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THE ACCOUNTANT’S VIEW CHANGE IS COMING - KNOWLEDGE IS KEY


I look forward to seeing you all at the PHTM EXPO. As well as exhibiting, I will also be hosting two seminars over the two days, Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 September.


On day one I will be there as Eazitax, the accountant, looking at the ‘Next Big Thing’ for me and my number crunching mates and on day two, I’m back to my role as an industry con- sultant, talking about the pitfalls of engaging self-employed drivers with my legal eagle friend Conor Nolan of Taxi Law, who will also look in some detail at the realities of how drivers and operators actually function in the eyes of the law.


As I write this, I must say that I have just read and was as enthralled by Dr Mike Galvin’s article in last months issue of PHTM (available online) in which he encourages us to ‘not sweat the small stuff’ but to look at the larger commercial realities of ground transport and seek to influence, in truth, only at the highest level. It made me revisit what and how I see the appropriateness of my own activities


CONDITIONALITY


In the case of conditionality - the obligation of drivers to prove they are taxpayers before receiving or renewing their licence - we participated in the consultation as far back as 2019, and knew that it was on the cards, but in terms of its publicity, it fell through the cracks between private hire and accountancy.


I am actually old enough to remember when the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 came into force and driver details were harvested by HMRC, the sense of fear and confusion was palpable, but at that time we were pre- dominantly a ‘cash’ business.


Nowadays, the industry is populated by savvy operators unafraid of tech and plenty of savvy drivers who are more interested in how to reduce their tax liability in smart ways than whether to avoid doing a tax return. However, ‘post pandemic’ the timing could not have been worse, with many drivers on the missing list or delivering anything but passen- gers. The loss of even 20% of untaxed drivers, would be felt more acutely by operators Which is why I will be offering some actual practical tips on what to do.


THAT APP


Tax and self-employment issues leads me into talking about day two. I don’t even want to mention that app company’s name again, but suffice to say, we won’t be talking about the Supreme Court ruling itself, anyone can Google the vast amounts of detail. We intend to actually look at ALL of the


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detail and pitfalls which will be effective on the profitability of your business.


I am amazed at how much news space so many lawyers (who I have never heard of before in connection to the private hire industry), were used up, just saying that the driver worker landscape will change forever with no evidential basis, but plenty of sweeping statements.


In reality the greatest short-term threat is the lack of clarity, definition and precedent to allow professionals to function with some certainty. There is a starting point of what isn’t self-employment rights, which is the Employment Rights Act 1996. As to whether there are implications for workers that is a matter we will discuss on the day.


Do we even have a definition of what ‘a worker’ or even for that matter a ‘limb (b) worker’ is? OR to what they are actually legally entitled? It’s all well quoting the holiday pay, sick pay, pension and national minimum wage, but what are the realities of applying them if they can be actually applied at all?


So, it seems that in reality Uber, and some other transport and tech giants, TfL, the unions, tribunals and courts still haven’t got the black and white paperwork to hang their hat on. So, at the moment operators and their advisors can’t even decide if jumping the queue for a ‘worker’ workforce is a sensible move.


We need to look at how to do it right or what legislation looks like that makes it work, rather than what to do if it all goes wrong, because in the next few years it will.


Thankfully, nevertheless (regardless of what you read), most drivers are still self-employed. If you have read the verdicts and arguments, it always ends with: “look at your working practices” irrespective of what your self-employed (Contract for Services) says. What you don’t read is what those ‘working practices’ that would be deemed as a self- employed driver workforce actually look like. I look forward to laying out our secret strategies for all to see and answer some questions to boot.


I hope that this article posed more questions than answers because I encourage everyone to come and see us at the EXPO and let’s communicate (socially distanced) face to face, we have all missed it!


Gary Jacobs, The Eazitax Group eazitax.co.uk


SEPTEMBER 2021


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