Contractor sector sceptical of potential tax cuts from an under pressure Boris Johnson

Contractors being potentially among the one in three adults who can afford basics but not always luxuries isn’t making the contractor sector needy for Boris Johnson’s whispered tax cuts.

Reportedly recommended to the prime minister as a way to heal rifts after he narrowly survived a confidence vote, any tax cuts would usually be embraced by contractors.

After all, contractors are “up against IR35 reform, dividend tax rises and [potentially] an incoming hike to corporation tax,” Qdos’s Nicole Slowey pointed out yesterday.

'Token gesture'

But another specialist in contractor taxation, Graham Webber of WTT Consulting, says he expects any tax cut from Mr Johnson to be only a “token gesture”.

The PM’s trying political circumstances, plus the government’s tendency to legislate against contractors rather than incentivise them via tax cuts, makes his expectation creditable.

But in a thread featuring both the tax specialists, a Test Analyst said that if any of the tax cuts resemble Spring Statement’s 5p cut in fuel duty, the government can “keep it.”

'Forced bribe'

“At this stage [from Mr Johnson], it would be a forced bribe,” said the analyst, a self-employed contractor. “It would only be announced to make Boris look better, not to help us”.

The prospect of tax cuts has prompted Mr Johnson’s most supportive national newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, to identify a fuel duty reduction as the most important of five he may make.

The right-leaning broadsheet said a close second would be for the PM to abolish the 5% VAT charge on heating fuels -- as Mr Johnson has previously promised to do.

'Attacks on contractors'

Yet a consultant posted yesterday that it’s not ever Number 10’s decision to cut taxes – it’s Number 11’s.

“[Chancellor] Rishi [Sunak] and the Treasury are in charge of taxes, not Boris,” the consultant said.

“[Following the many] broken promises and attacks on contractors over the last few years, it will take a lot [for either Mr Sunak or Mr Johnson] to win back support -- and trust.”

'Government handling taxation badly'

A YouGov reading of June 2nd shows 69% of adults believe the government to be handling of the issue of taxation “badly.”

Income tax is the levy which people would least like to be increased by the government, followed by council tax, and then National Insurance, the pollster found in May.

Speaking since the findings, Keith Gordon QC has pinpointed what he would like to see in relation to the contractor sector’s most notorious tax rule.

In a phone-in with LBC about the off-payroll rules, the tax barrister said: “I hope someone will go back to the drawing board and decide IR35 is not fit for purpose.”

'Unwelcome letters from HMRC'

A revoking of the Intermediaries legislation is even more of an outside bet than tax cuts from the prime minister, so accountants say it’s ‘business as usual’ this coming tax return season.

“With tax returns on the mind of many pro-active taxpayers, something often forgotten on the tax returns of those submitting early, is benefits-in-kind,” advises Adam Dove, senior client accountant at Orange Genie.

“With P11Ds not due for submission until July 6th 2022, it is important to ensure your employer has submitted your P11D and you have the details before you complete your self-assessment tax return, to avoid any unwelcome letters from HMRC with amendments, interest and, or, penalties.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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