Tory government ‘is not on the side of small businesses’

In the Times last week, a report by the Centre for Policy Studies, a centre-right think tank, was covered. It says that small companies are being undermined by a tax and administration regime that is seen as “far too complicated, costly and bureaucratic”, making it “harder than it should be” to run and grow a business.

The government has also been criticised by small and medium-sized businesses for a perceived lack of Brexit guidance and a failure to reform business rates.

The research was accompanied by a poll by YouGov which found six in ten owners of small companies felt they were not supported by the government. Less than a quarter said it was on their side. Three-quarters of owner-managers said they found the tax regime too complicated and seven in ten felt the system was not sympathetic towards the needs of small business.

The Centre for Policy Studies called for changes to the taxation system to make life easier for people who run their own business.  The report was written by Nick King, head of business at the centre.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed is among the groups who have accused the Conservative government of being “anti-business”.

 

The ride-hailing app Uber is being investigated by HM Revenue & Customs over allegations it owes more than £1bn in unpaid tax, with a risk for passengers of a sharp increase in fares.

Uber does not pay 20% VAT on fares because the company insists it only acts as a digital intermediary between its self-employed drivers and passengers.

Like black-cab drivers, Uber argues it is not liable for VAT because its drivers earn under the threshold of £85,000 a year at which it begins to be charged.

HMRC, however, is investigating whether Uber is a transportation company and should therefore pay VAT, or if their drivers should be treated as self-employed and not liable for VAT.

The arrangements between Uber and its drivers have been described by judges as involving “a high degree of fiction” but help ensure the firm is not liable for VAT. The final decision could land the company with the biggest tax bill ever levied on a digital giant in the UK at a time when the sector is under fire for paying so little in tax.

The company declined to comment at this time.

The tax barrister Jolyon Maugham QC, who considers the firm is liable for VAT, is due to file a legal action again HMRC in the High Court this week, alleging it has mishandled the VAT case.

Maugham, who is working on the case with the legal firm Irwin Mitchell, estimates Uber’s potential VAT bill in the UK at £260m a year, with the tax authorities able to claim four years in back payment.

It is understood that HMRC’s position in the case is that it is investigating Uber’s potential VAT liability but has not yet reached any conclusions.

Uber’s case that it is only a digital intermediary, not a transportation provider, has been undermined by an employment tribunal case pursued by two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam. They have successfully argued they are workers, with entitlement to the minimum wage and paid holiday.

 

What can we learn from the past gig economy?

The FT considered the truth to our rationale that the lower wage workers were being paid more in the 18th century than they actually were. Meticulous records uncovered by Judy Stephenson show that actually these wages were paid to the firms that hired the workers, but actually the workers were paid much lower wages than initially thought. Interestingly, it was assumed people worked year round, but actually the work was much more seasonal, meaning workers had a relatively disparate income.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

 

Amazon has announced a £450m investment into food delivery service Deliveroo.

This will make the total raised by Deliveroo founders to £1.53 billion, and will bring in Amazon’s obsession with delivering customer satisfaction into a business entirely driven on customer demand.

This also comes with the promise of expansion leading to new jobs, but it seems that it may take awhile for this money to trickle down to the workers propping up the economy.

 

Tax Watchdog Asks For PAYE Revamp

Government watchdog asks for the UK’s PAYE system to be reviewed, as the tax return system is becoming a “significant” burden on small businesses.

The OTS ask that HMRC provide simpler guidance for start-ups, that include guidelines on what records companies need to keep and include the key tax filing deadlines.

Even though PAYE has been modified to provide “real-time information” and faster tax codes, the system is still dysfunctional when it comes to dealing with individuals who have multiple jobs or work in the gig economy.

Bill Dodwell, the tax director of the OTS, said: “The review needs to update PAYE for modern working patterns,” he added.

 

They suggest that HMRC introduce systems that deduct tax regularly from self-employed individuals’ income, making they tax payments alike to those in employment and therefore better avoid errors in the system.

 

Mortgage Struggles Force Self-Employed To Put Family On Hold

Descrimination against self-employed people is rife when it comes to banks allowing individuals to apply for a mortgage.

The “tickbox mentality” of lenders has caused two-thirds of self-employed people who are applying for mortgages to feel that they were being bombarded with highly intrusive questions and left waiting far longer than employed people to have their loans sent through, the online mortgage broker Trussle found.

Research by agency Atomik, who interviewed 2,002 freelancers who had been accepted for a mortgage or were in the process of applying for one, found that 71% believed the process to be intrusive and obstructive.

Not only is there a gargantuan amount of paperwork (three years of business and personal bank statements; company accounts or other proof of income; a self-assessment tax form; and an accountant’s reference) but lenders are now subjecting borrowers to a “stress test”, guessing whether individuals will be able to afford repayments if the base interest rate were to rise by three percentage points.

The chief executive of the lobby group Homeowners’ Alliance, Paula Higgins, called out the government on money lender discrimination, saying that: “the mortgage industry and government need to wake up to the world in 2019 and do more to support the self-employed into homeownership.”

 

Freelance Clubs For Self-Employed Women

Women’s only freelance clubs are tackling the growing sense of isolation among the female freelance community, who largely work from home but want to have an impact on the world.

London Girls Surf Club, London

Kylie Griffiths, felt that London life was too claustrophobic at times to really bring about a sense of ease and freedom into her freelancing life. So, she founded London Girls Surf Club, that encourages women to break out of the concrete jungle and escape to the sea.

The Wing, London & U.S

Founded by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassanwhich, The Wing has over 8,000 and makes a point of welcoming trans and non-binary women and has several spaces in America all over the world.

The Wing’s London space – a five-storey townhouse with a tea room and gym – will be coming soon. Founding members include Emilia Clarke, Poppy Delevingne, Otegha Uwagba and the activist Gina Martin, who campaigned to make upskirting a crime. The Wing’s London space is set to hold events with speakers as dazzling and inspirational at its members.

One Girl Band, Brighton

Lola Hoad, founded the co-working space One Girl Band in 2015 because she wanted to tackle the problem of isolation in freelancing and didn’t feel that co-working spaces in Brighton were inviting to freelancers, because of price and comfort level, calling spaces she’d seen “intimidating and patriarchal”.

Hoad calls the co-working space, which reached capacity within six months, being “about creating an environment that helps people feel more confident in a realm where they are traditionally excluded.”

Blooming Founders, London

Lu Li, is the founder of women’s co-working space Blooming Founders, which she started in 2015. She said mixed co-working spaces were “largely male-dominated tech spaces … not appealing to women”. Replacing beer on tap with herbal tea, cookies, “and nicer things”.

 

Sexism In The Gig-economy

ETZ Payments, a company provider of “back office software” to recruitment firms, made an inequality review to highlight the substantial gender pay gap their female workers suffer from.

In 2017, TUC’s research into insecure work discovered that female agency, or gig, workers make on average £80 a week less than their male counterparts.

Confidence in ask for more money and pressure from clients are deemed high factors in creating gender pay discrepancy.

 

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