Five mistakes every freelancer makes and how to avoid them

Avoiding Mistakes

Whether you are new to freelancing or you’re a long-term independent professional, it’s fair to say that we all experience our fair share of mistakes. From missing out on a game-changing client to overworking yourself out of a combination of enthusiasm and deadline driven stress, it’s key to take note of these mistakes and stop them in their tracks before they become routine bad habits.

Read our list of five of the most common mistakes a freelancer makes and how to avoid them!

Setting your rates too low

Are you under-pricing yourself in a bid to remain competitive in the market? Worried that a cheaper option will always win the work? This is a common trap that many contractors fall into because many people simply fail to research typical prices in their industry, thinking that setting their prices low will win them business.

It’s always best to consider your billable time alongside any purchases and materials you need to complete a job, your overhead and the profit you require to keep your business running. It does your clients and your business a greater service to charge for the true quality and value of your work and time. Sara Horowitz’s The Freelancer’s Bible has a great chapter on how to make sure you’re setting a fair rate for your work – a great place to start!

Not keeping your taxes organised

We’ve written about this before, but keeping organised ahead of your self-assessment tax deadline is key! Very often, those new to freelancing underestimate the amount of time it takes to properly fill out a tax return, so keeping track of receipts, jobs, outgoings and incomings from the very start is of vital importance. Failure to do this can land you with an automatic fine that will only keep increasing and nobody wants to be faced with that at the start of the year.

Networking

Not networking

The word ‘networking’ can strike fear into the shyer amongst us. We get it, sometimes it’s awkward and scary to walk into a room of complete strangers and try to sell yourself and your abilities. However, the simple truth is, networking is the lifeblood of making your freelance business work. Engaging with fellow contractors in the same field will have many benefits for your business; it can result in collaborative projects, potential leads, referrals and access to new resources.

Not learning how to manage time

We understand the desire to work every hour you’re not sleeping in order to make a good impression and race against burgeoning deadlines. However, this is not a healthy way to run a business or live your life. It doesn’t get your best work done and you will eventually burn out.

Head over to our infographic on time management to pick up some tips on how you can be more productive, carve out some time for yourself and work smarter, not harder!

Not investing in insurance

There is a lot to think about when you’re a freelancer; you have to keep many plates spinning all at once. As with keeping organised ahead of your tax return, sometimes details such as investing in comprehensive freelance insurance can easily pass you by. As almost all modern freelance contracts stipulate contractors be covered by their own freelance insurance it’s vital that you don’t forget this step!

With Kingsbridge, one thing you don’t have to worry about is having a fully comprehensive, freelance insurance policy. Our key insurance package includes Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and Employers Liability cover combined into one policy. Designed exclusively for the potential risks of freelance contracting, you can gain access to cover from us almost instantly online.

Call our friendly, professional team at Kingsbridge on 01242 362176 where we will be happy to discuss your requirements. Alternatively, apply for a quote online to gain access to cover instantly.

Five ways to reward yourself after avoiding the self-assessment late penalty

Tax Return UK

It’s the last day before the 31st January self-assessment deadline. That means, for many self-employed and freelance individuals, it’s the last lap before submission of your tax return and final payment of any tax that you owe for the previous financial year.

We’d hedge our bets and say that for many of you the 11:45pm scramble on 31st January is a familiar one as you race against time to get your return submitted and avoid the on the spot £100 fine that 12:00 midnight on 1st February brings.

To inspire you and get you through the last stages of the final slog toward self-assessment freedom, we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite things that you can spend a hard earned £100 on, simply by avoiding submitting your tax return late. After the effort that goes into keeping organised for January, you deserve it!

Headphones

If you’re someone that benefits from listening to music to aid concentration or to block out background noise while you’re working, a new pair of earphones is always a good investment, whether for business or pleasure.

We love these Skullcandy Crusher headphones, a snip at £89 and with a bass extension driver and built-in amplifier. Or, for a little extra pocket money you could invest in the ubiquitous Beats Solo HD headphones.

3D pen

Do you have latent artistic ability? Would you like to see your creative vision rendered in 3D? Or maybe you just like really cool gadgets that you get to play with. Either way, the 3D pen is a brilliant way to spend a little pocket money. The 3Doodler is the world’s first 3D printing pen that allows you to draw in 3D by projecting heated plastic that cools into a solid structure.

It’s a fun little gadget and could make for some exciting new additions to your desk space!

The iKettle

Do you ever get so busy that you can’t even find 5 minutes to pop the kettle on for a much needed cup of tea? Well, the struggle ends with the iKettle. The world’s first Wi-Fi kettle, you can control the iKettle with your smart phone. Struggling over an impending deadline, yet parched and in need of a cuppa? The iKettle has got your back. Inspired!

iKettle

Fitbit

If you’re like a large proportion of people, you’ll have resolved to get fitter for the New Year. The Fitbit is an integrated accelerometer. It keeps track of your activity levels, and lets you log fitness goals, calories burned and the hours you’ve slept. What’s more, it comes in a sleek and stylish wristband design. All you need to get your fitness on track for 2015.

Nike Free Runs

If you want to make sure you have something to enter in to your new Fitbit tracker, then you need to get your running shoes on! Why not invest in a treat for your feet with a new pair of Nike Free Run trainers.

Specially designed to adapt to the foot movement and stride of each individual runner, Nike Free Runs are the ultimate in supportive footwear. So, if you’re in need of clearing your head with a run, these are the shoes to carry you further.

 

Sometimes we all need a little inspiration to help get us through trying times, and the final push toward the self-assessment deadline is no different. Just remember that you don’t want to be hit with a £100 fine that you could be using to make your life a little easier with some of these handy gadgets.

How would you spend the £100 you get to keep by submitting your self-assessment return on time? Let us know in the comments below or get in touch with us on Twitter.

The funniest excuses for late tax returns

Tax Time

For the last few years HMRC has revealed its top ‘oddest’ excuses they receive for the submission of late tax returns. The creativity and, let’s face it, boldness, that’s required to approach HMRC with excuses dragged straight from the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of thought is really something to be marveled at.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, we’ve collected some of our favourite creative excuses published by HMRC in recent years:

  • My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.

A classic, ‘dog ate my homework’ turn;  it would appear that somebody’s dog has quite the taste for tax returns.

  • I fell in with the wrong crowd.

This is quite an impressive excuse…if you’re a teenager on the brink of being expelled from secondary school. We’re not sure with regard to self-assessment though.

  • I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.

While a pretty admirable pursuit, we’re not quite sure a flock of parrots counts as a reasonable excuse for filing your tax return late!

  • Our business doesn’t really do anything.

So bold. Almost so bold, in fact, for it to inspire respect. Almost…

  • I was in Australia.

And yet, you still owe tax in the UK!

My Dog Ate My Tax Receipts

But, what is a reasonable excuse?

Tall tales aside, sometimes life events can happen that are far beyond anyone’s control and this, naturally, can affect a freelancer’s ability to successfully complete their self-assessment return. You can appeal certain penalties incurred by late submission of your tax return, as long as you have, what HMRC terms as, a ‘reasonable excuse’.

Reasonable excuses in the eyes of HMRC include:

  • The death of a partner
  • An unplanned hospital stay
  • Computer failure during the process of submitting your tax return
  • Service disruptions on behalf of HMRC
  • A fire
  • Unexpected postal disruptions

In short, a reasonable excuse extends to events that are completely out of your control and that are unexpected. You can find out further details about HMRC’s reasonable excuses here or the tax appeals process here.

Despite the light-heartedness of some of these excuses, it does serve as a good reminder that to file your return sooner rather than later is prudent, as, if you don’t have one of the excuses listed above, you could face financial penalties.

There is an immediate £100 late fine that comes into force at midnight on February 1st. Then if your self-assessment isn’t returned after three months, HMRC will charge daily penalties of £10 per day for a period of up to 90 days. So that’s at least £1,000 in late fees that you’ll face, all for the sake of a hungry dog with a craving for HMRC documents. Doesn’t seem worth it to us.

What are some of the most outrageous excuses you’ve heard for failing to file a tax return? Have you been caught out in a lie? Or do you have any tips or fool proof strategies to avoid having to think of an elaborate excuse in the first place? Let us know in the comments or connect with us via Twitter or our LinkedIn page.

Tools to keep you organised ahead of January’s self-assessment deadline

Don't Miss the Deadline

It’s no secret that January can be a testing time for freelancers. We’ve written before about the pressure to stay organised so that the march to 31st January isn’t a time you face with utter dread every year.

It’s fine to say that you need to be organised, but it can be harder actually doing what you need to. We all need a little help sometimes. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of five of our favourite organisational tools that will help you keep track of time, organise your documents and your finances and make January’s deadline less of a burden on your time.

1.       Dropbox

Dropbox is nearly ubiquitous amongst modern freelancers, especially if you’re embracing the digital revolution as it advances into nearly every aspect of our lives. Syncing all of your devices from phone, to tablet, to laptop, Dropbox ensures that all of your digital documents are accessible anywhere. And if there’s something you need to update or edit, your changes will be saved across all platforms too. An absolute must if organisation is one of your business resolutions this year.

2.       Teux Deux

We don’t know how you feel about “to-do” lists but we love them. They keep us focused, accountable and gives us a great sense of achievement every time we get to cross something off our list!

To-do lists are great for organising your time. This is especially true if you have to give over some of your precious time to organising your tax details in preparation for the all-important 31st January deadline. Teux Deux offers a really simple interface that allows you organise your list of tasks digitally. What’s more, they have an iPhone app that allows you to take your lists with you on the go. Now there really is no reason to go off track.

3.       Central Desktop

If you want to win back some time during the run-up to the self-assessment deadline then Central Desktop could be the perfect way to do it! Now, we all know that the customer (or client) is always right and pleasing them is a top priority for any freelancer. However, sometimes when you’re knee-deep in receipts in your designated self-assessment time a client call, requesting emails or documents, can be the last thing you want to deal with.

With Central Desktop you can create an online collaborative workspace that connects you and your clients. That way, resources such as project plans, agreements and progress reports are stored in the cloud and accessible by you and your clients, removing the need for unnecessary emails and gifting you extra time to focus on the important tasks at hand.

HMRC

4.       Shoeboxed

What image comes to mind when you think about the task of collecting all of your receipts together before you submit your self-assessment? We’d bet that for a majority of you it would be the frantic dash to fill an old shoebox with crumpled petrol receipts and the bill for a client dinner or two.

Shoeboxed have taken that concept and updated it for the digital generation. Giving you the ability to scan and upload receipts and business cards, Shoeboxed will turn these into expense reports and contact lists. Helping you to cut down on admin time and admin costs, this is one tracking system that could well be a self-assessment game changer.

5.       FreeAgent

FreeAgent is the ultimate accounting tool for the time-starved freelancer. If you’re not so comfortable with accounting (and it’s fair to say that not all of us are) then FreeAgent allows you to organise your expenses and  income by project, so keeping track is easy. Another freelance friendly feature is a one-click report that produces a self-assessment summary that you can copy straight to your tax return. If that’s not a time (and stress) saver, we don’t know what is!

As you can see, it’s always worth embracing what the digital world has to offer in terms of productivity and organisational tools. There are hundreds of different apps, web based programmes and software that can help you keep stress at bay and make sure you’re super organised every January!

What are some of your favourite tools to keep you organised ahead of filling out your self-assessment return? Have we missed anything out? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch with us on Twitter!

Time Management Tips for Freelancers

Time Management Tips for Freelancers

We’re pleased to present our latest infographic. We all know how tough it can be to carve out the time for yourself when you’re freelancing, or to find the discipline required to keep your day and your work structured. How do you resist the temptations and distractions that come with working for yourself? Easy. You follow our time management guide.

Clicking on the image above (or the link at the end of this post) will download the infographic, showing you how to break down all the ways in which you can manage your time on a daily basis. From prioritising the most important tasks to utilising the latest digital tools, our guide is designed to help you get the best out of yourself and your day. Take a look by clicking here.

How to avoid January self-assessment stress

31st January

January is well and truly upon us. Most of us have completed our first full week back in work and the challenges of the New Year are facing us.

January holds more significance for freelancers than most, and that’s thanks to the 31st January self-assessment online submission deadline looming large on the horizon. The first month of the year can be stressful for freelance contractors and the self-employed as you rush to collect everything your need to avoid being lumped with a hefty fine if you miss that all important deadline.

If you’re new to the process, or you’re struggling a bit in the organisation department, then read on for some of our top tips to avoid self-assessment stress this month.

Ensure you’re registered

If you’ve just gone freelance then this is an essential step. You only have to register with HMRC once to let them know you need to file a self-assessment. From then you will be reminded by HMRC every year that you need to complete your assessment.

First time registration deadlines are October 5th of the current tax year. Failure to register will incur further fines. However, if you manage to submit your self-assessment in full by the 31st January then you can reduce or even avoid late registration fees.

To successfully register you need to provide your National Insurance number and the details of your company or relevant personal details. When you’ve registered your will receive a Unique Taxpayer Reference number. This is an important piece of information so keep it safe as you will have to use this number on all subsequent self-assessments.

Keep a paper trail

There is nothing worse than the January rush, scrabbling to pull together records and evidence of your finances. It is at this point in the year that it pays to be fastidious and diligent all year round by keeping a water tight record of your incoming and outgoing expenses.

Getting into the practice of collecting business receipts and keeping a log of the relevant business transactions that accompany them is wise. It will prove to be the perfect antidote to the January rush and will make filling out your online self-assessment that little bit easier.

In terms of the type of thing you need to be keeping hold of for your records come this time of year, there really is no limit on what is important and pertinent. One missing statement can cause delays in submitting your self-assessment so it pays to be cautious. You can find a comprehensive guide to keeping documents for tax purposes on HMRC’s website here.

Don't Forget

Don’t leave it too late

This would be a good time to note that leaving your self-assessment too late is likely to cause you unnecessary delays and unwanted fines. Of course, the key to avoiding the hurry is in staying organised and planning well.

If you’re not so hot on forward planning then it’s at this point we should probably mention late penalties. If you miss the 31st January deadline then you’ll be presented with an immediate £100 fine. Not a great start to the year. Further to that, if you leave it another 90 days then you’ll start to accrue a £10 a day penalty on top of the £100 fine. So start early to avoid being cleaned out thanks to late submission!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you want to avoid the flop sweat developing at 11:55pm on 31st January while you curse your lack of book-keeping skills, then it does pay to acquire the help of an accountant. Tax is, by its very nature, a complex beast and any good business person knows how to delegate. If you can keep on top of your records then a recommended accountant should be able to help you when it comes to completing your self-assessment.

There’s plenty to get your teeth into as a freelancer. From chasing clients to drumming up new business and getting your name recognised, there’s always a lot to think about. However, keeping on top of your financial records and making sure you’re fully registered with HMRC is one of the most important things you can do if you want to avoid the pitfalls of a stressed and rushed January.

What methods do you use to avoid the typical January rush to submit your self-assessment return? Are you super organised and early to the self-assessment party or do you take advantage of a good accountant to remove the pressure a bit? Let us know in the comments how you’ll be handling self-assessment stress this year!

New Year’s Resolutions for Freelancers and Contractors

Happy New Year 2015

The presents are unwrapped, the turkey has been feasted upon and Quality Street wrappers are strewn about the house. The big day is over and so we turn our attention to the impending New Year.

It’s a time for looking back at the year just gone and to determine the changes we want to make for the year ahead.  If you’re a contractor then the end of the year is about looking at more than losing a few pounds in weight or getting more organised. It provides an opportunity to look at your business, your goals and the satisfaction and success you get from your career.

As it’s that time of year, we’re having a look at some of the most important New Year resolutions that a contractor can make to take their business to the next level.

Get ready for the self-assessment deadline

It’s the same every year. 31st January comes around and there’s a flurry of activity in the preceding weeks to make sure that your forms are filled in and any tax owed from the previous year is paid in full.

We understand that Christmas is a busy time of year for everyone. However, preparing yourself for January’s self-assessment deadline is one of the greatest pieces of advice we could give to any independent professional. The earlier you gather all of the required information, from earnings and expenses to personal assets and pensions, then the smoother the journey to the deadline. There’s no better way to start the New Year than by being prepared and organised.

Get comfortable with networking

One of the greatest things you can do as a contractor is expanding your business network. It can be a solitary lifestyle, especially if you don’t employ anyone else to help you. Engaging with other professionals in the same field has numerous benefits; it can lead to collaborative projects, potential leads, referrals and access to new resources.

It’s worth leveraging your social media accounts for business purposes; LinkedIn is brilliant for professional networking, while Twitter is perfect for starting conversations with individuals with similar interests. And never forget the importance of face-to-face networking. Find an event for local business people and enhance your professional network.

Work Life Balance

Find some balance

We’ve written before about the importance of learning to balance your work life and personal life to help avoid the common stress pitfalls. One of the greatest resolutions you’ll ever make, New Year or otherwise, is to redress a work life balance that is, well, out of balance.

Making more time for relaxing, hobbies and quality time with your loved ones will help you to manage your stress levels and will also leave you refreshed and better able to tackle any issues during the working day.

One issue we can resolve for you is access to comprehensive contractor insurance while you’re busy growing your business. Here at Kingsbridge we’ve created a unique contractor insurance policy that contains five key elements of cover, including Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and Employers’ Liability cover.

If you want access to one of the most wide-ranging, single policy contractor insurance packages then apply online now to purchase cover immediately. If you wish to speak with one of our highly trained team to further discuss your requirements then do not hesitate to call us on 01242 362149 where one of our customer advisers will be on hand to help.

Christmas gifts for the engineer in your life

Robot Arm

Christmas music fills every shop, decorations have been adorning doorways and window displays for many weeks now and gift lists are being ticked off, one by one.

If you’re lucky enough to have an engineer in your life, you may be left wondering exactly what you can buy the curious mind that is likely to have everything. You want to find something that will fire up the imagination, something unique and something useful.

After all, where would we be without the massive contribution to society our engineer friends and family have made? Take a look at our engineer gift guide and find a way to show the engineer in your life some love this Christmas.

1.       Try a slogan t-shirt on for size

We think engineers are pretty awesome, so why not let them shout about it with a slogan t-shirt? Some of our favourites include this one from the ubiquitous and ever popular “Keep Calm…” oeuvre. Or how about this “Leftover parts are proof you made it better” t-shirt? That way we’ll always know when there’s an engineer in our midst, ready to take something apart and make it that little bit better?

2.       Wrestle with a robotic arm

What could be more exciting to unwrap under the Christmas tree than a Build Your Own Robotic Arm kit, available on Amazon.  Get your favourite engineer absorbed in this technical task that allows them to build and operate a robotic arm. Featuring a base rotation, elbow and wrist motion and a gripping claw, this is the perfect way to raise a toast to the festive season.

3.       Write home about the ultimate geek pen

We’re not ashamed to say that we geeked-out a little bit when we stumbled across this 5-in-1 pen, perfect for any gadget loving engineer. Featuring  a UV light, a laser pointer to use in presentations, a flashlight to illuminate writing surfaces, a stylus tip for touchscreens and a regular ballpoint, the Ultimate Geek Pen is the last word in convenience and efficiency!

4.       Star-gaze with an at-home planetarium

We’d bet that all brilliant, inquisitive minds have, at one time or another, gazed at the night sky in awe and wonderment at its many secrets. Replicate that effect with this amazing Star Theatre Planetarium. This super realistic planetarium shows real constellations and projects shooting stars at random intervals. Perfect for a cosy night in looking up at the stars, whatever the weather.

Star Theatre Planetarium

5.       Step into the future with a printed figurine

Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch, but bear with us because it’s very cool! If you want to combine a European city break with a unique for your loved one, then a trip to Germany could be in the offing! Berlin based company twinkind offer a 3D figurine printing service that allows you to print a mini-me figurine from a 3D scan. Like a portrait from the future, these are the ultimate in cool and kooky gifts!

Is one of your loved ones an engineer? What do you plan on buying them? Are you an engineer yourself? What’s your favourite gift to receive at Christmas? Let us know in the comments below!

The Best Ways For A Contractor To Spend £500

Travel

Imagine, just for a second, a beautiful world in which you have a spare £500 to play with at the end of the month. This may be true for you, and if so, congratulations! You’ve stumbled across the right blog. If not, then don’t navigate away just yet. Join us on our flight of fancy as we investigate some of the best ways to spend £500, from travel to gadgets.

Travel with a difference

Having £500 to spare can open up your choices in terms of holidays. We think that travelling should broaden your horizons so maybe give something different a try. One of our favourite ideas is Wanderlust’s  9 volcanoes to see in the UK. The article includes beautiful walks and guided tours around some of the UK’s long dormant volcanoes and surrounding areas. Exciting!

Indulge in fine dining

Delicious food and fine wine is one of the greatest ways to spend your money. If you’re looking for an indulgent way to while away the evening and spend some quality time with friends and loved ones fine dining is the key. The Good Food Guide has recently announced their Top 50 Restaurants for 2015. Have a peek for some food for thought and see if any fine dining experiences are in your neighbourhood!

L'Enclume

Experiment with gadgets

2014 has truly been the year of wearable tech and the release of increasingly sophisticated gadgets. There is, of course, the second generation iPad Air. Slimmer and more lightweight than its predecessor, it’s the perfect way to stay connected while still travelling light.

The smartwatch is also experiencing something of a renaissance this year. With Apple, LG, Samsung and the Pebble all in contention as this year’s most impressive smartwatch release, there’s plenty to choose from when deciding how to spend your money.

Check out Stuff Magazine’s Gadget Awards 2014 for some gadget-y ideas.

Relax with a spa day

You work hard all year, you’re entitled to a little ‘you time’. What better way to treat yourself than with some well-deserved relaxation at a luxury spa? Most good quality treatments start at around £40, so £500 could get you a lot of pampering. Alternatively, you could choose to stay over at a spa hotel for a long weekend of indulgence. The Independent’s list of Britain’s Best Spas will get you thinking about how you can best spend that hard earned cash!

Freelance contractors have to work hard to get things done. Between networking and generating leads to managing multiple deadlines it can be hard to remember to take a break and spend some of your hard earned cash on yourself. Hopefully our blog will fire up your imagination and you’ll be able to find some inventive ways to indulge a little over the festive season.

What are some of your favourite ways to treat yourself? Do you have any regular treats you enjoy when you have some extra cash to yourself? Let us know in the comments below.

Summarising the Autumn Statement

Autumn Statement

Unless you’ve spent the last few days hiding in a cave (and if you have, we’re not judging you) you’ll have heard something about this year’s Autumn Statement by now. After drip feeding out key policies and figures for the last week, today was the day that George Osborne delivered his statement in full. Traditionally a modest update on the state of the economy, this year’s statement felt like a second Budget in all but name. It’s fair to say that Osborne delivered it with two eyes firmly on the looming General Election in May, its weighty spectre creeping ever closer. BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson termed Osborne’s headline announcements as “real electioneering” and he wasn’t wrong.

This statement was Osborne’s chance to cut Labour off at the pass, and his attempt to gazump one of their key election cornerstones, the so-called ‘Mansion Tax’, led to the announcement that stamp duty will be undergoing a complete overhaul from midnight tonight. Essentially, the changes will allow those buying cheaper properties to pay less and those purchasing more expensive homes to pay more (12% for the most expensive houses), equalling a tax cut of £800m, which will benefit 98% of homebuyers. As always, the statement felt more like a game of high stakes brinkmanship than anything else, but the vast majority of the outcomes were positive. Alongside that headline news, below you’ll find a brief summary of the key figures and policies Osborne announced today (courtesy of the New Statesman), as well as an analysis of how exactly the changes might impact contractors and freelancers:

Figures:

  • The economy is predicted to grow 3 per cent this year, up from the 2.7 per cent predicted in the budget.
  • Osborne will be borrowing £12.5bn more than forecast in the budget nine months ago.
  • The deficit is forecast to rise by more than expected over the next two years: £91.3bn this year and £75.9bn the following year.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility says the deficit will pick up and fall faster than expected in following years, hitting a surplus of £23bn in 2020.

Policies:

  • A “roads revolution”: £15bn to be spent on new road funding in England. This includes a 1.8-mile tunnel to relieve congestion by Stonehenge.
  • National Insurance abolished for employers that take on apprentices aged under 25.
  • Income tax threshold to increase to £10,600.
  • A new Sovereign Wealth Fund for the north of England, so that the shale gas resources of the north are used to invest in its future, and a commitment to “northern powerhouse” plans.
  • Cutting £15bn from the Whitehall budget, and the government will spend £10bn less this year.
  • Banks will pay £4bn more in tax over the next five years.
  • Freezing universal credit, working-age benefit for two years, and ending unemployment benefits for migrants who have no prospect of work.
  • Libor fines will continue to support military and emergency service charities, including buying new helicopters for the Great Western and Kent, Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance.
  • Extend cathedral renovation fund.
  • Refund VAT for search ambulance charities and for hospice charities.
  • Extending theatre tax break to orchestras.
  • Air Passenger Duty on flights for under-12s scrapped from next year, and from 2016, it will be scrapped for all under-16s.
  • Funding the NHS: a pledge to spend an extra £2bn a year on the NHS.
  • Pensions: completing the reforms already announced, bringing total savings of £1.3bn a year.
  • Repayment of the national debt incurred by fighting the First World War.
  • 25 per cent tax on profits generated by multinationals from economic activity here in the UK which they then artificially shift out of the country (the so-called ‘Google Tax).
  • No increase in petrol duty.
  • A new garden city in Bicester, Oxfordshire: up to 13,000 new homes to be built there.
  • Flood defences: £2.3bn investment.
  • Helping SMEs: a near £1bn boost for small businesses.
  • Reform business rates: a review into the structure of this controversial tax on small firms. Double small business rate relief for another year.
  • An overhaul of stamp duty, coming into place at midnight tonight: allowing those buying cheaper properties to pay less and those purchasing more expensive homes to pay more, equalling a tax cut of £800m, which will benefit 98 per cent of homebuyers.
  • A postgraduate loans scheme: government-provided loans offering funding of up to £10,000.

George Osborne

So, what does it mean for freelancers and contractors? In general, Osborne’s business focus is good news for small businesses. The planned restructuring of business rates will be welcomed warmly, and the continuation of a freeze on fuel duty has obvious benefits for microbusinesses across the country. However, this government’s continued myopia with regard to improving the UK’s digital infrastructure (the pressing need to improve the issue of poor broadband in rural areas for example) is still a cause for concern.

The crackdown on tax avoidance should also be applauded, but we second Andy Chamberlain of IPSE’s comment that “any changes to umbrella companies [should] provide real benefits to those using these structures and do not inadvertently affect the genuinely self-employed.” The good news on this front is that the government’s review of umbrella companies should weed out the unscrupulous practitioners (those, for example, who offset expenses against income so their taxable income is below the national minimum wage). As Rob Crossland, founder of Parasol, noted: “This could be the landmark moment that policymakers finally take the time to properly understand our industry, differentiating between unethical cowboys at one end of the spectrum and compliant, professional providers…at the other. Any umbrella company that fails to offer genuine employment rights or pay the minimum wage deserves to be placed under the spotlight. Such practices are unacceptable – they do a disservice to workers, our sector and the UK economy as a whole.” If you’re just starting out on your own and are thinking of going through an umbrella company, then make sure to do your research before hand. Get feedback and make sure they’re trustworthy and reputable. If you find a company with your best interests at heart rather than their own then you’ll be in a good place.

In addition to the above, the small companies’ rate of Corporation Tax remains unchanged at 20% (for companies with profits under £300,000), still making it an attractive proposition for sole traders who are considering incorporating their business. There were a few changes made to National Insurance too. For limited company contractors, the lower earnings limit will increase from £111 to £112 from 6th April 2015. For sole traders, Class 2 National Insurance contributions will increase from £2.75 to £2.80 from 6th April 2015. Class 4 National Insurance Contributions are currently payable at the rate of 9% if your annual profits exceed £7,956. From 6 April 2015 this will increase to £8,060. The upper earning limit (at which point the rate reduces to 2%) will increase to £42,385 from April 2015 from £41,865 in 2014/2015.

There issues raised in today’s statement are sure to rumble on over the coming weeks, and the fact remains that the Conservatives will have borrowed £219bn more in this parliament than they promised in 2010. What’s more, a lot of the issues the freelance and contractor community had hoped to see raised (rate cuts for work hubs, for example, or tax breaks for training) were neglected. The abolishment of National Insurance for employers who take on apprentices under the age of 25 is welcome news, as is the promise of government backed loans for post-graduate students, but with HMRC’s VAT MOSS issue ongoing there’s still much work to be done. Head on over to the BBC and the Guardian for a further breakdown, and check in with a few of our favourite Twitter users to see what their thoughts were as the statement was unveiled.