Chancellor Sajid Javid has pledged to review onerous tax rule changes coming into force next April under the “IR35” regime, giving fresh hope to freelancers who have been caught out.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four over the weekend, the Chancellor said the expected rule changes would be reviewed under a Tory government and that he wanted to ensure the reforms were appropriate.
He fell short of saying the changes would be scrapped, when questioned on this directly, but said the Conservative Party was on the side of the self-employed.
The review will be carried out as part of a wider investigation, promised in the Tory manifesto, that will look into how new policies could help freelancers, including better pension arrangements and making it easier to get a mortgage, he added.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party (SNP) have all made similar pledges in the run-up to the December general election, although the Lib Dems and SNP are the only parties out of the four to make specific promises in their manifestos.
Critics of the IR35 reforms have said they are crushing small business and damaging the economy.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the gap in employment between working-age people with and without disabilities is closing.
In 2013, 43.4% of working-age disabled people were employed, compared with 77.6% of non-disabled people representing a gap of 34.2%. By 2019 however the gap fell to 28.6% with 53.2% of working-age disabled people in employment, compared to 81.8% of non-disabled people.
Unemployment among people with disabilities has roughly halved over this period, however it is still double the unemployment rate among people without disabilities.
Industry leaders including National Theatre bosses Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger and Bristol Old Vic’s artistic director Tom Morris are calling on the sector to band together to fight for increased arts investment from a new government.
They have issued the call to arms in an attempt to undo the effects of austerity-era cuts.
As the UK prepares to head to the polls and with both Labour and the Conservatives promising a boost to public spending, arts bosses have claimed now is the moment for a major policy shift around arts funding.
In a joint statement, NT leaders Norris and Burger argued that government should be spending on the sector, describing it as an opportunity for the country’s future leadership to “rebuild national confidence by investing in the UK’s inherent and historical strength in creativity”.
Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem’s deputy leader, was the big winner of the event held in the City, with 54 per cent of the audience of more than 100 small business owners, investors and freelancers backing him at the end of a Question Time-style debate with political rivals.
His closest competition came from a beleaguered Liz Truss, the Conservative trade secretary, who was supported by only 24 per cent in the “exit poll”, down 12 points on the proportion who said they would back her party in the election before the debate began. In contrast, Sir Ed gained 15 points in the “before and after” polls.
“We are now the party of business. They have given up the mantle,” Sir Ed claimed, pointing at Ms Truss.
Rather than any great enthusiasm for their stance on self-employment, the Lib Dem victory may be down in part to frustration over Brexit among a Remain-leaning audience, as well as anxiety over Labour’s plans to increase business taxes and frustration over government policy towards those who work for themselves.
According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, which organised the hustings with Enterprise Nation, a small-business network, confidence among freelancers is at a five-year low because of concerns about the economy and anxiety about new rules that mean many of them will face a higher tax bill next year.
If you are interested in getting an idea of what the three main parties are offering the self-employed in the UK, have a read of the summary offered by Freelance UK. Before December 12th, you should be aware of the ways that voting could affect you and your business.