CEO update April: IR35 changes, fighting for a fair tax system, a new self-employed advice section and more

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We may have a roadmap to recovery, but there is no doubt March was another difficult month for the self-employed. The sector is still disproportionately exposed to the devasting financial impact of the pandemic and, although there was a minor win in the government extending support to the newly self-employed, it is still wilfully denying support to sole directors of limited companies; an issue we continue to press the Treasury on. Worse, as I wrote in a message last month, those same limited company directors have also now been hit with the delayed changes to IR35.

IR35 reforms

Despite our campaigning and securing delays and important concessions, the government was determined to push through the changes to IR35 – and has now brought them into effect in the private sector. In spite of our public awareness raising and many talks with decision-makers, the government stubbornly refused to recognise the damage these changes would do.

As an organisation founded to represent and protect contractors against IR35, it is with deep disappointment that we see these changes come into effect. However, I want to assure you – as I did in my message at the end of March – that the fight for a fair tax system for freelancers is far from over. I also want to assure you of all we are doing as these changes come into effect to support you and the wider self-employed community.

Support through the changes

As well as updating our free guidance for members and non-members alike, we have also bolstered our benefits to protect and support members through the consequences of the IR35 changes over the coming years: 

  • Our tax and legal helplines can give you guidance on the IR35 changes, working through umbrella companies, inside IR35 status, ensuring contracts with small clients are IR35 compliant and more.

  • With all levels of membership, you can also access discounted contract reviews to make sure contracts are watertight before and after the changes.
  • All levels of membership include access to our library of webinars, with practical guidance on IR35, tax basics and much more.
  • IPSE tax investigation insurance (with Plus Membership - and, at a lesser level, Standard) will continue to protect you from IR35 investigations – in case you are working with a small client and also against retrospective investigations (a risk for up to six years).
  • IPSE tax investigation insurance continues to protect you from a range of other potential tax investigations including VAT and PAYE
  • The default, illness and jury service cover in our Plus Membership package will also now cover you whether you’re working outside IR35 with a client or through an umbrella company.

Changing the self-employed landscape

Our campaign for a fair tax system for freelancers is far from over. One of our key aims now – which we have already begun discussing with the Treasury – is to bring about a root and branch review of the current tax system to make it work for freelancers and employees alike – and in the process, ultimately make IR35 redundant.

We are also determined to show government the need for this reform by highlighting the damage the changes to IR35 are doing the sector. We are doing this primarily through our research, which we are using to press these concerns on officials in government.

Nor is it just the tax system. We understand that there are many areas where the business landscape simply does not work for the self-employed right now. As the economy opens up from lockdown, we are pushing to tackle freelance debt and for the government to incentivise self-employment – to make sure the UK’s self-employed strivers are ready to kickstart businesses across the country.

In the longer term, too, as we drive the creation of a fair tax system, we are also pushing for fairness in other areas: we have already helped create the office of the Small Business Commissioner to champion self-employment, and worked with it to bring in new regulations to clamp down on late payment. On pensions too, we are working with the government to bring about new and more effective ways to ensure freelancers have enough savings for later life.

Supporting our members

As we step up our campaigning on all these issues and more, we are also providing more advice and guidance than ever before. To this end, I am delighted to announce the launch this month of our brand-new advice section on our website.

At the moment, it offers new expert advice on coronavirus support, insurance, IR35 and the various different self-employed working structures – but it is an ever-growing resource, and over the coming months we will be adding many new subjects, to give you advice on every aspect of your self-employed business.

National Freelancers Day

It’s not only on our website that we are offering more advice than ever: we are now gearing up for this year’s National Freelancers Day too – where you can not only get expert advice and support, but also network with hundreds of other freelancers, hear from keynote speakers, join workshops and much more. Last year’s National Freelancers Day was our first-ever fully virtual event and, after its great success, we will be running it in this format again this year, so you can join wherever you are in the country – or the world.

I am also delighted to announce that this year, if you are an IPSE member, you will be able to join this award-winning event free of charge. If you’re not a member then you can also get a 25 per cent discount with an Early Bird ticket – which are on sale until 16th April.

After last year’s focus on the impact of the pandemic and how to keep afloat in difficult times, this year’s NFD will move onto the burning issue right now: how to prepare your freelance business for the post-pandemic world. It will feature networking opportunities, one-to-one guidance, keynote speeches and workshops all built around the core themes of Finance, Winning Work and Wellbeing.

So, although we know March has been another difficult month for the self-employed – for many reasons – I can assure you that through our campaigning, through events like NFD, through new and better advice and support and much more, we are working like never before to make sure the roadmap to recovery does apply to freelancers – and that you and the rest of the self-employed sector are ready to take advantage of the opportunities it creates. 

Meet the authors

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Derek Cribb


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IPSE is the leading association for contractors, consultants, interims, freelancers and the self-employed. We strive to bring our members the most comprehensive and useful range of information and services and all the latest news about what affects your business.