In a candid interview, the CEO of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, Chris Bryce, criticised the government’s suspicious, unfair treatment of contracting professionals and has given notice that IPSE will combat plans to extend destructive IR35 regulations from the public sector to the private sector.
Asked why IPSE should continue to fight IR35, Bryce replied: “Fundamentally, I believe that the Government is making a huge mistake in regarding the self-employed as a target rather than a valuable contributor to the UK PLC. It’s been clear since 1999 that independent professionals are regarded with a deep, unnecessary, unwarranted suspicion – as somehow doing what they do in order to avoid tax. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
He went on to explain that contracting professionals were in reality subject to comparatively heavy taxation relative to PAYE employees. The government, he said, “has been consistently misinformed by its own officials.”
IPSE intends to broadcast this to the best of its abilities, Bryce added, to defend freelancers and contractors from such relentless misinformation. He charged the government with consistently failing to appreciate the economic contribution made by contracting professionals, even though IPSE has brought this to their attention for many years. “All the economic data points to this,” he said.
The constant attacks on self-employed freelancers were not only misguided but offensive, Bryce said. When, many years ago, the government encouraged people to “get on their bikes,” it was contractors who most eagerly adopted that advice and yet are now being “hammered” for doing so.
The extension of IR35 to the private sector, Bryce warned, is likely to have a negative impact on the economy by deterring some of its most productive and flexible contributors, independent contracting professionals, from continuing with their endeavours. Some, he predicted, will choose to work abroad, others will retire, and yet others will stop contracting. That, he added, “will damage the economy almost irreparably.”
The public sector, and especially the NHS, provides disturbing evidence of such developments, with many government projects deferred or even scrapped because of harsh new IR35 rules. To inflict this on private sector businesses is “folly”, he said, because these firms will be unable to access much-needed flexibility at a time when they most need it: while Britain leaves the EU.
Bryce confirmed that IPSE is consulting its membership and other stakeholders on what the impact of IR35 is likely to be in the public sector. He added: “We believe we will be told in no uncertain terms by our members that we should be combating this.”