Nice try: dubious expenses claims

Expenses

We can’t imagine a job at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is always a barrel of laughs, but we’re sure that these outlandish expenses claims must have raised a few smiles around the office when they came in. Although the new tax year is now in full swing, it’s always a good idea to take a look back through some of the weird, hilarious and just downright cheeky expenses claims that self-employed workers have tried to sneak through the tax system over the past few years.

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Brand Identity: The Basics

Brand Identity

“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business” Steve Forbes, editor of Forbes business magazine

“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO Amazon

You might think that brand identity is a concern only for big companies, or that, as a small business, you can’t afford to spend a lot of money on flashy marketing. But building a brand identity is all about communicating a consistent message about who you are and what you do, and it needn’t cost any money at all. This blog explores the basics of brand identity for contractors and freelancers and offers some simple principles for building a unified brand around your core asset: you!

As the quotes above tell us, branding isn’t a one-time marketing exercise. Rather, every encounter that a client or potential client has with your business should be considered part of your branding. Every interaction is an opportunity to build a positive relationship, and to communicate your story, values and benefits.

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Five signs that you’re ready for self-employment

Self-Employment

Everything is starting to feel a bit fresher and warmer. But sometimes the signs of spring can make going into the office every day feel like more of a slog. April is a great time to consider your position and decide whether you are ready for your next challenge. Many contractors held “normal” jobs for years before they decided to go it alone and take advantage of the freedom, flexibility, and financial advantages that can come with being self-employed. But how do you know when you’re ready to take the plunge, leave the 9-to-5 and take the reins of your own company? Here are five signs that it might be time for you to go self-employed:

Your reputation precedes you

If you are fighting off calls from headhunters, or if clients, customers or partners of your current employment keep trying to twist your arm into doing some extra bits for them “on the side”, then you should definitely consider giving contracting a go. Your expertise and experience are clearly visible to others and therefore should be easy to market, and you have a pre-existing group of potential clients to target for those precious first few contracts.

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Private Sector IR35 reform: what will it mean for contractors?

IR35

Off-Payroll working – what is it?

Most contractors probably already have a basic understanding of IR35 legislation: HMRC’s framework to try and weed out “disguised employees” – people who are claiming to be self-employed but whose work operates along lines they deem closer to an employer-employee relationship (if you’ve never heard of it, check out our previous guide here). It’s also commonly referred to using HMRC’s terminology of “off-payroll working”.

What some may not be aware of is that IR35 regulations have already undergone reform recently in the public sector, with the changes due to be extended to the private sector from April 2020. There is a consultation open at the moment which purports to inform the Government’s implementation of the new rules, but many contractors are sceptical that their voices will be taken into account.

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Being Lorraine Kelly: IR35 status explained

IR35

HMRC’s most recent defeat by the queen of daytime TV, Lorraine Kelly, has thrust IR35 regulations in the spotlight once again. But how can contractors be assured that they won’t fall foul of HMRC’s crackdown on “disguised employment”? Much of the press coverage focused on the judgement that Kelly does not appear on television as herself, but rather performs the chatty persona “Lorraine Kelly”. Although you might not be able to get away with arguing that you perform your freelance duties as a more entertaining version of yourself, there were many other aspects of Kelly’s successful defence that can serve as useful guidance for contractors with regard to the various indicators of “genuine self-employment” as outlined in IR35 legislation. The judge for Kelly’s trial declared that they “did not consider this a borderline case” as they dismissed the £1.2million bill for tax and national insurance that had been claimed against her.

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Gotta Have IT: IT skills in demand this year

IT Skills

IT is still one of the biggest-expanding sectors in the UK economy. There are over 1.5 million jobs in the UK digital sector and 2.2 million in the wider digital economy. A recent study by recruitment body APSCo found that IT professionals were the most sought-after workers in 2018, with demand for these roles increasing 28% year-on-year. With specialist IT skills highly sought-after across a range of sectors, a good geographical spread of jobs, and digitisation and digital security becoming a priority for all types of business, it’s no wonder that so many IT professionals are choosing to become contractors and freelancers. Here we take a look at the skills that are most in demand from IT freelancers this year. If you have expertise in one of these areas, this could be the ideal time to go it alone.

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What risks am I taking by operating without insurance?

Insurance

Every contractor wants to keep their business outgoings to a minimum. When you’re looking to reduce your business spending, it can be tempting to cut away at expenses that seem extraneous to your requirements: a business telephone contract that you’ve never used, expensive professional software licences when a free program works just as well, memberships of professional bodies where you don’t use any of the benefits. But there’s one contractor cost that should never be cut – business insurance.

It’s true that you may never claim on your insurance. But there are many risks to operating without proper business insurance in place, from the small to the serious. Even without the need to make a claim, insurance is working for you every day, helping you to secure clients, meet the requirements of contracts and as an IR35 indicator. In the event that things go wrong in the course of business, or you encounter an unhappy client or third party, insurance becomes even more crucial to protect your livelihood, mental health and even your home. This blog looks at the escalating risks of not having proper business insurance in place if you are working as a contractor.

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The Ongoing Issue of Late Payment

Late Payment

Although (like everything else) it might have been a bit overshadowed by Brexit, there was good news for contractors and freelancers buried in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement last month – a crackdown on late payments. It’s a scenario that will be familiar to almost every contractor and freelancer; the tiresome and often worrying time spent waiting and chasing for payment of invoices that are well overdue.

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Fees in the Mortgage Process

Mortgage

We’ve already spoken about the steps self-employed workers should take in order to make the process of getting a mortgage simpler and easier. But it may well be the case that you’re so focused on getting over the first hurdle that you forget what’s just behind it.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with the good people at CMME again – this time to take a look at the fees involved in the mortgage process. Whether you’re a first time buyer with no idea of what’s ahead or a seasoned pro getting ready for another round, this post will serve as a good indicator of what to expect.

Before we begin it’s worth noting that it is possible to add some of these costs to your mortgage, but many individuals choose to pay them upfront. Regardless of which scenario works best for you, here are the fees you can expect:

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Mortgage Tips for the Self-Employed

Mortgage

Read on below for a guest post from our good friends at contractor mortgage specialists CMME:

Becoming self-employed isn’t always for everyone. It’s a decision that can have consequences. You may feel alone in your journey when it comes to financial advice, especially when your high street bank doesn’t understand the way in which you work when applying for a mortgage – something that can hinder your opportunity.

It’s a common myth that the self-employed will be declined a mortgage or would need to have been self-employed for 2 to 3 years. This isn’t necessarily true and, with support and guidance from the right specialist mortgage broker, you could get a mortgage that reflects your true earnings.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a professional looking to re-mortgage, CMME have created this helpful guide outlining everything self-employed people need to know about getting a mortgage.

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