CEO Update, October: Autumn Budget, celebrating freelancers and a big win for IPSE


A week, as they say, is a long time in politics. But in Autumn – possibly the busiest season in the political calendar – a week is even longer than usual. And, indeed, every week of the last month seems to have brought a slew of major new developments for the self-employed – from the bombshell National Insurance hikes to IR35 coming home to roost in the HGV crisis.

As rumours about the Autumn Budget abound, we’ve sent off our submission to it, pushing hard for a review to clear up the IR35 mess – and with recommendations on some of the other key freelancer issues we campaign on. There’s also some brilliant recognition of our campaigning work on IR35 and pandemic support: the Memcom Awards have named IPSE Membership Organisation of the Year! 

Celebrating freelancers in difficult times

What’s more, if you’re reading this in our newsletter, you’ll have seen that after a hiatus in 2020 (for obvious reasons), last night we continued with our annual IPSE Freelancer Awards, celebrating the best and brightest freelancers from across the UK. As one of the judges, I can tell you there was an extraordinary level of talent on display in the submissions this year. Enormous congratulations to all the finalists and winners.

It’s brilliant sometimes to be able to turn from the politics and campaigning to bring together the freelance community we represent and, after an extraordinarily difficult 18 months, celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our vital freelance sector.

Salt in the wounds for freelancers 

Turning back to our campaigning, one of the most significant developments we’ve seen this Autumn is, of course, the government’s sharp and manifesto-breaking hike not only in National Insurance Contributions, but also dividend taxes. As we argued on BBC Radio 4, BBC News Online, the Sun, the Daily Mail and elsewhere, though of course we have a responsibility to support social care, it’s not right that hard working people – especially the disproportionately hit self-employed sector – should have to pay for it.

This – along with IR35 – is one of the main points we raised in our submission for the fast-approaching Autumn Budget. We have called for government to rethink these tax rises and consider the impact they will have not only on the hard-hit freelance sector, but also on business and the wider economy – just when it is trying to stimulate growth and kickstart the country again.

Pushing on IR35 in the Budget

On IR35, of course, the issue of the moment is the HGV crisis. Brexit and pandemic supply chain issues are certainly significant factors behind the shortages on our shelves, but there’s no doubt the government’s very own IR35 policy is a major factor too. As we have discussed on LBC and elsewhere in the media – and impressed on the government – the reason a large proportion of HGV drivers have moved on is the changes to IR35 making it no longer worthwhile.

This is the other major focus of our Budget submission – based on input from members in our Policy and Research Committee: pushing the government to clear up the mess in the wake of the IR35 changes. We are pressing government to launch a full review of the impact of the changes and be ready to take radical action based on that – including scrapping the changes altogether. More immediately, we know how many freelancers have now been pushed into working through unregulated umbrella companies because of the changes. We are urging government to step in and set out clear guidelines on how umbrella companies should operate: including how they should deal with Employers’ NI, holiday pay and expenses.

We are also about to launch crucial and eye-opening research on the impact of the IR35 changes to back up these arguments. Thank you to everyone who took part in it and keep an eye out for this in the next couple of weeks. We’re planning to make a splash with this and more vital campaigning on the issues we know you care about. We’re pushing government across many fronts because we want to make sure that this Autumn, at least one of these long weeks in politics ends better for the self-employed than it started.