MPs call for support for forgotten freelances
The Public Accounts Committee has given HMRC six weeks to explain why so many of the self-employed have not received a penny of Covid-19 government aid.
The NUJ has welcomed a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) calling for plans to be to put in place plans to provide support to help the 3 million self employed who have not received one penny of financial support during the pandemic.
The cross-party House of Commons committee said that within six weeks Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) should publish an explanation of why these freelances have been exempted from the government's aid schemes and review how it can calculate the average wages of some excluded freelances to determine grant aid.
Pamela Morton, NUJ national freelance organiser, said:
"Throughout the pandemic, the trade union movement has had to keep pushing the UK government to provide the financial support the self-employed need and the government has consistently failed to address why millions of tax payers have not received any support.
"There was no justification for these individuals to be purposely excluded in the way they continue to be, many simply for the way they have been taxed. There is also no justification for the delay in announcing what the fourth grant of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be. The third grant covers only up to the end of January and with the UK still in lockdown, the self-employed need proper support and the details announced urgently."
"Quirks in the tax system have left some groups of taxpayers excluded from financial support that other taxpayers received throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We are concerned that some self-employed taxpayers may have moved onto payrolls because of HMRC's rules, but were not employed at the relevant time, and so lost eligibility to COVID-19 support schemes."
It noted that:
"Some freelancers, due to the nature of their job, often move from one job to another on relatively short-term employment contracts and due to the bad luck of not having the 'right dates' on their contracts had missed out on support that their colleagues in the same industry had received."
Since March 2020, HMRC has provided more than £80 billion in support to businesses and individuals, including through the employment support schemes. The report noted that some large companies had received taxpayer support yet paid dividends to shareholders and high salaries to executives and criticised HMRC's ability to cope with the extra work created by the pandemic because of out-dated IT systems.
The NUJ has been fighting for those freelance members who have fallen through the cracks of the aid packages and looks forward to HMRC's response to the MP's report.
As part of the union's Fair Deal for Freelances (#FD4F) campaign, the union has voiced concerns that details of the next tranche of financial aid for the self-employed due at the end of the month have not been forthcoming and has called on the Treasury to ensure that members will receive 80 per cent of earning in line with colleagues on the scheme for those with staff jobs.
#FD4F also calls for full access to benefits and social securities, and this includes the permanent abolition of the universal credit Minimum Income Floor (MIF) which is only applied to the self-employed. The suspension of the MIF is due to finish at the end of April and will mean individuals could see a significant drop in their award. The UK government should also extend the £20 a week increase to univeral credit which has been a lifeline for millions.