Tag Archive | "employers national insurance"

Companies are completely confused by government regulations

The continual changes to employment and tax regulations are leaving companies confused, stifling the country’s competitiveness and hindering job creation.

61% of businesses are unclear as to what is classed as tax avoidance and what constitutes legitimate tax planning and 33% believe they are treat as guilty by HMRC until they can prove their innocence, according to BDO LLP.

A large proportion of UK companies think the current tax framework is to complex and the situation is made worse by HMRC’s aggressive stance. Companies feel they now need to spend more time on their tax affairs instead of focusing on growing their business. Dealing with the Revenue has become more of a burden in the last five years, according to 65% of business leaders and 88% think things would be much easier if the tax rules were simplified.

Employers also have to fight their way through a ridiculous amount of employment legislation. David Frost, the director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, said that there was a growing consensus that employment law is weighted in favour of employees. A lot of employee rights have been implemented as a result of EU legislation but European labour markets are very different to ours.

The UK government should be prioritising job creation as this will lead to future prosperity. Mr. Frost said the coalition must desist from implementing any new employment laws for the next three years and cancel the 1% increase in employer NICs in order to encourage companies to recruit more staff.

Over the next four years, BCC estimates show that new legislation and tax will cost UK employers £25.6 billion.

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Government will no longer tolerate PAYE and NICs debt

Employers may be required to lodge security against PAYE and national insurance payments under proposals laid out in the Finance Bill 2011 and failure to comply will be a criminal offence.

HMRC has estimated that the Treasury lost between £600m and £800m in each of the years from 2005 – 06 and 2008 – 09 due to employers going bust and not handing over the employers national insurance contributions already deducted from their employees’ salaries.

The new proposals mirror those already in place for VAT and a partner from PwC said he hoped the power to prosecute would rarely be used and even then only if the circumstances were appropriate.

Over 150 million pounds worth of VAT was protected by securities in the year 2009 – 10. This total included sums that would have been paid late or after recovery action had been taken.

It is thought that PAYE of a similar value could be subjected to a security requirement leading to around £5 million yield which would not otherwise have been paid.

Tax experts claim that these new measures were prompted by a recent surge in recovery actions against football clubs such as Cardiff City, Notts County and Portsmouth. All three clubs have been served with winding up orders this year following their failure to settle outstanding tax debts.

The new policy will target the minority of employers who break the rules and make the system fair for all businesses, commented a Revenue spokesperson.

Alistair Darling first proposed the security measure in his final Budget earlier this year. A consultation on the issue has now been launched and will run until next February.

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Ask me no questions

You may recall I wrote last week about there being an apparent majority of recruitment consultants who don’t actually know what they’re doing, much less understand what (or rather who) it is they’re selling, Sadly that also seems to be true of contractors themselves.

Now obviously I don’t mean the things they know about their chosen field; if you aren’t pretty damned good at what you do you won’t last long as a freelance after all. Clients hire freelances to add instant value and high levels of expertise at the drop of a hat (or a well-written contract, anyway) and I’ve met very few indeed who don’t deliver exactly that.

No, I’m talking about the other side of the freelance business, running the business itself.

Perhaps I’m biased since I’ve been doing this for quite a while now, but I am continually surprised at the kinds of questions you keep being asked. It’s not like the information isn’t out there. If you can’t face trawling through the HMRC labyrinth to find things – which is something I try to avoid as much as possible – there are many very good and authoritative guides on the web, not least the PCG’s Guide to Freelancing. So why don’t people read them?

For example, in the last week I’ve seen examples of all five of the obligatory dumb questions…

The “My accountant can’t count” question. Someone who has painstakingly worked out his taxes and thinks he should be getting more than his accountant says he should. Usually they’ve either forgotten something trivial, like Employer NICs, or they’ve got the basic arithmetic wrong. That’s why you use accountants, so why try and double guess them?

The “Why is my accountant so expensive” question. These are the guys who begrudge paying a tiny percentage of their gross for a professional service. Try as you might, you will never persuade them that if an accountant actually costs you money, get a new one. He’s there to make sure you get the best return on your gross after all. Unless you tell him to do something totally silly of course.

The “How can I get to keep 95% of my gross” question. Limited to those who have either fallen for the sales blurb or don’t actually think living and working in the UK means you have to pay UK taxes (aka “Doing a Green”…)

The “A contract is just a piece of paper” question. The guy who’s signed up to a contract but then discovers he hasn’t got a notice period (which is a good thing, by the way, not that they’ll believe you about that) or has to carry PI insurance or something else he doesn’t like. Followed by plaintive cries of “What if I simply don’t bother, will the agency put a hit man on to me”. If it’s in the contract and you signed it, it’s legally binding; why is that so hard to understand? Try reading and negotiating before you sign it next time

And finally the “What expenses can I claim” question. Comes in many forms this one. Why can’t I claim travel after 24 months (you can, it’s just that it’s taxable). Can I have a 52” plasma screen monitor for my laptop (sadly it’s too big for the study, I’ll just have to keep it in the living room). And so on..

And why does this suddenly matter? Blame IR35, as usual.

If, as seems increasingly likely, whatever replaces it is based on proving you’re in business – just like Dim Prawn always said was the case (and then promptly forgot about saying it) – then understanding the rules of business would seem to be a pretty good starter for ten.

Which means, sadly, having to ask questions…

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
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So what about Son of IR35?

Now the excitement of the promise actually to consider IR35 for a serious reappraisal has died down a little, I’ve been giving some thought to what that might actually mean. What can we expect Son-of-IR35 to look like?

For one thing, I think there will still be something there that looks like IR35. Let us not forget that the original justification was to prevent the Friday-to-Monday syndrome, where a worker would switch from permanent employment to freelance contract doing exactly the same job. Either the worker did this to take advantage of the tax breaks available to a Ltd Co owner or, more often than people would admit, it was the employer divesting himself of assorted legal obligations, not to mention having to pay Employers NICs.

Of course IR35 stops this, by making the cost benefit of doing this unattractive. Snag is, it also gets in the way of the worker who genuinely wants to go freelance. So my suggestion is that IR35 (or whatever the new version is called) should only apply where the freelance’s client is the same as the immediately previous employer for a period of one year.

However, if we assume that some form of IR35 is still out there post review, the best we can hope for is that there are clear rules about when it applies. Most contractors are angrier about the lack of clarity and resultant uncertainty than about paying the taxes, after all. This is here the original “in business” test comes in – you know, the one that Red Dawn prattled on about while simultaneously refusing to accept that any freelance could possibly be in business on their own account.

But how do you demonstrate you’re in business? That’s the question…

One option is if you are VAT registered. There’s no way you can do that as an employee; even if you did, there would be precisely zero things you could legally claim the VAT back from anyway. You could add in the existence of Your Co to make the test a bit firmer, although that might impact the Schedule D Self-Employed workers. Although the Schedule D self-employed worker can’t really be hit by IR35 since there isn’t an intermediary company in the chain anyway.

Another option is to waive your rights to things like employee benefits, JSA, maternity or paternity leave and the rest of the panoply of employee benefits. The logic is that since you are not paying employee-level taxes, why should you expect to get employee-like benefits?

You could be a bit more imaginative and scrap S44-47 ITEPA 2003 (which replaced S134c) which is the one that makes the intermediary liable for unpaid taxes and is why agencies won’t deal with unincorporated (or non-umbrella) contractors in the first place. Which – whisper it quietly – is why we then got IR35…

Or, of course, you simply delete IR35 altogether – with the sole exception I mentioned above to stop the Friday-to-Monday trick. If there’s no law, there can be no uncertainty. Freelances can choose to work through an entirely legal UK Limited Company and operate it just like every other one. A bit like I do right now.

Or is that too simple…?

Anyway, end of contract today so I’m off for two weeks in the sun. Since I refuse point blank to take my laptop on to the beach – and she who must be obeyed would flay me alive if I tried – the next blog will probably be on June 25th. Let’s hope there’ll be something to write about!

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