We’ve covered the basics on how to spot and avoid a mini umbrella company (MUC), transitioning away from the use of a MUC and the consequences that including such businesses in your supply chain may have for both you and your clients.
What is a mini umbrella company?
A MUC is a model whereby small, limited companies are established, with a small number of temporary workers employed within each. This tactic enables the limited companies to then benefit from reduced PAYE and National Insurance payments and taking advantage of the VAT Flat Rate Scheme. In our view, majority of these schemes manipulate legislation, do not represent the reality of the underlying structure and are therefore committing income tax, national insurance and VAT fraud.
Mini umbrella companies are facilitated by a ‘promoter business’ and will often work alongside other linked businesses that support the operation. This can make identifying these fraudulent activities difficult as they typically sit low down within the supply chain, between complex layers of operation.
We enable you to pay your contractors on time, and without any risk.
Mini umbrella company dangers to recruitment agencies
As an industry associated closely with temporary labour, it’s important that you are aware of the dangers that mini umbrella companies can bring to your supply chain.
Involving a mini umbrella company in your supply chain could be considered as criminal tax evasion under the General Anti-Abuse Rule and could contain several impacts for both you and your clients.
We’ve outlined some of the consequences of involving a MUC in your supply chain:
1. Financial damage
Regulatory bodies, such as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), actively investigate non-compliance. Should your business be caught using a mini umbrella company you could be liable to pay penalties from HMRC, alongside paying any unpaid taxes or National Insurance Contributions (NICs) associated with contractors engaged through a MUC. This includes both your own tax liabilities and those of the contractors and could have a significant impact on the financial stability of your agency.
2. Reputational damage
Associating your business with such non-compliant tax schemes could leave you at risk of huge reputational damage and may affect your current relationships and ability to win any future contracts.
3. Operational disruptions
HMRC investigations or legal actions resulting from involvement with a MUC can heavily impact the operations and contracts held by your agency. Impacts may include increased administrative burden, legal defence costs and contractual disputes.
4. Lower contractor satisfaction and retention rates
Contractors engaged through a MUC may become dissatisfied or unhappy with your service due to lack of employment benefits, financial risk and non-compliance. This could result in a loss of contractor loyalty and trust and severely impact your contractor retention rate.
5. Difficulty in securing insurance
Involvement with non-compliant umbrella companies can make it challenging for your agency to secure or maintain professional indemnity insurance. Insurance providers may view such engagements as high-risk activities.
6. Loss of competitive advantage
Involvement with non-compliant tax schemes can have a huge impact on your agency's competitive advantage. Clients are increasingly prioritising compliance therefore, agencies demonstrating a commitment to legal and ethical practices have a competitive edge.
Mini umbrella company warning signs
Spotting a MUC can be tricky, as they become more unconventional in their ways of hiding from HMRC. Some common warning signs to look out for are:
MUCs may offer services at a noticeably lower fee in comparison to compliant umbrella companies on the market.
Lack of transparency
MUCs may hold a lack of transparency in financial transactions. For example, when it comes to payment structures or fee breakdowns. Compliant umbrella companies provide clear and transparent financial information.
No offering of employee benefits
Often, non-compliant schemes fail to offer employment benefits such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity pay and pension contributions.
An unusual company name
Multiple companies are often set up around the same time and hold an unusual name which is not suitable for their aimed business activities.
Unrelated business activity
The businesses activity provided by the workers does not match those described on Companies House. MUCs may have limited or no trading history, an absence of business assets, and a lack of business operations.
Foreign national directors
Foreign nationals with no previous experience in the UK labour supply industry are often listed as a MUC as a director. These can replace a temporary UK resident director after a short period of time.
The business structure of MUCs may also appear unusual or overly complex, involving multiple layers or entities to hide their non-compliant operations.
Noticeably high movement of workers
You may notice that employees of MUCs may be moved frequently between different MUCs. Companies that are small and handle an unusually high volume of contractors, could also indicate a scheme designed to take advantage of tax benefits.
You will notice that MUCs have a relatively short lifespan, often less than 18 months before being dissolved by Companies House due to them not meeting filing obligations.
For further guidance you can visit the GOV.UK website.
Think you might be involved with a mini umbrella company?
Involving a MUC in your supply chain could be considered as criminal tax evasion under the General Anti-Abuse Rule.
For a limited time, our expert team are conducting a free, thorough review of your payroll processes and provide guidance on ensuring compliance and mitigating potential risks.
Involved with a mini umbrella company?
6 ways to transition away from the use of a MUC
Transitioning away from the use of a MUC is crucial for you to demonstrate full compliance and mitigate any potential risks.