Queen’s Speech reveals national insurance reforms for LLPs

Law firms which have converted to LLP status could find themselves saddled with a much larger national insurance bill under measures announced in today’s Queen’s Speech.

Among the legislative measures announced in the speech, the National Insurance Contributions Bill – aimed at reducing the costs of employment while fighting tax avoidance – will remove the presumption for self-employment for LLP members.

Currently, salaried partners who are members of an LLP are generally assumed to be self-employed, even if their contract makes them technically employees, meaning their firms escape having to pay national insurance contributions for them.

The measure was originally heralded in the Budget in March (20 March 2013), when lawyers said the proposals were unsurprising. Addleshaw Goddard professional practices head William Wastie said then that law firms with properly-drafted partnership agreements were likely to be compliant with any changes.

Today, CMS Cameron McKenna employment partner Sarah Ozanne added that the rules could open the way for confusion.

“If HMRC categorises an LLP member as employed, that might open the door for the member to argue that he should be entitled to employment rights more generally,” she said. “The test of employment status under employment law is much more sophisticated than one factor – and is different from the approach taken by HMRC – but such an element could form part of a wider assessment, depending on the final form of the legislation.”

However the move could be a boon for small businesses, including small firms, as the bill also proposes giving every business and charity a £2,000 ‘employment allowance’. Businesses whose national insurance contributions are less than £2,000 would therefore avoid having to pay any more.