Anyone expecting a bit of quiet after the Spring Budget has been in for a surprise – it has been non-stop news and change in politics and self-employment policy!
I started the past fortnight with a trip to Cardiff for the Conservative Party Spring Forum where my video report noted the Prime Minister’s focus on waiting for the Taylor Review’s report, rather than risking any more painful self-employment policy announcements. The Chancellor was nowhere to be seen at the event, so the intention was clearly to avoid any difficult fiscal conversations in Cardiff.
I also took part in a fascinating roundtable debate hosted by the RSA and Google, exploring the impact of automation and AI on the future of low-paid work. There wasn’t a huge amount of consensus around the room on what was likely to happen (nor over what timescale), but there was agreement that, in one way or another, change is inevitable.
Making Tax Digital under the microscope
I also participated in an event for stakeholders in the HMRC Making Tax Digital (MTD) for Individuals programme. Everyone present agreed with and supported the ultimate ambition of HMRC’s programme, but there were concerns around how problems will be handled and the seeming lack of connection between MTD for individuals and for businesses, which are being run separately.
An example of the change coming soon is that, from June this year, salary information from the RTI system (which employers use to give HMRC live updates of payroll as soon as it is processed) will be used to update tax codes much more often than before. At some point later in the year, feeds from banks detailing taxable interest will also be used to make tax coding even more accurate.
We all supported the idea of more accurate coding to avoid unpleasant under and overpayment scenarios. However, there are worries that at the moment agents won’t have access to the Personal Tax Account where individuals will be able to check how their codes are calculated. So, it seems like a case of right strategy from HMRC overall, but some issues over the detail.
Last week, I also had the pleasure of being invited to Accountancy Europe’s ‘Digital Day’ – a one day summit in Brussels for the whole continent’s accounting professionals to explore the impact of digital on them and their clients. It was a fascinating day and Crunch’s unique approach was of great interest to the attendees.
By coincidence, it was also the day on which the UK’s Article 50 notice was being hand delivered to the European Council. I learned in the breakout sessions that a number of people were wearing black as a mark of their emotions for the day. I was certainly the only attendee wearing red trousers which some took to be my attempt to be a human Union Jack but in fact had just been a random wardrobe choice the day before in the rush for the Eurostar!
Self-employment policy discussions continue
That same week I had the chance, with the RSA’s Benedict Dellot, to present the key findings from our research The Entrepreneurial Audit to Employment Minister Damian Hinds MP and his self-employment policy team at DWP. We had a really fruitful conversation around the welfare recommendations in our report. I was also able to present those same findings to a Labour Party Self-Employment Summit hosted by Shadow Chancellor John Mcdonnell MP, Shadow BEIS Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey MP and the FSB.
Of particular interest was a conversation about pursuing new legal definitions for employment and self-employment to help clarify decades of case law.
There’s a clear desire to learn from the budget NICs debate and to present a package of ideas together to improve the offer for the self-employed.
We look forward to contributing further to the debate as ideas progress, and campaigning for the interests of the self-employed and small businesses.