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Pressure mounts on parties to address IR35 as ‘freelance manifesto’ unveiled

Ahead of the general election, leading IR35 campaigner calls for the end of the off-payroll rules

A leading anti-IR35 campaigner has launched a ‘freelance manifesto’, calling for the end of the off-payroll reforms, piling further pressure on the major political parties to articulate their plans to win over the self-employed.

Labelling the manifesto’s launch “a bold move to empower the UK’s 4.35m self-employed”, long-time anti-IR35 campaigner, Dave Chaplin – founder of Contractor Calculator and CEO of IR35 Shield – offered his thoughts on how an incoming government can win over the UK’s flexible workers.

The manifesto highlights the “critical role” of freelancers, contractors and the self-employed “in driving innovation, growth, and flexibility in the economy”. It also outlines five key policies which would see the policy landscape shift to one “that champions the self-employed rather than punishing them”.

The first demand of the manifesto is the end of the off-payroll reforms, which Chaplin says “have proven to be a disaster for UK businesses”. Chaplin has also used the manifesto to call for the introduction of umbrella sector regulation, alongside a taxpayer bill of rights.

With the general election just one month away, the manifesto is a timely call to arms. However, the self-employed – including the contracting sector – are still waiting to hear what, if anything, the major political parties are prepared to promise them.

Self-employed vote up for grabs as election creeps closer

The latest available data from the Office for National Statistics suggests there are between 46-48m registered voters. With the self-employed totalling around 4.25m individuals, this group accounts for a considerable share of the voting public – making them a crucial block of swing voters.

The continued silence of the major parties has prompted Chaplin to launch his manifesto, calling for politicians to capitalise on the opportunity and “to secure the votes of this vital sector of the workforce”.

Under the current government, Chaplin believes the rights of the self-employed have been “undermined by poor government decisions”. Some examples include the introduction of IR35 reforms, as well as tax increases and threshold freezes.

To reverse this trend, Chaplin’s first priority would be to abolish the off-payroll rules. This would also include banning zero-rights employment, which has arisen from “the poorly drafted off-payroll rules”.

Alongside these measures, Chaplin has also called for the introduction of regulation to the umbrella sector which targets “unscrupulous operators” of tax avoidance schemes.

In addition, Chaplin wants to see a “taxpayer bill of rights”, alongside the creation of an independent “taxpayer advocate to ensure stronger oversight, transparency and accountability” at HMRC.

‘Backbone of economy’ – but self-employed need more support

In the foreword to the Freelance Manifesto, Chaplin writes that the self-employed are “the backbone of our economy”, but “poor government policy-making has let them down and damaged their livelihoods”.

As such, he suggested that the measures put forward in the manifesto “can safeguard the self-employed” and “create a more equitable working environment”. Speaking in Contractor Calculator on the launch of the manifesto, Chaplin said it is “time for change” where government policymaking is concerned.

As such, he suggested that a new government must “implement these changes without delay”. “A new Government that champions the self-employed rather than punishing them will help restore their rights and deliver much-needed economic growth”, he concluded.

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