Simon McVicker is Head of Public Affairs at PCG, the professional association for UK freelancers, contractors and consultants. He is also Chairman of CIPR Public Affairs Group, and a member of Islington South Conservatives.
Yesterday’s leaked letter from the Danny Alexander to George Osborne setting out the findings of his review into all those engaged in the public sector through limited companies, is a cause for concern. According to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury there are more than 2,000 senior UK public officials being paid ‘off payroll’.
This review was commissioned following the high profile exposure of Ed Lester, the head of the Student Loans Company who had been given special concessions to hold his role through his limited company by HMRC. The reaction from certain sections of the press and parliament, following the Ed Lester case, was to assume that anyone engaged on a freelance or contractor basis within the public or private sector was a “tax dodger”, which of course is fundamentally inaccurate.
I am not here to defend Ed Lester’s employment arrangements which were a clear case of false self-employment. Disguised employment wherever it exists should be investigated and stopped, and the laws already exist to do so. However, I am here to urge caution as the Government considers its response to this review.