‘Significant’ oil discovery near Gatwick airport announced

UK Oil and Gas

Oil and gas exploration, development and production group, UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG), has today announced that it has discovered somewhere in the region of 100 billion barrels of oil at Horse Hill near Gatwick airport in West Sussex.

The group, which undertook drilling in the oil-rich Weald basin region in South East England last year, claimed in a statement released today that the region could hold a potential 158million barrels per square mile. However, when compared with areas with similar geology in the US and Siberia, UKOG estimates that only 3% to 15% of that amount could actually be recovered.

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Five resolutions every contractor should make for the new financial year

New Financial Year 2015

We all made our diet, fitness, productivity and anything-else-you-can-think-of resolutions in January, as the new calendar year rolled in. However, April brings us a new kind of New Year: the new financial year.

As we covered last month, the Chancellor has revealed his final Budget before the general election and the calendar has officially restarted on the fiscal year. So, what better time to look at some practices every contractor can assume for the benefit of their finances. Here are our five financial resolutions that every freelancer should think about implementing this financial year.

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A Contractor’s Guide to Public Liability Insurance

Public Liability Insurance

Whether you’re a career contractor or you’ve just dipped your toe in the world of professional freelancing, you’ll have likely heard about Public Liability insurance. And there’s a reason for this; it’s one of the most important types of business cover and it’s an absolute essential for any contractor.

Why is it so essential? Well, as we all know, accidents and mishaps can happen, but that doesn’t mean that you, or your business, need to be out of pocket as a result. Public Liability insurance protects you and your business in the event of an accident or damage being caused where you could be held liable.

If you don’t invest in Public Liability insurance, and someone is injured or property is damaged as a result of your actions, then you could become legally bound to pay them compensation. Simple mistakes can become expensive, fast!

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Health and Safety in the Oil and Gas Industry

Oil Gas Health Safety

It’s no secret that the petroleum industry is exposed to certain, very specific risks. If you’re a freelancer in the oil and gas industry then you will be more aware than most about the risks inherent in this line of work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in its Offshore Strategic Context report for 2014-2017, outlines their priority for the health and safety of the UK’s offshore industry is maintaining the integrity of the existing infrastructure that makes up approximately 50% of current offshore platforms. The main aim of this is to avoid a major incident that could result in the death of any offshore workers.

With health and safety such a critical issue within the industry, there are a number of principal risks that the HSE find must be eliminated in order to ensure the safety of the more than 32,000 workers in the petroleum industry.

Risk of fire and explosion

Any release of hydrocarbon carries the risk of ignition, fire and subsequent explosion. Hydrocarbon releases, or HCRs, can be caused either by the breakdown or erosion of a station’s assets (pipelines, pipeline risers or process plants) or by improper maintenance.

In its report, the HSE highlights that the industry has noticed the importance of reducing HCRs and that by April 2013 there was a near 50% reduction in releases, and a plan had been set out to achieve a further 50% reduction by 2016. However, by late in 2013 there had been a 30% rise in releases once more. It’s clear that this is a continuing issue for the industry and one that could have deadly consequences if not attended to.

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Budget 2015 – Kingsbridge round-up

Budget 2015 Reaction

In his speech, George Osborne today promised that today’s final, pre-election Budget will “back the self-employed, the small business-owner and the homebuyer” proclaiming that Britain’s economy is once more on the rise, dubbing the nation, ‘The Comeback Country’.

Freelancers face a mix of measures following Osborne’s 59 minute speech yesterday, many of which appear to be aimed at making the life of the independent professional much easier, while some still target cracking down further on tax avoidance.

Despite Osborne’s insistence that Britain is in the midst of an economic comeback, much of the rhetoric used throughout the speech focused on further reducing the deficit and national debt, with Osborne even expressing at one point, “we choose… to use whatever additional resources we have to get the deficit and the debt falling.”

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the main measures from 2015’s Budget that are likely to affect freelancers, contractors and independent professionals over the course of the next year.

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Budget 2015 – the Contractor Wish List

Budget 2015

With just two days to go until Chancellor George Osbourne delivers his final Budget before the 2015 General Election, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) have released a new report detailing a Budget wish list for contractors and freelancers, outlining some of the changes they would like to see from The Treasury on Wednesday 18th March.

Let’s take a look at what some of their main proposals are and how they stand to benefit the lives of independent professionals across the country.

Simplifying the tax system

At the top of IPSE’s list is a call for the Government to commit to extensive tax simplification measures. This is a perennial issue, especially for one person limited companies, for whom navigating complex tax legislation (notably IR35) is a time consuming and costly issue.

Interestingly, Derek Kelly, Managing Director of ClearSky Contractor Accounting, writes for Contractor UK that he predicts that the UK’s independent professionals would actually appreciate maintenance of the status quo when it comes to tax legislation. Specifically, he believes that effective enforcement of current IR35 legislation would receive a warmer welcome than more rules and excessive complications being put in place.

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The 5 TED Talks every freelancer needs to watch today!

TED Talks

The daily grind can get you down. Sometimes, when you feel like you’re running low on inspiration and drive, you need something quick and impactful that you can watch to stop burnout from creeping in.

That’s where the plethora of TED Talks come in! Professionals from every corner and every industry sharing what inspires them, what gets them out of bed in the morning, all in under 20 minutes, can prove be the perfect antidote to an attack of apathy.

Check out our list of some of the best TED Talks out there and what we think every freelancer stands to gain from them. Go and get inspired!

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What can contractors expect from 2015’s budget?

2015 Budget Contractors Freelancers

This year’s Budget statement from chancellor George Osborne is due to take place on 18th March. The lead up to the budget is always marked by endless predictions about what to expect from tax to duty and public spending. Rightly so, as there are very few people who will not feel the impact of the decisions that will be announced later this month, whether it’s how much tax you pay or the price you pay for everyday essentials.

But contractors, freelancers and independent professionals occupy a unique position in relation to the Budget. The rise of freelancing in the last couple of years means that freelancers can contribute to the recovery of the UK economy as it continues the uphill climb to emerge out of the recession.  Freelancing helps to create jobs and promotes entrepreneurship so it is increasingly expected that the budget will include concessions toward protecting freelancers and making the option of contracting more attractive.

So what can independent professionals expect out of the budget this year? Well, to answer that question fully we would need a crystal ball or the ability to project ahead two weeks in time. In the absence of time travel, we can explore the impact of last year’s Budget and consider what changes are likely to happen that will affect the community of independent professionals across the UK.

Budget 2014 – what was in it for freelancers?

There has been some concern that, despite the Conservatives’ pledge of being ‘the party of small business’ they have actually made very few direct budget and policy adjustments to both protect and encourage freelancing in the UK.

Julie Stewart, Chairman of IPSE, commented after last year’s budget that there is an urgent need for measurements to be put into place to empower freelancers to tackle late payment, a problem that freelancers struggle with regardless of industry. She also highlighted the importance of making the communications infrastructure, including wider access to the 4G network, much more affordable for those that have to travel but remain contactable for their business.

IPSE’s blog took a detailed look at last year’s budget, closely examining elements of it that were likely to affect freelancers significantly and any specific nods made toward the independent professional  population. It’s well worth a read and will provide plenty of food for thought. Check it out here.

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Contractor News Round-Up

Latest News

This week we’ve scoured web to find all the latest contractor news – stories, trends and research affecting the world of the modern independent professional. Read on to discover our top picks of the latest stories affecting the industry.

More than 80% of new freelancers are female

Freelance UK has this week reported on official labour market figures that claim that more than eight in ten of the people who became self-employed in the final three months of last year were women.  IPSE commented that the 2% rise in the overall number of self-employed people in the UK is almost entirely made up of women. This significant increase has been attributed to the apparent upsurge of women spotting emerging lifestyle trends and going in to business to capitalise on this insight.

If this increase spills over to the worrisome gender gap in the UK’s engineering skills crisis, could we see the start of a close on that divide in the near future?

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Study reveals freelancers happier and wealthier

Good news for independent professionals from Brighton University this week. City A.M. reports on a study conducted by the university’s business school that found that being your own boss lead to greater levels of job satisfaction and average earnings that far exceed the nation’s average.

There has been much ink spilled about the lifestyle benefits that a freelance lifestyle offers people, including flexibility in working hours and location. We feel that the benefits of freelancing certainly outweigh the perceived negatives. We’ve dealt before with time management and the key issues every freelancer must consider, and the recent swell in self-employed individuals across the UK suggests that many more people are buying into this exciting and dynamic way of life.

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Freelancing

UK freelancers cautiously optimistic about 2015

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), in conjunction with Elance-oDesk, the online freelance job marketplace, conducted a freelance confidence survey earlier this year that discovered that freelancers have a cautious optimism about the coming business year

Factors such as the upcoming General Election are thought to influence the way that freelancers feel about their financial and business prospects in 2015. How has your business fared since the coalition government came to power? Do you feel that a change in ruling party would have a significant impact on your prospects for the future?

To read a full, in-depth analysis of the Freelancer Confidence Index, visit the IPSE site here.

Freelancers unite to get sickness and other employment benefits

The Guardian takes an in-depth look at groups springing up across Europe that are seeking to fix the problems that are commonly associated with freelancing, rather than endure the long wait associated with trying to effect political and legal change.

Covering issues such as sickness pay and chasing clients for late payment of invoices, the piece looks at the concept of industry wide mutual support in Europe in comparison to the UK and provides real food for thought at the innovative and unique ways that freelancers find to combat uncertainty while running successful businesses.

Read more here…

Should I get my freelance contract reviewed for IR35 compliance?

IR35

IR35 is the legislation on everyone’s lips and it’s a subject that we have covered a number of times.  Since its passing into law in 2000, it’s been a priority for freelancers and contractors to make sure they don’t get caught in the IR35 net.

Some professional organisations now offer independent reviews of your contracts that check for IR35 compliance, giving you the peace of mind from the outset that you are not at risk of being caught out. This week, we’re going to investigate if these contract reviews are really worth it for independent professionals today.

IR35 – the risks

IR35 is aimed at uncovering ‘disguised employment’. This affects people that provide their services through a limited company, known as a personal services company. ‘Disguised employment’ is when a freelancer works on a contract through their limited company, but their working conditions and their contract indicates that they are working in the same way as a traditional employee.

If one of your contracts is caught by IR35 legislation i.e. – your work appears to be more like that of a traditional employee –  your income will then become subject to normal income tax and National Insurance contributions and you will lose the advantage of the low salary, high dividends tax arrangement that many freelancers benefit from.

IR35

The Assessment

If you are selected by HMRC to undergo an IR35 compliance investigation they will investigate both your contract and your working arrangements. That means that the way you work and the language of the contract you are working under need to be in agreement.

This is where the skills of a professional contract assessor really come to the rescue for a busy freelancer. Employment status experts will investigate the terms of your contract as well as delving into your working practices through the eyes of an HMRC investigator. That means that you have an objective onlooker examining your compliance for IR35 without you having to get bogged down in the finer details of this often very hard to understand legislation.

This way, you can be secure that both the wording of your contract, and the way in which you actually complete the work in the contract, are compliant with IR35, limiting your exposure to the risks of having an unexamined contract.

This, to us, is the biggest advantage of having an employment status professional review your contract and the way in which your services are delivered. It’s sure to give you peace of mind that a professional can help you prove to HMRC that you’ve taken reasonable steps to IR35-proof your contract.

When HMRC investigate the validity of your contract against the stipulations of IR35 legislation they carry out a series of Business Entity Tests.  These tests function as one of the ways to prove that your contract is at low, medium or high risk of being caught out by IR35.

Being covered by Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance can improve your IR35 stance and forms part of the Business Entity Test. That means that ensuring that you are fully covered as a freelance contractor is a vital step to cover yourself at every level. At Kingsbridge we have designed our core insurance package to cover the risks you’re exposed to as a freelance contractor. This includes Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers’ Liability cover, all at levels that suit the needs of the modern freelancer.

If you wish to discuss your cover requirements then simply call our friendly, professional team at Kingsbridge on 01242 362160 and we will be happy to discuss your needs with you. Or, you can apply online to get access to cover almost instantly.