Budget 2016 Analysis: ‘A Budget That Backs Small Business’

Budget 2016

George Osborne’s latest Budget as Chancellor passed today as expected, with no real surprises. There was good news for the self-employed, but the spectre of a clampdown on the use of Personal Service Companies (PSCs) by public sector employees still looms like a heavy cloud.

As we’ve mentioned on these pages before, Osborne’s tightening of the vice on the so-called ‘Paxman tax’ comes predominantly as a result of public outcry at perceived tax evasion by celebrities and sports stars. However, such measures will also impact those contractors working in the public sector, meaning that from April 2017 they will now face investigation from their clients and agencies to confirm whether they are ‘true contractors’ or simply a ‘disguised employee’. If the client or agency believes that the contractor in question is a disguised employee, it will be required to deduct tax at source from all payments made.

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The Self-Assessment Deadline – Tips For Contractors

Self-Assessment Deadline

The beginning of the year can be a stressful time for everyone, with new resolutions to keep to, the return to work after Christmas excess, and the cold days of winter. For contractors, there’s also the added burden of the self-assessment deadline looming large at the end of January (the 31st to be exact). We can’t ever promise to make doing your tax returns any more fun (although we find a glass or two of wine tends to help), but we can give you some tips to help the process go more smoothly for this year and the years beyond. We know your time is at a premium so we’ll get on with our guide without any further fuss:

Make sure you submit your tax return on time

It might sound like a given, but you’d be surprised at the number of horror stories we’ve heard about contractors leaving things too late and not making the deadline (which, to remind you again, is 11:59pm on 31st January). If your tax return arrives after this point you’ll pick up a £100 fine. So check those internet connections, make sure you know where all your paperwork is, and give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.

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Tax and the Modern Contractor

Contractor Tax

We’re taking another dip into the Kingsbridge archives this week as we continue to highlight some of our previous posts you may have missed. Today, we’re taking another look at tax and what the modern contractor needs to consider.

You’ve established yourself as a contractor; you’ve networked, you’re looked for jobs, and you’ve completed your first contract with a new client. Now it’s time for the best bit – receiving your first cheque.

Don’t get too attached to that number, though. You need to make sure you factor in the tax you owe, now that your tax isn’t being collected on a pay-as-you-earn basis. When you’re starting out as a contractor, it’s really important that you get your head around the realities of your tax situation in order to ensure that you don’t incur the penalties associated with paying the wrong amount of tax.

Read on to find out the kind of things that are worth considering when it comes to tax and the modern contractor.

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Our Budget reaction: What impact will it have on the contractor community?

Summer Budget Reaction

The first Conservative-only Budget in 19 years took place in the House of Commons yesterday and whilst there were some positives, the Tories announced a number of changes which will undoubtedly affect contractors in a negative way, with contractor dividends, expenses, and IR35 among the areas targeted by the Chancellor.

Chris Bryce, CEO of IPSE, noted: “The combination of the action on dividends, clamping down on travel and subsistence and potentially toughening up IR35 legislation could leave many contractors feeling pretty sore.”

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A look ahead – what will the general election mean for freelancers and contractors?

General Election 2015

It pays for freelancers, contractors and the self-employed to pay attention to what is happening politically in the country.  Regardless of the outcome of any election, the independent professional community will be affected by policy making and the winning party’s stance on the self-employed and small businesses in general.

In research published last year, IPSE found that up to 90% of their freelance membership was likely to vote in the upcoming general election. Now, with just over a week to go until the day of reckoning, interest within the freelance community is at its highest.

With election fever well and truly in full swing we wanted to take a brief look at how each of the main parties proposes to support the UK’s freelance community and how independent professionals will fare depending on which party, or which coalition, assumes power on 7th May.

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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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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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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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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.