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HMRC internal manual

Employment Status Manual

Particular occupations: casual journalists - employer guidance

This guidance is to help engagers determine the employment status of casual journalists for Income Tax and National Insurance purposes.

‘The purpose of this guidance is to help you to decide whether casual journalists you take on are engaged under a contract of service (employment) or a contract for services (self-employment).

`Casual journalists’

  • are those engaged under short-term contracts - for example, those engaged by the shift, and
  • include, for example, sub-editors, reporters, features etc writers, photographers, graphic designers, and layout artists.

The guidance has no binding force and does not affect rights of appeal on any point concerning liability to tax and NICs. Engagers should seek professional advice in relation to other areas of the law (for example, employment rights legislation and vicarious liability) because different considerations may apply.

Further guidance on employment status is contained in the factsheets ES/FS1 aimed at workers and ES/FS2 aimed at engagers. If you are unsure about a particular engagement, you should contact the Status Inspector at your local HMRC Office for advice.

Employment Status

To decide whether someone is employed by you or not, you have to consider a number of factors. Many journalists working on short-term assignments (for example, some occasional contributors) will be self-employed because of the terms and conditions under which they are engaged. But in addition the way in which a journalist organises their journalistic activities as a whole may demonstrate self-employment. The sort of engagement likely to be affected is one that is short in duration and where

  • both you and the journalist intend that the engagement amounts to self employment, and 
  • no payments such as sick pay, holiday pay, pension scheme membership, etc. which are commonly paid to employees are provided and either 

    • the journalist has substantial and related professional activities on a self-employed basis and the engagement is a small part of those activities, or
    • the journalist has a succession of similar short-term engagements with a number of different engagers and has a clear business-like approach to obtaining those engagements with related expenditure of a type not normally associated with employment (for example the expenses of running an office).

Evidence: Personal Factors

As engager you may need to ask journalists about their other work to enable you to decide their employment status. Where that happens, you should keep a record of what is said to you or ask the journalists for a written statement of their particular circumstances. The record you keep or the journalist’s statement should cover the details of the activities that support that decision: for example:

  • the journalist regularly works for other engagers doing similar work under similar short-term contracts and organises their engagements in a business-like way
  • the journalist has an ongoing and full-time business as a self-employed freelance journalist
  • that they agree the engagement amounts to self-employment.

If you have engaged someone on a long-term basis and they claim to have other work that would make the engagement self-employment, you should contact the Status Inspector at your local HMRC Office for advice.