borderlands 2, along with all of their DLC, on Nintendo Switch. Borderlands 2 is easily one of the best FPS games of all time and it’s now available on Switch!

Splatoon 2

The only game developed by Nintendo itself on this list, Splatoon 2, is exactly what a Splatoon sequel needed to be: more Splatoon. The multiplayer gameplay remains fast-paced and intense as you destroy your enemies with ink blasters while also trying to cover the map in as much ink as possible, and the game’s multiplayer progression system and customization options keep you engaged despite matches playing out similarly each time. It also offers another creative and platforming-filled campaign mode filled with plenty of fish puns, as well as a new cooperative Salmon Run mode that will put your abilities to the test. We also have Splatoon 3 to look forward to, which is planned to launch in 2022!

Read our full Splatoon 2 review

Fortnite

Fortnite Chapter 2

The biggest video game in the world can be played in your living room or while you’re sitting on the toilet. Fortnite: Battle Royale took the basic formula established in titles like The Culling and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and mixed in a structure-building element that lets you turn any location into a defendable fortress. Its goofy art style and continuous updates have changed the game drastically over time, and as a cross-play game, it is supported across all systems. This means a Switch player can enjoy the battle royale game with his friends on Xbox, PS4, or even their mobile phone, so no one has to ever play by themselves again. As one of the best free games on Switch, it also comes at no cost to you.

Read our full Fortnite review

The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds Ellie

Fans of the Fallout series will be right at home, as The Outer Worlds gives players dozens the choices to make, weapons to wield, and locations to explore, all while navigating a satirical storyline. A few concessions had to be made due to technical limitations, and the graphics leave a bit to be desired, but anyone looking for an FPS fix will be happy this gem found a home on the Switch. You can also keep an eye out for The Outer Worlds 2 which will come out at some point in the future.

Read our full The Outer Worlds review for Nintendo Switch

Warframe

You can’t play Destiny 2 on Nintendo Switch, but you can play a game that millions of players seem to prefer: Warframe. The free-to-play science-fiction game blends elements of shooters and third-person action together, with a ton of content and customization options. It’s a free-to-play game done well, never feeling like it’s asking for your money before you can do well, and developer Digital Extremes even includes enormous ships you can fly through space to take on roaming enemies. You have very little to lose by trying it out, except the time you’ll spend playing it if it manages to get its hooks in you — especially with it being a free game.

Resident Evil 4

Sure, Resident Evil 4 often is categorized as a survival horror game, but c’mon — it’s a shooter, too. Many consider it to be the best Resident Evil game in the series, and while we like to lean more toward the newer entries like Resident Evil 7 and the recent remakes, Resident Evil 4 is a must-play. It masterfully treads the line between a shooter and horror game, with tons of campy characters and scary monsters to fall in love with. This Switch game especially satisfying to acquire new upgrades to make the main character, Leon Kennedy, even stronger. Even if this game has some outdated things like the depiction of its damsel in distress, Ashley, there’s still a lot to love in RE4. Word on the street is that it will be getting a remake treatment, due out in the next few years, so survival horror fans might have that to look forward to.

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+

What a bizarre and wild game. The Binding of Isaac is a rougelike that we’re honestly surprised is even available on the Nintendo Switch, due to its heavy religious themes. It just goes to show how Nintendo — and video games as a whole — have evolved over time. In this Nintendo Switch game, you play as a naked baby named Isaac, who shoots horrifying enemies with his tears (no, we aren’t joking). It plays a lot like a dungeon crawler but features procedurally generated levels, in which no two runs are the same. But this also feels like a horror game at times. Random drops will help (or hurt) your character as he climbs through each floor in this top-down shooter. It’s grotesque, difficult, and funny — and there isn’t anything else like it.

Ikaruga

One of the best modern shoot-‘em-up and bullet hell games available on any platform, Switch included, Ikaruga is absolutely perfect for the platform. The game only makes use of a few buttons, with your ship able to fire projectiles and switch its polarity to deal damage against certain enemies while absorbing attacks from others. The game served as the main source of inspiration for Nier: Automata, and while we wait for that game to finally release on the console, you can get a taste of its aesthetic and intensity here. Just don’t get too upset if you find yourself struggling to make it more than a few minutes in without dying.

Jamestown+

First released in 2011 as Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, the alternate-history vertical shooter came to Switch in 2019 as Jamestown+. The game is set on Mars hundreds of years in the past and sees colonizing forces battling it out with an array of advanced weaponry. It has the classic intense feedback you want from a vertical shooter, and it uses a gold-collecting system to power special “Vaunt” abilities that give you momentary shielding and increased damage. Jamestown+ is so much more than meets the eye, and its soundtrack is a bizarre blend of golden gaming age nostalgia and frontier-era music that we’ve never heard before.

Nuclear Throne

Rogue-like games and shooters don’t usually mix, but no one told that to Vlambeer. The developer’s take on the top-down shooter lets you augment yourself with abilities via the nuclear wasteland, and backs it up with blistering shooting action as you make your way to the titular Nuclear Throne. You have tons of different weapons and explosives to choose from as you fight your way to your goal, and you’ll need to learn just a little bit more on each run if you want to ever be successful. Even just one slip-up can leave you vulnerable to shot from the game’s bizarre enemies, so never take your safety for granted.

Cuphead

Initially only available on Xbox One and PC, Cuphead now is an indie game on Nintendo Switch, and we’re so glad it is. The 2D shooter plays like a classic run-and-gun game mixed with a platformer, and its art style is reminiscent of classic Disney animated films like Steamboat Willie. Don’t let the cute exterior fool you, however, as it’s also one of the hardest games available on Switch. The Cuphead bosses show you no mercy, particularly as you approach the ending, and it will take every ounce of your abilities to make it to the final boss unscathed.

Rolling Gunner

Rolling Gunner is a traditional horizontal shooting game exclusive to Nintendo Switch, and it will appeal to fans of Thunder Cross and Gradius. It’s a challenging game — you’ll need to avoid bullets while attacking enemy ships — but you can customize your difficulty setting if need be. It features a marriage of modern and retro visual styles, with both forefront and hidden enemies. It’s not exactly revolutionary, but it builds on the classic shooter games of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Blazing Chrome

Blazing Chrome blasting enemies

This list doesn’t include Contra: Rogue Corps, even if it’s available on Nintendo Switch. It’s a low-quality Contra game for both consoles and arcade shooters. As an alternative, we suggest Blazing Chrome, which is similar to Contra III and Contra: Hard Corps in all the best ways. You’ll get challenging bosses and enemies and tons of weapon choices, but the best part about Blazing Chrome is its ample checkpoint and continue system. You won’t need to waste time starting from scratch if you’re having trouble with one section.

Sine Mora EX

Similar to Ikaruga, Sine Mora EX puts a fun variation on a standard aerial arcade shooter game by linking your health with the time limit. If your enemies hit you, you won’t instantly die, but your time available to finish the level will decrease. This feature means you don’t have any room for mistakes, and you’ll need to beat the bosses as fast as you can if you want time to finish your objective. The game is set against a dark apocalyptic backdrop with voice acting but also offers a separate arcade mode if you’re purely focused on the shooting. 

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

best-nintendo-switch-shooter-games

Functioning as an enhanced port of the 1997 classic, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is a first-person shooter that — as its name suggests — pits you against deadly dinosaurs. In 1997, 3D worlds were still a novel idea, and this is one of the games that brought 3D to the forefront. In this Nintendo Switch game, you’ll use a large arsenal of weapons (including a grenade launcher, Plasma Pulse Rifel, the Atomic Fusion Cannon, and more) to take out a slew of foes such as the Laser-Guided T-Rex. Expect to navigate through traps and puzzles along the way, as you progress towards defeating the evil overlord known as The Campaigner.

Apex Legends

best-nintendo-switch-shooter-games

In terms of value, it doesn’t get much better than Apex Legends, a free-to-play multiplayer Battle Royale shooter that recently launched for Nintendo Switch. This FPS game has been available on other platforms since 2019, but is now playable on the Switch, with cross-play functionality as well. Apex Legends features a slew of characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities and personalities. This offers a twist on the familiar battle royale formula, giving it elements of hero shooter as well. And thanks to Respawn Entertainments’ continued support, Apex Legends players have no shortage of content to enjoy, with more planned for the future.

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The 60 best shows on Amazon Prime Video right now

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Amazon Prime Video has tons of great content you can watch, from full legacy series to first seasons and exciting new originals. There’s something new all the time, but the catch is that you need to filter through to find what’s available with a base Amazon Prime subscription and what requires a secondary subscription. We’re making that process easy for you with this curated list of the best shows you can watch on Amazon Prime Video right now with only a base Prime subscription. From horrors and thrillers just in time for Halloween to romantic comedies, dramas, docuseries, sitcoms, and more, there’s something for everyone.

Looking for something else? We’ve also rounded up the best shows on Netflix, the best movies on Hulu, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video, and the best movies on Disney+.

Digital Trends Streaming Roundup

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The 91 best movies on HBO Max right now

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