Alan Watts

Position: Principal Consultant

Company Name: LPW Computer Services

Website: http://www.lpwcs.com

I turned to being a freelance contractor in 1996, a decision that was not entirely of my own choosing. Having had a long and varied career in IT, covering all the main roles from lowly operator to head of operations, I applied for and got a new job building a support service for a major MOD programme. What I didn’t immediately notice was that they wanted a freelance, not a full time employee. Still, nothing ventured nothing gained, so I got my company up and running in record time (with a bit of help), and took the step off the safe cliff of permanent work. And discovered I quite liked being a freelance. Since making that original leap into the dark, I’ve been lucky enough to work for a wide range of companies, from banks to Ministries, in roles ranging from pure consultancy to pure programme delivery to interim management, but always with a link back to ITIL-based Service Management which remains my primary area of interest. But in 1999 along came IR35 and the start of the ongoing attack on the small company owner by the government and an increasingly aggressive HMRC. I started to take an interest in the mechanics of the freelance world. I started to learn about not just IR35 but all the minutiae of tax legislation, off shoring and ICTs, the agency business (which is nothing like they tell us it is) and various bits of relevant legislation such as the Agency Workers Directive, the Catch-22 of Security Clearance and the 24 month rule on expenses. I joined the nascent PCG (and am still an active member) and generally did whatever I could to get the message across that I and my peers are not tax avoiders but net contributors to the UK economy. In fact, according to PCG-funded research, us1.4 million freelancers indirectly put £28bn a year into the economy, so we must be doing something right. I started writing a weekly blog that began as a humorous look at the problems of working as a freelance contractor in the UK these days but which fairly rapidly evolved into a series of accurate, if slightly tongue-in-cheek summaries of various issues for the less well-informed, such as the Potted Guide to IR35. I was then asked to write a series of explanatory articles on the more obscure bits of running a freelance business, which in turn led to the weekly blog on this website. So here I am. Obviously opinionated, certainly grumpy, probably well informed and hopefully entertaining.
Budget 2012 – the new utopia of a modern Britain

Budget 2012 – the new utopia of a modern Britain

One of the few advantages of resting between contracts is that you can go off on holiday without that nagging feeling that you’re throwing away lots of earnings to do so.

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IR35 – and still it rumbles on…

IR35 – and still it rumbles on…

Since outing Mr Lester as a tax avoiding monster intent on destroying the UK economy single-handed, the press have continued to turn up cases where people are working for the Civil Service in a range of senior roles but who aren’t actually Civil Servants.

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IR35 – 12 years on and still nobody knows if they’re in or out

IR35 – 12 years on and still nobody knows if they’re in or out

In the aftermath of the Lester affair, I have managed to get involved in a bit of a debate has sprung up about what actually is a freelancer.

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We can glean some interesting insights from this débacle

We can glean some interesting insights from this débacle

There’s been a wonderful example this week of exactly the kind of problem we contractors are faced with when trying to get our point across. A government agency, SLC, was having some operational issues, so they brought in an expert to sort them out.

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How to successfully complete an IT contract – then rinse and repeat.

How to successfully complete an IT contract – then rinse and repeat.

I’m coming rapidly to the end of my current engagement and have been reflecting on what I’ve been doing. Not out of any great sense of sadness or nostalgia but because I have to hand over to the permanent guys that I’ve been covering for while they were off doing more interesting stuff.

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HMRC – the single biggest inhibitor to the recovery I can think of

HMRC – the single biggest inhibitor to the recovery I can think of

January, and the vexed question of self-assessment rears its head again. My accountant friends have said good bye to the family until February and closeted themselves with quill pens and envelopes of receipts. Others have burned the midnight oil trying to complete their online returns.

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Back to the drawing board with the electric pencil again

Back to the drawing board with the electric pencil again

Start the year as you mean to go on. Not a bad maxim, of course. Except that I’m starting with the prospect of being out of work at the end of the month. Not, I hasten to add, that I hadn’t seen it coming.

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GAAR – It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

GAAR – It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Don’t know about you but I usually have that optimistic hope at this time of the year that things are going to get better. Possibly fuelled by an excess of several Christmas spirits, but mainly on the basis that they couldn’t get much worse. But even I might struggle to feel optimistic about 2012.

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It’s been a difficult year for many but not a disastrous one, overall.

It’s been a difficult year for many but not a disastrous one, overall.

So this is Christmas, and what have we done? Well, speaking personally, quite a lot in one way and another. But it has been a funny old year in some ways.

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At a VERY long stretch, this IR35 judgement may be supportable

At a VERY long stretch, this IR35 judgement may be supportable

You will probably have heard me sounding off at fairly regular intervals about how inconsistent and impossible to judge the average IR35 case is. I’ve looked at many appeal judgements over the years and each one has been supportable, given the vague nature of that which is being judged.

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If you think a professional accountant is expensive, wait till you hire an amateur!

If you think a professional accountant is expensive, wait till you hire an amateur!

For some reason I’ve seen a whole raft of questions and complaints about that most retiring of professionals, our friend the humble accountant. What is more, the questions and complaints being raised tend to demonstrate why they need an accountant in the first place.

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What happens when the world changes?

What happens when the world changes?

One of the great appeals of freelancing your way through life is the constant change, working in new places with new people, solving new problems and generally getting away from the mundane grind of the usual nine-to-five employee world.

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A ringing endorsement from some politician called Dave

A ringing endorsement from some politician called Dave

I really must think about writing these jottings earlier in the week. I routinely find myself talking about things that have just happened rather than predicting what’s about to happen.

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My 8 step guide to a multi-billion pound business

My 8 step guide to a multi-billion pound business

After a lot of study and reading all kinds of authoritative sources I think I’ve worked out a business idea that lets you build a multi-billion pound business over the course of a few years.

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