Contractual issues

What are your contractual arrangements for consultancy?

We contract with the external client and then ask you, as the consultant, to sign a standard back-to-back agreement with us confirming that you will provide the services that we are offering to the client and agree to be bound by the terms and conditions of that contract.

We structure the contracts we have with our clients to ensure that, except in the unlikely event of fraud or willful misconduct, any legal action taken by clients is brought against us and not the consultant personally.

I’ve already begun work on a consultancy project for a company and now they have sent me a contract which I am unsure about signing, can you help?

Possibly. Please contact us without delay. While it may not be possible to re-negotiate any fees that you may have already indicated would be acceptable, it is usually possible for us to put in place a protective contract that limits your liability and will allow you to be covered by our insurance policies.

I’ve signed a consultancy contract and undertaken some work but the client hasn’t paid me, can you help?

Unfortunately, we are unable to help you recover fees from work done under a contract to which we are not a party.

I’ve been asked to do some consultancy work for a company and there’s no contract, they’ve just told me to send them an invoice, is this OK?

When you are being paid by a client to undertake some work for them, it always best to agree the terms and conditions of the engagement prior to beginning the project, otherwise you may, albeit inadvertently, find yourself taking on responsibilities and liabilities that were not anticipated. We can advise on these matters.

How much should I charge for my time?

This will depend on a number of factors including the nature of the work, the type of client, the time frame in which the client wishes you to operate, your motivations for doing the work; whether, or not, you are uniquely able to provide the advice the client is seeking.

Our Consulting Services team negotiates more than 400 contracts a year so we have considerable experience of ‘going rates’ for particular types of consultancy. Your project manager will be able to discuss with you what is appropriate in the particular circumstances of the project.

Do I have to handle my consultancy through your consultancy services?

Oxford University Innovation’s Consulting Services team is the University’s preferred and official route because we aim to protect both the interests of the individual consultant and the University. If you don’t use us you are recommended to take legal advice and have your own insurance to protect yourself from direct action by the client and/or a third party claim. Whether or not you use our services, approval to hold the outside appointment must be sought through the University’s OA1 system.

Payment arrangements

Will you tell HMRC what I have earned through consultancy?

Yes. Our consultants are treated as self-employed for the purpose of tax and not paid through PAYE. HMRC have indicated that employees of the University who wish to undertake personal consultancy outside of their University employment should register as self-employed and declare their consultancy income to HMRC for tax and NI through Self-Assessment.

Under Government rules introduced from 6 April 2015, employment intermediaries, including OUI, are now required to report a return of worker information every three months to HMRC. Accordingly, if you have received a payment from us during the reported quarter we are required to declare this to HMRC. The information that we are required to provide in this disclosure includes your name, NI number and Unique Tax Reference (UTR) along with all fees and expenses that have been paid to you over this period.  If you charge us VAT, we will also disclose this VAT component.

How am I paid?

We pay fees for personal consultancy directly and without deduction of tax or NI. You are responsible for declaring this income for tax/NI and HMRC advise that consultants should register to be self-employed for this activity.

Is it necessary to register as self-employed for the purposes of direct payment?

Yes, it is essential. HMRC needs to be notified within three months of conducting work on a self-employed basis. However, registering is a straightforward process and all the information required, including help lines, is on the HMRC website.

Do academic consultants have to register for VAT?

No, not necessarily. Individuals earning in excess of the VAT registration limit (£81,000in tax year ending 2013) in a tax year via self-employed sources need to register for VAT.

If academic consultants decide to register for VAT, they should charge VAT to us on the Cost of their consultancy. This VAT will be paid by us to the academic consultant together with the Consultancy Cost under the usual terms of payment.

If academic consultants are VAT registered they must provide their VAT number to us and let us know of any change in their circumstances.

Do I need to submit an invoice to the client?

No. We have the contract and financial relationship with the client and are responsible for invoicing for the work. Please do let us know as soon as the work is done, or on a monthly basis as agreed with your Project Manager. We can provide a template time sheet for you to record hours worked and/or expenses.

Do I need to submit an invoice to you for my consultancy fees?

You will need to have an invoice showing the income received from self-employment activities for your HMRC records. To make this easier for you, we will do this on your behalf under a ‘self-billing’ arrangement and will send you a copy to retain. You will, of course, need to let us know of any changes to your circumstances (eg name, address, bank details, VAT status & registration number if appropriate) to ensure that the invoices we raise for you are correct. These details will be included on your invoice.

As HMRC rules regarding self-billing require parties to consent to the arrangement, a clause requesting such consent is contained within the standard back to back agreement that you sign with us.

If you would prefer to decline the offer to ‘self-bill’, and create the invoices yourself you will be able to do so when you contract with us. We can supply you with an invoice/timesheet template which you can complete yourself and email to us.

When do I get paid?

Once payment is received from the client, the consultant is added to our next payment run. These happen regularly, usually twice a month (except in August and December when one only occurs).

To enable payment to consultants, we need to hold their personal bank account details and these will be shown on your ‘self-billing’ invoice.

Please be aware that when working with new clients, there may be a small delay on the first payment, as the client needs to add us as a supplier in their payment system. This is usually rectified once we are established with the client.

Can you, or the University, provide financial/tax advice to consultants?

No, for legal reasons, it is not possible for either us, or the University, to offer individuals financial/tax advice. Direct payment requires consultants to consider whether they need to seek independent professional advice in managing their tax and compliance obligations. The following companies could provide assistance:

James Cowper LLP
Mark Herson, Director
T +44 (0)1865 861166

Shaw Gibbs
David Rickwood, Private Client Tax Partner
T +44 (0) 1865 292241
E david.rickwood@shawgibbs.com

Zita Harris
T +44 (0) 1865 261100
E zharris@critchleys.co.uk

Grant Thornton
Naomi Smith
T +44 (0) 1865 799853
E Naomi.smith@uk.gt.com


I want the fees from my consultancy to go to my department, is this possible?

Yes, this is possible provided that we know at the start of the project that this is what you wish to happen. If you wish your fees to go to the department, we will put in place a ‘departmental consultancy’ contract with the client stating that we will sub-contract the services to the department who will in turn make you available to do the work. By doing it this way, we do not create a personal tax liability for you.

Note however that those funds disbursed to a department must not be subsequently used by you for personal gain, otherwise, this may again create a tax liability. If giving fees to your department is something that interests you, please be sure to discuss this as soon as possible with your project manager.

What do I do about Income Tax and National Insurance?

We have taken professional advice on how consultants should handle tax and national insurance and HMRC have indicated that employees of the University who wish to undertake personal consultancy outside of their University employment should register as self-employed and declare their consultancy income to HMRC for tax and NI through Self-Assessment.

We are un-authorised to provide financial advice, but information on registering as self-employed is on the HMRC website.

Can you pay me my fees through University payroll?

No, we will pay you direct as a self-employed consultant. A few years ago we asked our registered consultants whether they preferred to be paid through payroll or direct as self-employed consultants. The majority of respondents said they preferred to be paid direct and so we adjusted our contracts and administrative systems accordingly.

Where can I find out more information about registering as self-employed?

We are not authorised to provide financial advice, but information on registering with HMRC can be found on the HMRC website

I hold a tier 2 visa. Can I work through your Consulting Services?

In the most of cases, yes. We pay our consultants direct as self-employed consultants. The Staff Immigration Team in the University’s Personnel Services has confirmation from the Home Office that supplementary employment under Tier 2 does allow for self-employment provided the normal requirements for the work to qualify as supplementary are met.

The qualifying criteria are:

1) that the work is of the same type (or is a job which is on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list) and at the same professional level as the Tier 2 visa holder’s main role; and

2) the supplementary work cannot exceed 20 hours per week; and

3) the supplementary work should be outside the working hours of, and not interfere with, the main role.

Consultancy projects handled through us would typically meet these criteria since engagements will be professional, in the same business sector, outside normal working hours and less than 20 hours per week.

Any queries should be raised with the University’s Staff Immigration Team .

Are there any University rules covering consulting to a spin-out?

Yes. The University’s consultancy policy and procedures formally states:

“Staff who are founders or directors of spin-outs are required to use Oxford University Innovation’s Consulting Services for managing consultancies to their spin-outs in the first year following formation of the spin-out. After that 12 month period, staff may choose to continue to consult through us or to consult privately/independently.”



Why do you charge a management fee?

In order to cover some of our operating costs, the University asks us to deduct a management fee from the price we charge our external clients. This is 10% of the fees OUI invoices its external client.  Authorised expenses invoiced by us on your behalf attract no deduction.

Types of consultancy work

I’ve been asked to attend a Scientific Advisory Board meeting for which I will be paid. Does this count as consultancy?

Yes, if you are providing advice and expertise to the client in return for a fee (or some other consideration), this is consultancy and should be handled as such with a contract explaining the terms and conditions of the engagement.

I want to use some university facilities/software/equipment as part of my consultancy, is this possible?

Yes, but only with the proper permissions, including that of your head of department. In addition, a charge should be made to the client to cover the cost of the use of such facilities.

We can advise you on such matters and will work with you, the department administration team and the client to agree the appropriate costs.

What is academic consultancy?

The term ‘academic consultancy’ covers a wide spectrum of activities. At its simplest it is any advice or expertise that you provide to a client in return for a fee should be considered consultancy.

Such activities include: discrete problem solving, writing technical reports, expert witness work, workshops on the state of the art, horizon scanning, and scientific or clinical advisory boards.

Clients may also seek technical services using departmental equipment or facilities, eg testing & analysis, alongside consultancy. We can work with you and the department to arrange for this to be an integrated part of the consultancy services you provide to the client and this is another good reason to work through our consulting services.

Can you promote and support departmental services?

Yes. If you send us a description (max 200 words) of the technical service or facility that your department wishes to make available to external organisations, we can feature it in the technical services showcase section of our website. We will also discuss with you whether, or not, you would like the support of our contracting service. This is designed to save you both time and effort and ensures that your services are contracted appropriately to meet client needs while protecting the interests of the department.

Undertaking consultancy at Oxford

How long does it take you to arrange a consultancy contract?

It depends on the nature of the project and who the client is. If a client is prepared to accept our standard terms and conditions, an agreement can be put in place in a day. If the client insists on us negotiating from their contract or, perhaps, there are several parties working together to deliver the project, it will take longer.

However, we often work with the same client on different projects, so we may have an agreed form of words that can be easily modified and this can save a lot of time. Please contact us to discuss how we can help.

Why should I use you for my consultancy work?

We aim to take the stress out of doing consultancy by managing the legal, financial and other administrative aspects, leaving you free to focus on the intellectual challenges – the consultancy project itself.

Specifically, we will negotiate and put in place the contract, protecting your interests and those of the University. We will:

  • guide you through the internal approvals process

  • invoice the client, chase debt and disburse funds

  • cover you with professional indemnity insurance

  • be available to advise you at every step

Do you have any examples of projects that you have arranged that I can read about?

Yes. Whilst most clients are reluctant to have us share the details of their consultancy projects with Oxford consultants, a number have agreed that we can provide brief summaries which are linked from some of our showcases. Please also see our divisional brochures which have some examples of our consultancy projects.

What do other people say about working with the Consulting Services team?

Most people who use us do so over and over again, indicating a high level of satisfaction. Here are just a few of the positive comments from academics who use our services:

“I have  been very impressed with the prompt and professional way in which Oxford University Innovation’s Consulting Services team handles consultancy work. They have been great at handling existing work, introducing new contacts, and in handling all the essential paperwork,”  said Professor Peter Ireland, Head of Thermofluid and Turbo Machinery Group, Department of Engineering Science.

We manage for the NAO, an independent academic review of their Value for Money reports. Anthony Heath, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, comments on the work: “We have had various beneficial effects on the NAO itself, and its methods, for conducting VFM reports. Of all the government work that I have done, this is probably the work that has had the most direct positive impact.”

We also undertake regular surveys of both our clients and our consultants to get feedback on the service that we provide. Some testimonials can be found in our divisional brochures.

Will Research Services help me with my consultancy?

No. Research Services are only able to support staff with research engagements and are unable to provide advice on consultancy. RS re-directs consultancy enquiries to us, in the same way as we re-direct research enquiries to RS.

Where can I find the University’s consultancy policy?

The University’s Consultancy Policy & Procedures can be found here

How do you help founders of spin-outs who want to consult to their company?

The University’s consulting policy states that staff who are founders or directors of spin-outs are required to use us for managing consultancies to their spin-outs in the first year following its formation. During this time OUI does not charge a management fee. Note, from 1 August 2017, spinout consultancies extending more than a year will be subject to the deduction of OUI’s standard management fee of 10%.

Can non-academics use your consulting services?

Yes, any employee of the University or a college can use Consulting Services to manage their consultancy activities.

University requirements

If I’ve signed my OA1 form and had it countersigned by my Head of Department, am I now covered by the University’s insurance if I do the consultancy on my own?

No. A staff member undertaking private/independent consulting (ie not through Consulting Services) is not covered by the University’s professional indemnity and public liability insurance, and will not be defended by the University in the event of a claim against the staff member related to that consulting activity.

However, a staff member electing to undertake work through Consulting Services is covered by the University’s professional indemnity and public liability insurance policies, subject to the current terms and conditions of those policies. They will also be defended by the University in the event of a claim against the staff member, provided they have lawfully, diligently, and conscientiously endeavoured to carry out the work.

Do I need to have insurance in order to do consultancy work?

Consultancy activity is likely to expose you to liabilities that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter in your academic life and so it is advisable to have appropriate professional indemnity insurance cover. If you work through us we will provide you with this cover.

Do I need to have permission to undertake consultancy work and if so, who do I need permission from?

Yes. Staff undertaking consultancy need to seek permission from their head of department using the University’s OA1 approval form. When you work through us we will guide you through the approvals process.

If I am employed by the University on a part-time contract, do I still need to seek approval through the OA1 system to undertake private work during the hours I am not employed by the University?

Yes, you are required to seek permission to ensure the outside appointment does not conflict with your role at the University.

Are there any University rules covering consulting to a spin-out?

Yes. The University’s consultancy policy and procedures formally states:

“Staff who are founders or directors of spin-outs are required to use Oxford University Innovation’s Consulting Services for managing consultancies to their spin-outs in the first year following formation of the spin-out. After that 12 month period, staff may choose to continue to consult through us or to consult privately/independently.”




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