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Updated on 6 April 2024

Help with employment status

HMRC can help you determine whether you are employed or self-employed.

a person sat at a desk holding 2 post-it notes, one says 'EMPLOYEE' and the other 'SELF EMPLOYED'
Vitalii Vodolazskyi /

Content on this page:

HMRC publications

HMRC have a factsheet (ES/FS1) that will help you check your employment status.

There is also guidance on employment status on GOV.UK.

HMRC have more detailed and extensive material about employment status in their employment status manual.

This includes sector specific hints and tips – for example, for care workers.

It also contains detailed guidance on all the different status factors and concepts. For example, we know substitution and control seem to be difficult to understand - HMRC have specific guidance on the following pages:

CEST tool

HMRC also offer an online tool called check employment status for tax (CEST). It will ask you a set of questions about your situation and at the end it will give you an indication of your employment status for tax, which you can print off and then show your engager (if necessary).

To access the part of the tool that deals with general status queries (as opposed to status in the context of IR35/off payroll) you need to click on 'If some work is classed as employment or self-employment for tax purposes' in answer to the first question (‘What do you want to find out?’).

There are then questions around things like: your right to send a substitute; who decides what work needs doing and who decides when, where and how the work is done; any financial risk; the extent of your involvement with the engager and any other contracts you may have. 

Although HMRC have tried to make the tool as user friendly as possible, there is also some quite technical language used in the questions, which can be confusing. For example, one of the questions asks whether the worker is an office holder. The term ‘office holder’ has a particular meaning in tax law and includes treasurers, trustees, company directors, company secretaries or other similar statutory roles. As you are unlikely to be an office holder, you should answer ‘No’ to this question.

There is some guidance to help you use it in HMRC's employment status manual, including a glossary of terms and help understanding what each question is getting at.

It is, however, a general tool and does not have the ability to address different sectors. This means there are limitations with the tool, which mean you may find some of the questions difficult to understand or answer and you may not get a reliable result.

In most cases, it is generally straightforward to apply the rules and decide tax status. You only need to turn to other sources of help like CEST where the situation is not clear.

The CEST tool should not be used to try and work out a status for employment law purposes, only tax purposes.


HMRC also have an employment status customer service team that may be able to help you work out if you are employed or self-employed or answer any questions you have about using the employment status tool. 

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