Just weeks after it unveiled plans to commission an independent strategic review of the tax system sponsored by the private sector, Umbrella Company trade body PRISM is to see its project come to fruition: a respected think tank, the Social Market Foundation (SMF), has confirmed that it will conduct the review.

The SMF’s study will encompass all aspects of flexible working, from the “gig” economy to Uberisation and contracting. It will closely evaluate whether a tax system that still only recognises two categories of worker – the “employed” and the “self-employed” – is fit for purpose in a context of growing concerns that employment law has failed to keep in step with the changing nature of the world of work.

Employment rights, tax relief and benefit structures will come within the scope of the review. Industry members wishing to join a working group at PRISM, the review’s sponsor, can apply at: http://www.prism.contractors. PRISM will supply an early collection of evidence to the study.

The trade association had earlier vigorously lobbied Parliament to campaign for a strategic review of the tax system to obtain a fair deal for contracting and freelancing professionals. In March this year, it secured cross-party support from 55 Members of Parliament, who became joint signatories to an open letter calling on the then-Chancellor, George Osborne, to conduct such a review.

Policymakers chose to disregard the advice, however, and in late July, PRISM CEO Crawford Temple announced that the group would be gathering support for a review conducted by the independent SMF.

The Director of the SMF, Emran Mian, said: “The world of work is changing. We used to talk only of employment and self-employment, but self-employment covers a wide range of activities. Many people who are self-employed are better described as contractors or freelancers.”

He went on to describe the aims of the new project:

  • To examine how widespread this third form of engagement currently is across the different sectors of the economy and the different regions of the UK.
  • To identify the consequences for individual contractors, businesses and the broader economy of this mode of engagement being legislatively ignored.
  • To survey how other countries are managing the same issues.
  • To propose practical next steps that can be taken in law and policy.

Describing the SMF as “a very well-regarded think tank,” Mr Temple said: “PRISM has believed since its inception that the sticking plaster approach to legislation, the lack of a legislative roadmap and the complexity of employment legislation was creating unfairness. We are asking for a second opinion in the form of this SMF study.”

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