PCG has called for honesty and clarity in tomorrow’s Budget for the sake of contractors everywhere.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Freelance and contract workers’ association Professional Contractors Group (PCG) has called for tomorrow Budget to treat contractors fairly.

PCG - of whom Brookson are Accredited Accountant Affiliates - has called for the chancellor to “come out fighting” and kick-start the UK’s economic recovery by clarifying where contractors stand on a number of tax and legal issues.

First among PCG’s demands is clarity on taxation for contractors. The uncertain status of a freelance worker often proves to be a headache when they come to filling in self-assessment forms. Although they are ultimately different to employees, the distinction is often uncertain and it can be difficult for contractors to get to grips with where they stand. PCG argues that a fresh approach to taxation involving simpler regulations and less complicated appeal system would save time and money, both for contractors and HMRC.

PCG have also called for a rethink on the Treasury’s approach to public sector contracts. The freelancer’s association described the recent review into the government’s dealing with “off-payroll” workers as an “omnishambles” for both contractors and civil servants, and has urged the government to draw up a new set of rules ensuring that every department and contractor alike is fully aware of the expectations placed upon them.

IR35 is unlikely to be displaced as the biggest bone of contention between HMRC and contractors. PCG has again called for the chancellor to insist the taxman publishes a new, clear and comprehensive set of guidelines establishing exactly who will be subject to the regulations so that freelance workers can get their tax affairs in line and save resources that could be wasted on appeals.

Contractors have long been seen as crucial to Britain’s economic success. Given the well-documented surge in demand they have enjoyed as a result of huge skills shortages in a number of key industries, the expertise of contract and freelance workers is likely to prove integral to the growth and expansion of any number of UK businesses.

Oil and gas are, of course, sectors in which contract work is perennially popular, but where permanent staff are often hard to find. Oil Careers and Air Energi’s Oil and Gas Workforce Survey identified a lack of specialist skills as the biggest threat to the industry as a whole.

Meanwhile, EU data indicates that the entire Union is struggling with a shortage of IT skills. By 2015, the figures suggest, there will be 900,000 unfilled IT vacancies across the 27 member states.

PCG chairman Chris Bryce says that the chancellor is “on trial” as he approaches tomorrow’s Budget.

“Freelancers see his inaction as an economic dereliction of duty,” Mr Bryce said. “We want to see the chancellor answer these charges we want him to show vision, kick-start the economy and recognise the amazing talented army of freelancers he has at his disposal to help him and the nation win the economic battle.”

Given the role that contract workers will inevitably have to play in meeting demand to bring about economic growth in the UK and beyond, freelancers will be hoping that Mr Osborne introduces measures to assist them in getting Britain growing.

By Victoria McDonnell

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