New research following June’s snap General Election has found that 63 per cent of the UK’s freelancing and contracting professionals want the new Government to prioritise the crafting of a fairer tax system for the self-employed.
The study, which was conducted by contractor tax advisory service Qdos Contractor, also found that 15.5 per cent of the contractors polled believe that a Minister for freelancers and contractors should be appointed.
Ten per cent said that the Government should act to make mortgages more accessible to self-employed/contracting professionals, and seven per cent said that the Government should incentivise pensions specifically for the self-employed.
Also, 4.5 per cent want the Government to pursue “other’” plans as well, including developing “better clarity on employment status and IR35” and the “digitalisation of Government to make company reporting simpler.”
The findings come after prolonged criticism of successive Governments’ attitudes to the country’s fast-growing army of contracting and freelancing professionals.
New public sector IR35 reforms, for example, were fiercely criticised as unworkable and unfair during the legislation’s consultation phase by a wide array of professional bodies representing both contractors and the staffing industry. Trenchant opponents included Umbrella Company trade associations PRISM and the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA) as well as the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).
Currently tipping the scales at two million people, this sector of the workforce is estimated to be growing at a rate of five per cent per year.
Commenting on the study’s findings, Qdos Contractor’s CEO, Seb Maley, said that the new Government has a unique opportunity following the election result to “start afresh” and begin the process of mending its fractured relationship with Britain’s two million freelancing and contracting professionals.
The Government has focused to date on rebalancing what it considers to be an unfair tax system, Mr Maley observed, but very few of the reforms that it has proposed or enforced have been of any benefit to freelancers and the self-employed.
Emphasising that contracting professionals take greater risks than their salaried counterparts, Mr Maley underlined the fact that the former work without the security of statutory employment benefits such as paid holiday and sick leave. New IR35 changes in the public sector, he said, have undermined one of the benefits of freelancing and contracting. Most contractors freelance because of the freedom and independence that it brings, not in order to exploit the tax system.
He added: “The UK’s independent workforce is absolutely vital to the economy. So, put simply, it’s in the best interests of the Government to build a tax system which allows freelancers and contractors to flourish and continue working this way rather than making their lives more complicated.”