HMRC should explain why it failed to support freelances, say MPs

THE PUBLIC Accounts Committee has called on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to urgently explain why some freelances – estimated to number three million – have had no access to government support during the coronavirus pandemic. A report by the committee of MPs said that, while HMRC

had provided £80 billion to support businesses and workers since the first lockdown in March last year, some people had not received anything even though they are unable to work. It said: “Quirks in the tax

system have left whole groups of taxpayers without the financial support offered to others through the COVID-19 pandemic – some of the workforce has ‘not had a penny’ even though lockdowns and tier restrictions mean some cannot work at all – while some large companies that have taken taxpayer support have continued to pay out dividends and high executive salaries.” The committee said HMRC should, within six weeks of the

report’s publication on January 20, provide an explanation of why it cannot help those freelances and other groups that have been excluded from receiving any support, and set out steps it could take to overcome those obstacles. The NUJ has been campaigning for the ‘forgotten freelances’ since anomalies in support packages began to emerge last spring.

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 taxpayers 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.” The NUJ launched its Fair Deal 4 Freelances campaign last

year. It calls for a charter of freelance rights that includes: the right to have a written contract with fair terms and conditions; prompt payment and equal treatment at work in terms of health and safety; and the right to holiday pay, parental leave and allowances and a pension. It also says that freelances should have the right to resist companies forcing them on to pay as you earn taxation.

Montgomery buys JPI Media

JPI MEDIA, which published The Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post, the Falkirk Herald and Belfast’s The News Letter and about 200 regional papers and associated websites in the UK, was bought by David Montgomery’s business National World early this year.

National World paid £10.2 million and said it would provide £6.5 million in working capital to JPI. David Montgomery, National World’s executive chairman and a former national newspaper editor, founded Local World, which

published more than 100 UK regional newspaper titles and associated websites. The company was sold in November 2015 to Reach plc in a £220 million deal. He said: “JPI ‘s historic publishing brands represent the best in journalism and

have reliably served their communities and supported local businesses, in some cases for centuries, and never more than in the last year.

“National World will uphold this tradition and implement modern technology to grow the business across a wider

footprint based on high quality, unique content.” Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ

general secretary, said the sale ended “the uncertainty that has hovered over the company’s future for some years.” She said David Montgomery had made a welcome commitment to expanding the company.

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Quirks in the tax system have left whole groups of taxpayers without the financial support offered to others through the pandemic

Public Accounts Committee

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