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Archive for November, 2012

90-day target for world’s tallest tower

November 29th, 2012 Comments off

Chinese developer Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) has confirmed its intention of building a 220-storey skyscraper in just 90 days, according to local reports.

There had been rumours that it would take 210 days.

The 838m-tall building will have a construction area of a million square metres. It will require 200,000t of steel and will have 104 lifts. The tower was originally to have been 660m tall with 200 storeys but the latest dimensions mean that it would take the title of the world’s tallest tower from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The Sky City project will be carried out in collaboration with architects and engineers of the Burj Khalifa and will use use BSB’s modular technology, a construction method that features 95% factory prefabrication and a construction speed of five-storeys per day.

The project is due to start at the end of this year for completion at the end of March.

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Good news for budding engineers

November 28th, 2012 Comments off

There is good news for those hoping to make it in the engineering sector.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry Conference, business secretary Vince Cable has announced the expansion of an industry-led engineering recruitment scheme.

The Talent Retention Solution (TRS) was established in order to help employees find placements in manufacturing and engineering companies in the UK. The scheme currently has 2,200 people signed up but this number is sure to increase dramatically over the next few months due to a change in eligibility rules.

Currently, the TRS is only open to skilled workers already in work or facing redundancy but this is now to be opened up to include graduates and students.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Cable said: “I’m pleased that the scheme is being extended beyond those already established in the profession, to help engineering students and graduates get their big break.

“By matching people with real jobs, we are ensuring there is a pipeline of talented engineers of all levels plugging the huge demand for a skilled workforce in the sectors at the forefront of driving our recovery.”

This expansion will hopefully see newly qualified engineers finding employment easily and quickly within a company. More than 500 companies are currently signed up to the programme, from well-known names such as Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, EADS/Airbus, Siemens, Shell, Nissan, and EDF to smaller, family-owned businesses. This is not only a great opportunity for those looking for employment but also for smaller companies that may struggle to attract a high standard of applicants.

The website is soon to be given a complete overhaul in order to make it simpler for companies and individuals to get involved with the scheme.

“I’m pleased that the scheme is being extended beyond those already established in the profession, to help engineering students and graduates get their big break. By matching people with real jobs, we are ensuring there is a pipeline of talented engineers of all levels plugging the huge demand for a skilled workforce in the sectors at the forefront of driving our recovery,” added Mr Cable.

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Ministers are told to Kickstart transport projects to boost economy

November 27th, 2012 Comments off

British Chambers of Commerce says promised investment in infrastructure is delivered too slowly

The British Chambers of Commerce has called for urgent action to kickstart transport projects that could boost the economy by billions of pounds.

The body’s report on transport priorities, which tracks progress on 13 top projects, argues that £30bn of spending on plans ranging from Crossrail to the Forth replacement bridge would generate £86bn for the economy. However, the BCC argues that successive governments have damaged business by being slow to invest.

Adam Marshall, the BCC’s director of policy, said: “Transport infrastructure is critical to business growth but progress on the investment promised by successive governments continues to be too slow. Whenever key decisions to improve capacity on the country’s rail, road and air networks are delayed, our businesses and economy are missing out.

“We need bold action from the government to improve the UK’s transport infrastructure. This kind of investment is insulated from global uncertainty, and it creates short-term confidence, jobs in the medium term, and improves the UK’s competitiveness in the long term.

“Ministers must use all the powers at their disposal to kickstart these projects. In some cases, that will mean using the government’s balance sheet to unlock private funding, and in others, it will mean using planning powers to overcome objectives and speed the process of construction.”

The transport minister Norman Baker countered that the government was embarking on a “massive programme of investment – the biggest since the 19th century”. He said: “Making sure that the country has the transport network it needs to deliver economic growth is a top priority for us. That is why – despite the economic challenges we face – we have committed to building High Speed 2, a hugely ambitious infrastructure project which will support and sustain long term growth across the whole country.”

Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, argued: “[The BCC] report is further evidence of the government’s failure to deliver the infrastructure investment we need to create jobs and growth and strengthen our economy for the future. This dithering, delay and lack of leadership in the Treasury has led to widespread uncertainty for investors.”

A survey by the accounting firm KPMG found that tax incentives for capital investment in infrastructure are seen as a key driver of growth among big businesses.

Chris Morgan, head of tax policy at KPMG in the UK, said: “Our survey suggests that such a move would have a real and lasting impact on jobs and capital investment in the country.”

Among the stalled projects the BCC report highlighted are a third Heathrow runway, cancelled by the coalition government, and work on the A14, which is not due to begin until 2018.

Six other projects are on hold or under discussion, it said, including improvements to the M4 in Wales and key stations on the east coast mainline.

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Building Information Modelling (BIM) essential for the future of architecture

November 23rd, 2012 Comments off

A comprehensive report by market research team Pike Research has concluded that BIM is integral to the future of the Construction industry and will ultimately result in a changed attitude toward building construction and the way technology is used to deliver projects.

The BIM Report

The report studied market data and trend analysis to predict what could happen in the industry as a result of BIM and its development and processes.

It forecasted that practices utilising BIM would gain significant advantage over competitors. Senior research analyst Eric Bloom stated, “As BIM tools and processes are adopted by more and more firms in the industry [the advantages will become obvious through] higher quality and more reliable deliveries”.

As a result, Bloom concluded, “BIM adoption will become a necessity for competing effectively in the market”.

KSS Design Group’s BIM Rational

KSS Design Group is a London based architectural firm who were early adopters of BIM . They saw the benefits of BIM and its process very early and have used Autodesk Revit since 2004. In the years since, they have tailored all project processes to suit BIM delivery. Currently they have several projects at varying levels of BIM maturity. However, it’s still common for clients to question the benefits of BIM or even fully understand what BIM is. This is due to the fact that the industry is changing so rapidly that they need to continually educate ourselves and the people around us.

Here are some high-level beneficial points for any construction project:

  • When using BIM, all the information you could ever need about the construction project is retained in a single model. From specific design measurements to the types of materials used, BIM offers the most efficient option for all core phases of a development: conception, design, construction and management.
  • Because BIM utilises 3D modelling software, you can produce variations quickly without a costly charge or requiring too much time from the designers or architects. BIM is also vitally important to measure the sustainability and long-term legacy of a building. Because you can store so much more data, a BIM model can be used throughout the lifetime of a building – right through to demolition.
  • BIM’s intuitive modelling system means projects are visualised early. Designs are signed off with minimal time lag and the project is not held up by lengthy design revisions.
  • BIM collates data and information from every single resource that works on a construction project. Information is therefore not lost and errors both virtually and realistically are captured. Models produced within a BIM environment are inclusive and can be utilised by all parties working on the project, from architects right through to building managers.

Perhaps more importantly, BIM improves the service offered to the client. Its many benefits mean projects are easier to run, are more cost effective and far less susceptible to problems.

How KSS use BIM

KSS are a market leader in terms of BIM Adoption. Having utilised the 3D collaboration benefits a number of years ago they have been able to effectively grow and adapt to the process and understand its benefits.

Luton Sixth Form College

The redevelopment of Luton Sixth Form College provides fantastic new learning environments in a compact layout. Utilising a ‘lonely’ BIM process, the project used a phased construction to allow the college to remain open whilst new facilities were built.

 

 

 

 

 

The project was completed July 2010.

 

 

 

 

 


Sammy Ofer International Stadium

The Sammy Ofer International Stadium is a new 30,000 capacity UEFA compliant football stadium in the port city of Haifa in Israel. The stadium has a unique design, making it stand out on the horizon. The design combines the seating bowl and roof with a cladding envelope. This forms a single shape, wowing spectators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For this project, KSS were able to conceptualise in 3D and understand the building shape and geometry whilst providing varying options to the client. The use of digital representation as part of the very early design process has allowed for a more informed approach to the building design and geometry.

The project is expected to be completed summer 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 


2016 BIM government deadline

With the looming Government deadline approaching, KSS are finding that with their knowledge and BIM focused approach they are ready to tackle the challenges and understand how to implement a Level 2 scenario adequately. The practice will strive to permanently deliver quality buildings within a BIM environment where possible and constantly evolve and understand the way technology is changing.

 

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UK green construction at the forefront

November 21st, 2012 Comments off

It has been a rough couple of years for the UK construction industry. Construction output is officially at its lowest point in 13 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that recently revealed output was down 11.3 per cent year-on-year and 2.6 per cent from the second quarter. There is however one arm of the industry that has not suffered the effects of the economic downturn – or at least, not to the same extent – sustainable building.

In a recent survey undertaken by McGraw-Hill Construction and United Technologies, the UK came in at second place in a worldwide survey of future green building plans. 62 countries took part in the study and the UK came in just behind Singapore, with 65 per cent of respondents intending to complete sustainable renovations in the next three years (compared to Singapore’s 69 per cent).

The average came in at just 50 per cent – highlighting the UK’s continued dedication to the sustainable building industry.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Harvey M. Bernstein, vice president, industry insights and alliances for McGraw-Hill Construction, said: “It is notable that over the next three years, firms working in countries around the world have green work planned across all building types, incorporating both new construction and renovation.

“The existing building market is a ripe opportunity for green building, and we are seeing that play out in the market. It is clear that green is becoming an important part of the future landscape of the global construction marketplace, and firms will need to be prepared for that transition.”

Respondents were asked for justification for the movement towards greener buildings. Answers included the general health and well-being of inhabitants, water usage and improved indoor air quality. The main factor behind this shift however was reducing overall energy usage, which was commented upon by 72 per cent of those surveyed.

On average, over a seven-year period, new buildings built to optimise energy efficiency can expect to save eight per cent on running costs in one year and 15 per cent over five years. These numbers are similar for sustainable retrofit projects – savings of nine per cent in the first 12 months and 13 per cent over five years.

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6 Simple Ways to Reduce Overhead

November 19th, 2012 Comments off

There are two ways to increase your bottom line: create more income or reduce the amount of money you spend on running your business. While marketing can go a long way toward increasing your day-to-day income, you ultimately have little control over how many customers come your way. Reducing your overhead, on the other hand, is almost entirely up to you. Tighten up on small and large expenses to increase the net profit you see on your balance sheet.

Service Contracts

Any machinery you own and operate is subject to breaking down, and many business owners have service contracts with local businesses, much like repair insurance for their ovens or computers. Take a close look at how often these pieces of equipment actually need servicing. If your machines are in good condition and rarely need servicing, it may be more cost-effective to cancel monthly service contracts and simply pay for repairs when they are needed. Survey employees and look to your own skills to find how much repair work you can do onsite without even calling in an expert. Many times a simple repair such as a blown fuse or need for reset can cost money that you didn’t need to spend.

Shop for Inventory

If you’re relying on one company or catalog for stocking your business, you may be missing out on some major discounts. Make a periodic review of every ingredient, supply and raw material you purchase for day-to-day operations. Check out the prices at competitors’ businesses. It may take a little extra time each month to generate separate orders for different parts of your business inventory, but you could realize a nice profit in the long run, simply by comparison shopping.

Use Part-Time Work

If you offer benefits to your full-time employees, determine whether many of the duties at your business can be performed by part-time workers. Part-timers get the same amount of training as full-time or salaried employees, but they often make less per hour, get smaller benefits packages and show initiative because of a desire to move up in the company. Two part-timers can do the work of one full time employee for a much lower fee, in most cases.

Phones

Unless you are running a business dictated entirely by phone orders, you may be able to get rid of your land line completely. Use Skype, Google Voice and inexpensive prepaid cell phones for all your business needs. You’ll make a good impression with clients when you offer communications at a high tech level, and save the cost of a business phone each month. The face-to-face impact of Skype alone can increase the effectiveness of any business meeting, and many prepaid phones are a fraction of the cost of a basic business land line package.

Brand Ambassadors

Advertising and marketing are a crucial part of any business, but paying for traditional ads can be a significant part of your monthly costs. Develop your best regular customers into brand ambassadors to create an almost-free advertising campaign. Offer customers goods and services when they bring in a certain number of new customers, or pay street teams in product to spread the word about your company.

Hire Multitaskers

Whether you plan to hire full time help or a crew of part-timers, concentrate on employees who have multiple skills. Specialists may have intricate knowledge of their subject matter, but a worker who can pitch in and do another worker’s tasks when needed is a more valuable employee, in the long run. If the second task is one that is rarely needed, you’ll save the expense of hiring a second employee entirely.

officespaceforrent.org

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Measured Building Surveys for any purpose

November 16th, 2012 Comments off

MobileCADSurveys.co.uk   Surveys carried out all around the UK and abroad,  places such as  Ukraine, Guernsey and the Isle of Man and even surveyed a small castle in the Midlands, plus, a very unique Convent with a number of Chapels and Churches and a Monastary! in the last few months,  it gets very interesting.

If you need a measured building survey or several, (size no problem)  measured building surveys or a measured building surveyor, then you are in the right place.  If time is of the essence, or clients time constraints are limited on site, we can accommodate you.

Whether your survey project is large or small, a single house plan of a few square metres up to thousands of square metres or several house plans. building plans or ‘As Built’ plans, anywhere in Europe then we can meet your requirements. We have vast experience of Measured Building Surveysfloor plans and elevational drawings, sections and Topographical Surveys, everything from private homes and domestic premises, apartment blocks, and flats, to churches, ecclesiastical buildings, , charity sites, supermarkets and court buildings have carried out. Measured survey programmes  encompassing hundreds of properties can be accommodated.  A schedule can be drawn up to suit you!

Why not give us a try, call 0871 789 2609 or email us or just as for an online quotation.

http://www.measuredsurveys.net/

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Maybe 60,000 engineers are needed in the next decade

November 16th, 2012 Comments off

Whilst the construction industry may be struggling, certain skills are now needed more than ever.

According to data released by the National Office of Statistics, construction output fell 13.1 per cent in September from a year ago. This figure means that construction output in the UK is now at its lowest point in 13 years. ONS figures showed that the estimated volume of all new work fell by 2.2 per cent, while repair and maintenance fell by 3.2 per cent in the third quarter compared with the second quarter of this year.

However it is not all bad news for those in the construction sector.

David Edwards, chief executive of the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) has stated that in order to keep up with demand, the industry needs to recruit 60,000 more skilled workers over the next ten years.

Speaking at the WorldSkills event in Birmingham, the expert commented that the industry expects to see a 30 per cent increase in the next decade and more people need to get into the sector in order to satisfy this demand.

“The career opportunities in this industry are numerous. There are currently some 100,000 UK workers in the engineering construction industry in more than 170 different roles, some with practical skills such as steel erecting, pipefitting and welding and others, which are more technician-based, such as instrumentation and control maintenance and design and draughting. There are good career prospects for all these roles and salaries compare very favourably with other industries,” commented Mr Edwards.

The engineering construction industry plays an essential role in the UK economy through the design, construction and maintenance of much of the industrial processing and energy production facilities. The industry currently generates £16 billion annual turnover and accounts for 1.5 per cent of the UK’s GDP.

“It is vital to the future of engineering construction in this country that we raise awareness of the industry with young people,” added Mr Edwards.

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Prefabs sprout as Britain embraces timber-frame housing

November 15th, 2012 Comments off

Persimmon has seen the future and it’s flat, pre-constructed and modelled on the car industry

Despite Ikea’s involvement in the development of modern flatpack housing, you won’t need an Allen key for assembly; you won’t even have to put it together yourself. After the Swedish company experimented with a prefab village in Gateshead five years ago, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilding companies, Persimmon, is investing heavily in prefabricated housing.

Understandably, Persimmon doesn’t like the term prefab because it conjures up images of low-quality postwar buildings destined to be knocked down in a few years’ time. The company prefers to talk about “second-generation closed-panel timber-frame” housing.

The York-based housebuilder acquired the Space4 timber frame factory at Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham, as part of its takeover of a smaller rival, Westbury, in 2006. The factory sold more than 3,250 timber-frame home kits last year, a 19% rise on the previous year, supplying just over a third of Persimmon’s homes.

Despite a lack of mortgage finance, demand for newbuild homes is holding steady, thanks to the government’s First Buy and Funding for Lending schemes, rival housebuilders Taylor Wimpey, Redrow and Bovis Homes say.

You can’t tell a Space4 timber kit house from a bricks-and-mortar one, because Persimmon adds cladding to make them look like traditional homes, under its Charles Church and Westbury brands. The company reckons it will build 3,500 this year. It has been making three-storey houses, student digs and apartment blocks in this way, including 63 social housing units in Liverpool.

Persimmon isn’t the only company building prefabricated houses. Ikea built Britain’s first flatpack hamlet in the form of St James Village, Gateshead, in 2007, together with the building firm Live Smart @ Home. The 93 Scandinavian-style BoKlok homes, a mix of one- and two-bedroom flats and two- and three-bedroom houses, were aimed at young professionals and families (households earning between £15,000 and £35,00 a year). Priced at between £99,500 and £149,500 and sold on a shared ownership or outright sale basis, they were snapped up quickly.

BoKlok (BoKlok is Swedish for “smart living”) is a joint venture between Ikea and the Swedish construction giant Skanska. Ikea says that while it has no imminent plans for more prefab housing projects in Britain, Skanska will build any future villages.

“The UK is an interesting market for us,” says Ewa Magnusson, marketing manager at BoKlok. “We’re considering it. If we re-enter, we would do it with Skanska.”

Ikea also approached Space4 about teaming up but no deal was reached.

The idea that these are flimsy, flatpack houses is given short shrift. BoKlok points out that they are soundproofed, with high ceilings, low energy heating and insulation, and come with an eco-homes “excellent” rating.

Not surprisingly, the open-plan interiors look a bit like an Ikea catalogue. They come with laminate flooring and Ikea kitchens, and each buyer was given a £250 voucher and a free consultation with an Ikea interior designer.

While BoKlok houses have a limited choice of colour and cladding types, Persimmon’s Space4 arm has come up with more than 1,000 different CAD-designed timber-frame house types. Chris Hagan, managing director of the factory, says: “If you chopped them into smaller pieces, you could sell them to B&Q.” But he adds that this is unlikely, as the company is after high volume sales.

The advantage of making a fully insulated house shell in a factory is clear: it takes a day or two to assemble and a further six to eight weeks to fully kit it out, plumb and wire it – the windows and doors as well as the interiors are fitted on site – while a traditional home takes 14 to 16 weeks to build. And builders are less reliant on good weather.

The Space4 factory is modelled on the car industry. The Midlands has traditionally been an automotive hub, and the majority of the Space4 workers previously worked for carmakers such as Land Rover, Rover or Peugeot. Hagan himself used to work in the car industry, and brought a similar shift operation and level of automation to the housing factory to sharpen up the process.

It takes just an hour to manufacture a house, with external and internal wall panels and floors being produced on three different production lines simultaneously. The factory has capacity to manufacture more than 8,000 houses a year, so production could easily be ramped up in response to rising demand.

With the government’s drive towards zero-carbon housing by 2016, the environmental credentials of a “fabric first” approach are key (in contrast to a traditional house, to which solar panels, wind turbines and air source heat pumps are added later). Persimmon says a Space4 home is 50% more energy efficient than a traditional house, and cosier to live in. Improved insulation and air tightness mean that the average heating bill is £360 a year, compared with £720 for existing homes.

It’s mainly down to the pink phenolic foam insulation that is injected into the timber-house frame and combined with a thin membrane, while wood is a good natural insulator in itself. Phenolic foam is also fire resistant. It will not spread the flames, and it gives out only minimal toxic fumes.

With new environmental regulations kicking in next year, other housebuilders are also working to make their houses greener.

Other countries, such as Germany, build predominantly in timber. Timber frames account for 70% of all new houses built around the world, but just 25% of new housing in the UK.

Nigel Greenaway, who heads Persimmon’s southern division, says his son, who lives in a two-bedroom Space4 house in Devon, pays just £1 a day for heating and electricity, and has tiny radiators. At a time of surging energy bills, this is certainly very appealing.

“We believe we’ve got a real steal on the competition,” he says.

Other UK housebuilders have looked at making timber-frame homes but decided it wasn’t for them. Barratt, which was once Britain’s largest housebuilder, abandoned timber-framed construction after suffering some bad press in the early 1980s that led to sales halving. Space4 supplied other housebuilders including Bellway, Taylor Wimpey and David Wilson in the past, but now supplies only Persimmon. Taylor Wimpey’s own timber-frame division, Prestoplan, is a small part of its business.

Meanwhile, a growing number of German timber frame companies such as Huf Haus and Baufritz have come to Britain. The family-run Huf Haus, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, has built about 180 prefab houses in the UK since coming here 11 years ago. Prices start at £450,000.

David Ritchie, chief executive of Bovis Homes, believes that a traditionally built “brick and block” home remains the preference of many British homebuyers. “The often quoted benefits of constructing more quickly using other build techniques such as timber frame rely very much on the kit of parts being correct when it arrives on site,” he says. “And when this doesn’t happen, it can lead to significant downtime and delays.”

He adds that the company regularly builds its show homes on new sites in under 42 days, so speed of build is not a problem. “More importantly, in the current market, where build times are dictated by the availability of a customer with a mortgage, there is no real benefit to racing off down the field,” he says.

While countries such as Germany have a long tradition of building in timber, Greenaway acknowledges there are challenges in persuading customers to switch from traditional brick homes to timber-frame houses. “It’s different here: for probably 100 years, we’ve been building in bricks,” he says. “But when asked: ‘Would you like to slice 50% off your fuel bills?’ most people would like to do that.”

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IR35 – Are You In or Out?

November 13th, 2012 Comments off

One of the most common concerns for contractors in the UK is their employment status and this is monitored by HMRC using IR35 legislation. Whether a contractor falls inside or outside IR35 legislation will have a major impact on how much tax they pay. Complications arise for independent contractors because different jobs require different contracts and sometimes these contracts will tread a fine line between being inside or outside of IR35. It can be pretty confusing, but if an independent contractor pays attention to a few key areas they should be able figure out how IR35 affects them.

IR35 was put in place in 2000 to prevent employees posing as contractors for tax reasons. Prior to IR35 it would have been possible for someone to leave their job on a Friday, set themselves up as an independent contractor over the weekend, then return to do the same job on Monday;  while paying a lot less tax without having to take any of the actual risks a genuine independent contractor would.

Outside IR35

If a contractor is genuinely independent then it is likely they are outside IR35 legislation and entitled to label themselves as such; allowing the appropriate tax breaks to apply. To be safely outside IR35 legislation a contractor will typically have to be:

–          Paid a set amount for a specific job

–          Responsible for providing their own equipment

–          Financially responsible for the quality of their work and the time it takes to complete

–          Be in control of what work is done and when

This is the level of responsibility that HMRC would deem appropriate for an independent contractor. By falling outside of IR35 a contractor will pay 22% corporation tax but avoid 40% PAYE and NI at varying rates dependent on the job; so you can see why falling outside of IR35 is appealing to contractors.

Inside IR35

To be “inside” IR35 legislation is to be subject to its terms and conditions. If a contractor is inside IR35 legislation they are technically classed as an employee and as such are due to pay regular NI and PAYE contributions. HMRC will consider a contractor to be inside IR35 if any of the following apply:

–          The contractor cannot work independently (i.e. they have a boss)

–          The contractor is not paying for their own tools or equipment

–          There is no financial risk (the contractor gets paid a wage regardless of results)

–          The contractor is paid a wage, given contributions to a pension or has paid holidays

–          The contractor works a fixed amount of hours

Any of the following criteria would see a contractor classed as an employee. If the criteria above apply then it would unadvisable to claim independent contractor status because an HMRC investigation would likely judge the contractor as fraudulent. The punishment can be a fine of between 30-100% of the PAYE and NI avoided; the severity of the fine depending on whether the contractor’s false status is deemed to be careless, negligent or deliberate.

Unsure?

There are no hard rules regarding IR35 but if HMRC demand proof of a contractor’s IR35 status they are likely to consider the key points mentioned above. The contractor will also have to provide evidence that they are operating within the approved guidelines. If a contractor is still unsure then an increasing number of small business accountants that specialise in   contract accounting are available to advise them on how their work relates to IR35.

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