The news for contractors has been mostly positive over the second half of March, although for many the Budget threw up as many questions as it answered. A number of specific issues have been addressed by parliament in the run-up to the election though so there are some signs that self employment is becoming more of a hot topic for politicians.
The Bank of England proved unlikely allies when they released a report which confirmed what most contractors and independent professionals already knew: that those choosing to work for themselves were doing so because it appealed to them and suited their lifestyles. Just as experts were criticising Ed Milliband for his negative view of self employment, the Bank of England’s report supported the view that self employment was a legitimate choice for most of the independent workforce. Far from being an unwelcome necessity, self employment offered much sought-after flexibility and more choice over their career paths, according to the report, which made Labour’s approach to self employment even more unfathomable.
Interim managers looking for work could find their prospects looking up, with an Ipsos MORI survey showing an increase in demand towards the end of 2014. The number of enquiries about positions rose significantly between the final quarter of 2013 and 2014, and the number of new assignments available also rose by 5 per cent over the same period. Billable hours were up as well, both between 2013 and 2014, and between the third and fourth quarter of 2014. Most of these opportunities were in the private sector with a large majority coming from the finance industry and this continued a trend from the final quarter of 2014 as well. Increased numbers of positions in life sciences and as a result of mergers and acquisitions means that interim management is a potentially lucrative option for many so far this year.
IR35, the tax legislation which has had more column inches dedicated to it than almost any other in the world of contracting, has been under fire again. The IR35 Forum, set up specifically to introduce an element of transparency to the ongoing consultation process, has been criticised for their decision to make less of the contents of their meeting public by including only major decisions and talking points in the minutes. There was also criticism of the fact that it took around four months to deliver the document which ran to a mere 1,225 words, demonstrating that there was a lack of concern about providing interested parties with the means to engage with the forum. Limiting the level of information available, especially given the fact that the legislation itself is still generating significant controversy, seems contrary to the state purpose of the forum, according to many commentators.
VAT is in the news again as the Budget made it easier for private sector companies to pitch for tax-payer funded works by removing the requirement to pay VAT charges. Until now, ‘in-house’ teams have had a significant advantage over external bodies when it comes to putting together proposals, given that they would need to reduce their prices by 20% in order to remain competitive in the field of public sector outsourcing. The change, which was scheduled to come into effect on 1st April 2015, was designed to allow eligible public bodies to reclaim VAT paid on outsourced and shared services.
The Oil and Gas industries received a boost when it came to the budget, with a series of tax cuts announced in the Budget. IPSE expressed their relief that the contribution of these industries had been acknowledged when it came to providing them with the means to increase investment in the sector. Taxes were cut in order to free up funding for research, development, investment in infrastructure and exploration, all of which could secure the future of the sector for the long term and provide fuel security for the UK as a priority. This has meant that there are likely to be plenty of opportunities for contractors in the sector as companies are expanding their operations using skilled and experienced workers to help them achieve their goals.