Umbrella Company Market

Legal Storm Brewing for Umbrella Companies After Significant Ruling

"Fixed" or "Temporary" Workplaces

A recent legal case involving a known player in the umbrella company market, was recently concluded with a verdict against them in an Upper Tier Tribunal case against HMRC on 24th January 2024. The case centred around how they managed expenses for the contractors they employ, ruling that there was insufficient mutuality of obligation under an overarching contract of employment to prevent each assignment being treated as a separate employment. Home to work travel did not therefore qualify as allowable under the ‘necessary attendance’ rules for temporary workplaces (ITEPA 2003 ss 338since 6 April 2017 s 339A for intermediaries).

Umbrella companies play a role in the recruitment market by employing contractors and helping them arrange flexible work through agencies. They act as intermediaries. Handle tasks, which makes them a preferred choice for both agencies and contractors.


The main issue lies in how these contractors’ work assignments are categorised. Whether they are considered "fixed" or "temporary" workplaces. The company in question, along with others, treated them as temporary, allowing contractors to claim certain expenses without tax implications. However, HMRC succeeded in the case, meaning that said company is now responsible for paying taxes on those expenses.


This ruling has consequences for all umbrella companies. Many similar businesses that had discussions with HMRC were hoping for an outcome. While it is uncertain whether this decision will be challenged, if it sets a precedent where umbrella companies are held accountable for taxes on expenses, it could create financial challenges.

Given this situation, umbrella companies concerned about risks should consider initiating discussions to explore available options and maintain control over their operations. If you are providing guidance to any companies dealing with these concerns, we strongly urge you reach out for support.

Chris Wright
February 13, 2024
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