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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Cameron salutes UK freelancers ahead of National Freelancers Day

Freelancers making use of accountants Richmond have received timely encouragement from the very top ahead of a 24 hour celebration of freelancers across the UK on Thursday 21st November, with Prime Minister David Cameron describing the country’s freelancers as “the engine of our economy” and deserving of his “very best wishes on National Freelancers Day.”

The PM’s warm words follow a month of support for NFD from various quarters, including from other MPs like shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, as well as business leaders and celebrities.

Mr Cameron said that the country owed “a huge debt of gratitude to the thousands of men and women who have decided to make their living as freelancers”, telling the freelance clients of accountants Richmond that “You have not only taken your own future into your own hands, but you are the engine of our economy and economic revival. Indeed, SMEs are the very lifeblood of our country.”

The country’s freelancers also drew the praise of the mayor of London Boris Johnson, who described them as “brave and ambitious” and providing the UK with “vital talent”. NFD’s London launch will take place later on Thursday, keynoted by BBC The Apprentice star and vice-chair of West Ham United, Karren Brady.

Ms Brady will take part in a Question Time-style debate alongside a panel of experts, to discuss the economic impact of flexible working. The event, at which BBC small business expert Liz Barclay, journalist and broadcaster Nick Ferrari, Salisbury’s Conservative MP John Glen and Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott will also appear, will be hosted by one of the UK’s best known freelancers, broadcaster Sue Lawley.

Ms Brady signalled that a dedicated celebration of the country’s 1.72 million freelancers was well-deserved, stating: “As a businesswoman, I have first-hand experience of working with freelancers and know that they provide an invaluable flexible resource to clients, helping them grow.”

Other influential figures to have previously hailed the event and the work of freelance clients of accountants Richmond include Countdown co-presenter Rachel Riley and shadow economic secretary Catherine McKinnell MP, who said that freelancers “played an increasingly prominent part in creating economic growth and prosperity.”

The chair of PCG, Julie Stewart, commented: “We are honoured that David Cameron has shown his support for freelancers. Backing from the prime minister shows that our unique way of working is being recognised at the highest level.”

She added that the purpose of National Freelancers Day was to promote and celebrate freelancing’s positive effect not just on the UK economy, but also the work-life balance of workers, concluding that it was “brilliant” that so many prominent individuals were choosing to join in with the celebrations.

Tax concerns prompt 'control' test for BBC freelancers

The BBC is set to run a much-anticipated employment test on its freelance professionals, both high-profile and obscure, as it seeks to clamp down on personal service companies (PSCs). Clients of Richmond accountants may remember the corporation promising to carry out the test a year ago, following negative national press coverage of its use of PSCs and a critical report from the Public Accounts Committee.

Back then, the BBC had said that it would undertake the test on more than 800 ‘on-air’ workers who were paid not as individuals, but through their own limited companies. The report had said that the government and the BBC had too many staff making their own arrangements for the payment of tax and national insurance, potentially equating to a lesser contribution to the exchequer.

The new test will scrutinise the amount of editorial ‘control’ that the broadcaster has over the activities of each of the freelance workers, which are expected to be predominantly on-air. Should the assessment find a “significant” amount of BBC control of certain presenters and newsreaders, they will be asked to join the payroll, enabling them to be taxed at source rather than allowed to continue with their PSC.

The BBC stated in a news item outlining the assessment that it could not accurately gauge the number of ‘to camera’ freelancers set to be affected, given the “case-by-case basis” on which the test will be run, although top BBC talent, such as Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce, could be within scope. Users of Richmond accountants may be interested to read that so-called ‘off air’ BBC freelancers are already being assessed for the appropriateness of their use of PSCs.

It is estimated by the corporation that around one fifth of its 16,000 production freelancers presently operating through their own limited companies could be requested to join the payroll as employees of the BBC.

The trade group PCG, which represents many freelancers using Richmond accountants, expressed its disappointment at the corporation’s measures against its freelance talent, pointing out that a distinction between employed and self-employed was already made by existing tax rules like IR35. It said: “If there are concerns about tax, it is the tax system that should be reformed, not the way these experts are working.”

The group continued: “Rather than taking the retrograde step of pushing back against these vibrant, successful and rewarding working practices, the government should instead be embracing it.”

The BBC has described the employment test as its response to the criticism of the Public Accounts Committee, despite “no evidence” being found last November that PSCs were used by the corporation to assist tax avoidance. That the test is going ahead will doubtless concern many present and prospective freelance clients of Richmond accountants.

Canary Wharf tax return

Tax deadline day is coming round fast.

The 31 January 2014 will soon be upon us, and if you are due to submit a personal self assessment tax return then now is a good time to sort your tax return out, before the Christmas party season starts and the new year hangover begins.

January is every accountants busiest time of year, so it will pay to get your personal tax return in early.

If you are required to submit a UK personal tax return and live or work around Canary Wharf London then you should be talking to Freelancer Accounting

 

PCG in call for 'witness protection' line for late payments

The trade association representing freelancers and self-employed professionals, including many making use of a Canary Wharf accountant, Professional Contractors’ Group (PCG), has suggested that the government opens a “witness protection” telephone hotline, through which firms failing to pay in time can be reported.

The body made the call while welcoming plans to allow the naming and shaming of non-paying customers by smaller firms, with a consultation on means of tackling late payments among the four million UK businesses having recently been announced. It is news that will be welcomed by many of those using a Canary Wharf accountant, as it represents a significant acknowledgement of one of the biggest problems facing the freelancing profession.

With freelancers being the smallest businesses in the UK, they also tend to have the greatest scarcity of resources, meaning that they disproportionately suffer when clients fail to pay in a timely manner. Many of those benefitting from a Canary Wharf accountant will be familiar with the major cash-flow problems that can occur in the wait for payment, and in the worst case scenario, it can mean everyday tasks at work and home coming to a halt.

However, PCG did express concern about the potential adverse consequences for small businesses and contractors calling out larger businesses when they did not pay promptly. For freelancers, the relationships that they enjoy with clients are paramount, and it might not help them to be seen to complain about customers. As chief policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, Katja Hall has pointed out, such fears of damaging customer relations prevents many firms from using the means of redress that already exist.

No doubt many of those using a Canary Wharf accountant will agree with Simon McVicker, PCG director of policy and public affairs, that “Anything that puts the prospect of future contracts and recommendations in jeopardy would be disastrous for independent professionals who live or die by the strength of their client relationships. The last thing we want to see is blacklisting of those micro-businesses who are brave enough to speak up when big businesses do not pay within a reasonable time frame.”

This has led the organisation to suggest that an alternative system is considered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), whereby big businesses can be anonymously reported by small firms in the event of failure to pay within a “reasonable time frame”. According to the government’s own figures, struggling to receive payment from a customer is a problem with which 85 per cent of the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises have been familiar in the past two years, suggesting the scale of the issue.

Over the summer, it was suggested by business secretary Vince Cable that late-paying companies could be subject to fines, and current clients of a Canary Wharf accountant will be interested to see that this proposal is featured in the present BIS consultation document.