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An illustration of a ballot box | AccountingWEB | Why politicians can't afford to forget the freelance vote

Why politicians can't afford to ignore the freelance vote


Dave Chaplin highlights how major political parties are neglecting freelancers and self-employed workers during the general election.

6th Jun 2024
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As the campaign trail heats up for the upcoming general election, there is one group of voters that the major political parties seem to be overlooking – the 4.25 million freelancers, contractors, and self-employed workers across the UK.

Despite making up a critical segment of the workforce and economy, this group feels politically abandoned by the Tories and Labour, who have remained silent on policies to support them thus far.

So, we are taking steps to remind politicians what the UK’s flexible workforce wants and have published The Freelance Manifesto for Growth, spelling out five key policy initiatives which the next government must embrace to properly champion the UK's flexible workforce and drive economic growth. The five pillars of this manifesto are:

  1. Abolish the heavy-handed IR35 reforms of 2017 and 2021 which have created untold damage, and confusion, and stifled business growth. These reforms have made it harder for companies to engage legitimate freelance contractors.
  2. Ban zero-rights employment to close the loophole allowing companies to misclassify freelancers as "employees for tax purposes" without providing any of the accompanying rights and benefits.
  3. Establish a Taxpayer Bill of Rights to enshrine litigation rules and create an independent taxpayer advocate to ensure fairness and transparency for freelancers dealing with HMRC.
  4. Champion self-employment as a fundamental human right that should be protected rather than undermined by poor government policies favouring big businesses over small entrepreneurs.
  5. Regulate unscrupulous umbrella companies that exploit freelancers with shady tax practices.

The manifesto is a wake-up call that no politician can afford to ignore. Freelancers now make up a powerful 16% of the UK workforce across industries like IT, engineering, healthcare, marketing, and more. Their flexibility is a key driver of innovation and growth, something that Rachel Reeves, the shadow Chancellor is keen on.

These flexible workers are entrepreneurs who chose to become their own bosses and build self-sufficient careers. In return, all they ask is to be unshackled from bureaucratic constraints and given a level playing field to compete.

Sadly, the Tories and Labour have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to supporting the self-employed sector. Their silence is deafening and shows a shameful disregard for the interests of a major portion of the electorate and workforce.

Other parties like the Lib Dems and Reform UK have embraced the issues, with the former promising an IR35 review and the latter wanting to abolish IR35 altogether. But concrete plans are still lacking from all the major political players.

By addressing these major issues head-on, the Freelance Manifesto for Growth provides a clear roadmap for empowering the self-employed workforce.

The self-employed already play such a vital role in driving innovation, providing a flexible workforce, and delivering specialised skills and expertise where needed across different sectors. Putting in place supportive policies as outlined in the manifesto will only amplify their positive impacts and allow them to reach their full potential.

It's in the best interest of all parties to put forward robust, freelancer-friendly policies to court this powerful voting group, giving them the respect and support they deserve.

Replies (2)

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By dmmarler
07th Jun 2024 18:12

If the politicians were going to go for enforcement of all legislation when in power, then how about S1204 of the Companies Act 2006? Small businesses tend not to comply, but they are likely to be the greatest beneficiaries. I am sure the Chancellor would make a good profit by getting in some temporary (?IR35) staff to go through websites and check compliance, then issue the summary fines, daily default fines, etc. To increase the fines first would make it even better.

Seriously, the legislation is usually there for a reason so we need to be careful we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. IR35 was designed to bring more people into PAYE and NI, without much thought for the better taxable profits they could make from being self-employed, and therefore the improved tax take. There still does need to be some mechanism to make sure everyone does declare taxable profits/income reasonably accurately, and pays the tax (&NI) within the correct timescale, but IR35 is not it.

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By Paul Crowley
10th Jun 2024 10:38

Labour is going to win a landslide, so they can pretty much do anything they like.
But any increase in public spending needs to be financed, so taxes being reduced is probably not a priority.
Maybe those that want change should join the party and try to get heard.
My priority would be spending to save on HMRC, efficiency and targeted enquiries.
And of course chucking MTD ITSA in the bin as that is just one more indirect tax on the Self-employed and landlords, for nothing useful.

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