It’s the morning after George Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement, so I’ve been in Westminster sounding out politicians on the details.
Most are cautious as they know the devil is in the detail, both published and unpublished. We’re working across parties for a range of questions to be put to ministers to seek clarification on a range of issues.
What we do now know for sure is that, following HMRC’s consultation, Government are tightening up on travel and subsistence rules for those already working within IR35. We also know that the government still intend to proceed with the significant changes to the dividend tax system from April 2016 whilst reducing corporation tax. What isn’t clear is by which legal mechanisms they will make those changes – MPs reckon the Finance Bill 2016 wouldn’t be approved until June 2016 which is too late. Whatever means are used, there’s still time – so we will keep making the case for delay or amendment to the dividend tax plans so that we can protect the lowest earning businesses.
Another major issue of concern for us in the build-up to the Spending Review were the rumoured changes to IR35 and associated rules around contractors and freelancers. Credible sources were suggesting a reduction in the rule which currently states that more than 6 months on site with a client means payroll taxes apply: the so-called “6 month rule”. We had heard the 6 months could be cut to 3 months or even as little as 1 month which risked severely damaging the flexible skills market offered by freelancers and contractors.
Yet no mention of IR35 nor the 6 month rule was made in Osborne’s statement, nor the published documentation. Many in the sector have assumed that this means change is off the table for the time being. But what I’m hearing in Westminster is that perhaps officials weren’t ready to make an announcement in time for this week and news on this issue could still come forward in a separate announcement. So we will keep working to explain the damage that would be caused to micro-businesses through reducing the 6 month rule.
The additional free childcare for 3-4 year olds when parents earn under £100k will be welcomed by many micro-business owners, but the extension of the small business rate relief scheme, while positive, will only benefit a small slice of the sector.
The chancellor’s commitment to creating a simple digital tax account for everyone by the end of the decade is a very welcome ambition. Anything which makes it easier for citizens and businesses to manage and understand their tax situation is good news.
Overall however there was little news of specific benefit to the 8.4 million people working in the micro-business sector and lots of blanks which could be filled in later to the detriment of micro-business. In other words all to play for still…