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!

A brief history of IR35

Rules Regulations

We’ve written about IR35 before; the tax and National Insurance legislation that affects freelance contractors operating as limited companies. Aimed at uncovering what HMRC terms ‘disguised employment’, it is the legislation on everybody’s lips.

But when and where did IR35 originate and why is it becoming such a key piece of legislation? We’re taking a look back to find out when IR35 entered the political agenda and how it has evolved to become the legislation we know today.

1999

1999. It was the year Prince sung about and Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer. As part of the year’s budget, he announced the introduction of measures to crack down on those avoiding tax by working through limited companies while still working in a similar arrangement to a traditional employee.

2000

IR35 became law in April 2000, as part of The Finance Act. The legislation didn’t come in to force until the beginning of the financial year, but the act was backdated. This made its official commencement date 6th April 2000.

Officially known as Intermediaries Legislation, the new regulation came to be commonly known as IR35.

Opposition increases

Since the passing of IR35 into law, the legislation has been hotly debated, garnering much attention and opposition. Several bodies have been particularly vocal in their criticism, including the Professional Contractor Group, a representative organisation for freelance contractors.

Many felt that the legislation was too complex to be applied to a large variety of cases, harmed small companies that weren’t set up for the purpose of avoiding tax and actually enforced higher levels of tax on those found to be within IR35, as they are also liable for Employers National Insurance contributions.

Tax simplification and the coalition government

The Cameron Ministry saw a new Chancellor at number 11 in the shape of George Osborne in May 2010. One of his initial acts as Chancellor of the Exchequer was the creation of the Office for Tax Simplification.

One of the key objectives of the newly formed task force was to put IR35 under review and suggest to Osborne if the legislation should be drastically changed or scrapped altogether. IR35 was deemed far too important to do away with altogether and so a re-vamped version was developed.

The main changes to the law included publishing clear guidelines for freelance contractors, creating a dedicated helpline run by IR35 experts and the creation of a series of business entity tests, designed to provide contractors with an idea of the risks posed should they be selected for an IR35 investigation.

IR35 today

Since the OTS investigation, HMRC have promised to increase the number of IR35 investigations per year while reducing investigation time. There is now a whole industry of professionals that offer IR35 review services to assist freelance contractors in assessing their IR35 position.

The decision to keep IR35 and to enforce it more strongly has had an enormous impact on freelance contractors across the UK. There is no doubt that the legislation is controversial and highly contested and is likely to remain so.

Has your business been effected by the introduction of IR35? Have you invested in having your contract independently assessed by an IR35 expert? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

Contract Tax

Having Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance can improve your IR35 profile. It is an all-important element of cover for businesses, protecting against claims of professional negligence.

Here at KPSol we have designed our core insurance package to cover the most common risks faced by freelance contractors. This includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers Liability cover.

If you have any questions or need to discuss your requirements then simply call our friendly, professional team on 0124 236 2149 and we will be happy to discuss your needs with you. Or you can apply online to get instant cover.

Top tips for creating the perfect home office space

Home Office

Many freelancers have the opportunity to work from home, which can be an exciting change of pace from the standard 9 to 5 office life. We know the desire to work from your sofa in your dressing gown can be strong, but it can pay dividends to dedicate some space in your home exclusively to work. That way you won’t have to associate your personal space with work matters.

We’ve compiled some top tips for creating a comfortable but practical space for productivity that will make your freelance career a success.

Think about: what work you’ll be doing

If you’re a freelance designer or engineer, it’s likely that the kind of work you’ll be doing in your home office will be dramatically different from that of a freelance writer or IT technician. Every office will vary so make sure you allow yourself adequate space to do what you need to without taking over the entirety of your home. You don’t need lots of space; you just need to be smart with it.

Think about: your light source

Natural light is the perfect way to brighten up your new work space and is the polar opposite from the strip lights and dusty corners of a typical office. If you have large windows in your home then creating your working space there provides the perfect space to make the most of the health benefits of natural light, but also to provide a constant source of inspiration! Don’t forget to invest in a good quality desk lamp for the winter months, though. Bad lighting can lead to headaches and eye strain.

Think about: your equipment

Do you require a desktop or a laptop? Do you need a separate phone line? Maybe even an illuminated drawing board? These are things that you have to consider when setting out on your own, as all equipment must suit your business needs and have to be invested in by you. And while we’re at it, don’t forget about investing in an ergonomically sound office chair. While it may be tempting to grab that spare dining table chair for the sake of ease, your back will not thank you for it after a week.

Think about: making it your own

While your home office is located in your own home, it still needs to be a distinct space away from where you relax, eat and socialise outside of working hours. However, personal touches will make your office space a tranquil and enjoyable space in which you can do some of your best work. Don’t be afraid to include pictures of loved ones, inspiring scenes and some desk plants to keep things looking fresh and inviting.

You home office, when planned right, should provide you with the perfect balance of inspiration and positivity that inspires productivity and gives you a connection to the work you love doing.

Do you have a home office? What changes have you made to your living space to ensure you can work more effectively? Tell us in the comments below.

Freelancer

Wednesday 19th November is the sixth annual National Freelancers Day; a day designed to put freelancing at the forefront of the political agenda and to discuss how the power of independent professionals can be unlocked to help drive the UK’s economy.

To celebrate a day in spotlight Kingsbridge are running a special competition on Twitter to show some love to freelancers across the UK.

Entering is easy. All you have to do is Tweet us directly at @KingsbridgeProf and finish this sentence, ‘I love freelancing because…’ using the hashtag #NFD2014.

From the best answers we’ll pick five runners up, who’ll each win £20 in Amazon vouchers, and the winner will be the proud recipient of a brand new iPad mini 2.

Winners will be announced on Twitter on Friday 21st November. So get thinking, get creative and send us your best efforts to be in with a chance of winning!

Key players in the oil and gas industry

Key Players PDF Blog Image

There are few industries that wield more power than oil and gas. Not only does it dominate the financial pages and many a political agenda the world over, it also provides a vital resource to many other businesses as well as being responsible for millions and millions of jobs.

Industry growth shows little sign of abating, generating more jobs, more money, and more column inches than ever before. Here at Kingsbridge we’ve decided to take a closer look, delving into and breaking down some of the key players.

We’ve crunched the numbers on some of the biggest hitters – Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, and ExxonMobil, alongside a few of the industry’s key recruiters (namely Orion Group, Fircroft, and Primat Recruitment). Did you know, for example, that Aramco produces 12.7 million barrels of oil per day? Or that Gazprom represents an enormous 10% of Russia’s GDP? Fascinating stuff.

Click on the image above to take a closer look at our latest infographic.

A contractor’s guide to IR35 legislation

HMRC Building

The Intermediaries Legislation, or IR35 as it is more commonly known, has been the topic of conversation for many in the world of freelance contracting. With HMRC this year promising to reduce IR35 case investigation time, this key piece of legislation is now a topic that no contractor can afford to ignore.

What is it?

IR35 is a key piece of tax and National Insurance legislation that directly affects freelance contractors operating through a limited company. The aim of the legislation is to uncover what is known as ‘disguised employment.’

The legislation requires HMRC to create a ‘hypothetical contract’ between the end client and the individual undertaking the work by ‘removing’ the intermediaries of which the intermediary referenced in the legislation is the contractor’s limited company (often referred to as a ‘personal service company’ or PSC).

The reason the contract is hypothetical is that there are no contractual terms between the end client and the ‘worker’. The contractual chain is often End Client → Agency → PSC → Worker, but IR35 applies equally where there is no agency in the contractual chain because the PSC is the key intermediary.

The End Client and Agency are both engaging limited companies as it isn’t possible to ‘employ’ a limited company, and as such are off the hook as far as IR35 is concerned. The focus therefore falls upon the PSC which, in essence, will have failed to operate Pay As You Earn on its employee in respect of an engagement where HMRC can argue that IR35 applies. HMRC, in this situation, would be able to successfully argue that the hypothetical contract represents a contract of service (i.e. one that resembles an employment relationship).

What does this mean for the contractor?

When a contractor is trading through a limited company, the contractor can organise their remuneration in such a way that they receive a small salary and high dividends. The contractor therefore benefits from a slightly lower tax rate on the dividends, but the real saving comes from the fact that dividends do not attract employer or employee National Insurance Contributions (NIC). However, they should only do this for engagements that are deemed to be ‘outside of’ or ‘not caught by’ IR35.

IR35

Why is it important?

As a contractor, if your engagements are caught by IR35 legislation as being ‘disguised employment’, then your company becomes liable for the tax and NIC that would be due plus interest on the amount and even a penalty if HMRC can argue that you have not undertaken any form of due diligence. This obviously places a huge financial burden on a contractor, the effects of which could last for years.

How is IR35 applied?

When considering any kind of employment status issue, the first question asked will always be: “Is there a contract of employment?” The reason is that there is no legal definition of a “contract for services” (self employment), but there is sufficient case law to be able to determine what constitutes a contract of employment. Logically, if there is not a contract of service, then there must be a business to business relationship.

There are three key tests of employment which are used to investigate individual engagements, and these help to determine whether or not a contractor’s engagement falls within or outside of IR35 legislation.

The wording of your contract is key here. A genuine freelance contract will be a contract ‘for services’, whereas an employee contract will be a contract ‘of services’. This distinction is hugely important in proving that you are in fact a genuine business, providing a service to another business. In this instance, it pays to be diligent and have an independent IR35 specialist assess your contract.

Another test used to establish if a contract is IR35 friendly is the issue of control. A genuine contractor should have full autonomy over how the work they are contracted for is completed. There are also subsidiary elements to control that can be considered. It is sometimes the case that the contractor will have a considerable input into what the engagement will be (although that is usually the client’s decision), but often the contractor can determine the location. Perhaps the client has multiple sites and the contractor will determine from where he/she operates, or the contractor can work from their own offices. If a contractor has control over where the work is undertaken, they are also likely to have control over when it is undertaken.

Nevertheless, just because the client has determined the project and requires that the engagement must be undertaken on their site (whether due to security reasons or because that is where the equipment/people are), and that the site can only be accessed during certain times, this does not mean that the client is exercising control. The key issue is whether the contractor has control over how the work is undertaken.

There are two further important areas that are considered when assessing the IR35 status of engagement. The first is a right of substitution clause. If a contractor has a clause written in to their contract that a similarly skilled worker can replace them on a contract, the contractor is not obliged to provide their personal service. Having to provide one’s personal service is a key indicator of an employment relationship; having the right to substitute denies personal service and therefore indicates a self employment relationship.

The second is what is known as Mutuality of Obligation (MoO). An employee in a typical employer-employee contract will be paid each month and, in return, will be expected to work across a range of tasks at the discretion of their employer.  An arrangement such as this does not exist for limited company contractors engaged in a contract for services. Instead, a contractor will be engaged for a limited and specific project and when that contract comes to an end they are not obliged to remain working for their client. Indeed, if mutuality is to be fully denied, there should be no expectation that the contractor will work for the client on any given day or even be obliged to see an engagement through to conclusion.

Of course, IR35 investigations vary on a case by case basis and no preventative measures will ever cover every eventuality. However, it remains advantageous for all contractors to take the threat posed by IR35 seriously and remain prudent in ensuring that they can confidently prove that they are in business on their own account.

Having Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance can significantly improve your IR35 profile. PI insurance is an all-important element of cover for businesses as it protects against any claims of professional negligence.

Make sure that you are ticking an important business entity test off your list by ensuring that you are fully covered as a freelance contractor. At KPSol we have designed our core insurance package to cover the risks inherent in freelance contracting. This includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers Liability cover; our product can help you avoid getting caught out by IR35.

If you wish to discuss your cover requirements then simply call our friendly, professional team at KPSol on 0124 236 2149 and we will be happy to discuss your needs with you. Alternatively, apply online to get cover instantly.