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Contracting News

Reunion site, NamesFacesPlaces has collated some worldwide views on the various Fast Track Visa schemes, who wants them and who benefits from them.

As office workers head off for their Summer holidays, many IT contractors will be left at their desks, according to an on-line survey by accountancy firm giant. The survey reveals that almost one fifth of contractors take fewer than ten days holiday a year, with a further 46% taking between just ten and twenty days annual leave.

Company car drivers who receive free fuel face potentially huge increases in their tax bills from April next year, when the present fuel scale charge will be abolished and tax benefits and bills will be calculated using vehicles’ carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

A new package of measures to combat late payment - including allowing businesses owed money to claim up to £100 in debt recovery costs for time spent chasing each overdue bill - cames into force last week.

Inland Revenue attempts to reclassify casual and irregular workers as employees will mean big increases in national insurance contribution (NIC) payments for thousands of UK businesses and 'money for nothing' for the Government, warns the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

Currently the leader in terms of global outsourcing, the Indian IT industry now faces the formidable threat of competition from China in years to come, according to the key Indian software association.

The Australian Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Philip Ruddock, has stated that priority visa processing arrangements for IT workers will be suspended.

Gordon Brown yesterday outlined the latest governmental 'Spending Review', an exercise aimed at clearly defining the government's spending plans over the next 3 years.

While the use of IT contractors dipped in 2001 as a result of tighter budgets and deferred or discontinued IT projects, the trend is expected to reverse with the rebounding U.S. economy, according to the 2001 IT Contractor Compensation Survey, a new survey by people3 (part of the Gartner Group), and Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

A clash of cultures between IT recruitment companies and clients’ centralised purchasing departments is jeopardising the development of sensible and productive business relationships, according to Ann Swain, Chief Executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo).

The latest Office of the Information Commissioner annual report, released earlier this week, shows that although public awareness of the Data Protection Act has increased since its introduction in 1998, small businesses are lagging well behind larger companies in enforcing the terms of the Act.

A major report, published this week by Experian shows that the UK economy continues to operate in the shadow of recession. While low interest rates and soaring house prices dominate the headlines, company profitability has fallen by 40% over the past 3 years. The figures in the technology sector are even worse.

A report in yesterday's ABC News Online suggests that The Federal Government is considering changes to migration arrangements that could help reverse a decline in the number of jobs for Australian information technology workers.

He's a homeowner, a PC owner - definitely a mobile phone owner - and probably a laptop owner. He's aged between 25 and 45, married or living with his partner in the south of England. He banks online and if he drives a car - as he most likely does - he wants his next one to be a Mercedes, BMW or Audi.

With renewed forecasts of a shortfall of up to 2 million IT professionals across Europe by next year, Ann Swain, Chief Executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo), has issued a wake-up call to UK industry to take the problem seriously.

The UK is a 'world leader' in attracting highly skilled migrants, according to a Home Office news release published yesterday. We are also the fastest in Europe at processing work permit applications.

This survey follows on from similar polls run on the web this year, and concerns about the general state of the IT contracting market.

The Inland Revenue has released its estimates for tax receipts to the Treasury for 2002-3. Although the figures do suggest that the rich are paying a higher proportion of the overall tax receipts since Labour came to power, and the poorest 50% less than in 1997, the tax burden has risen at an astonishing rate during the last 5 years.

The Home Office has released its plans to extend the 'Working Holiday' scheme to encourage more overseas workers to help ease the UK's 'skills shortage'.

The Inland Revenue shut down its online Self Assessment filing service at the beginning of the week, after ten 'customers' complained that they were able to read other people's tax details.

Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) is the latest major player to have hatched plans to slash IT contractor rates (by up to 25% according to one of our sources).

According to IT reunion site NamesFacesPlaces, RDL, in their half-year figures, have reported that there are signs that we have seen the worst of the cycle in December 2001 and January 2002, which they believe to have been the bottom of the downturn.

In what would appear to be another in a new round of contractor rate cuts for 2002 (Deutsche Bank contractors recently received a 10% cut), IT contractors at Barclays Bank have been told to accept a 20% rate cut, or have their contract terminated.

Earlier this week, the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) gave strong backing to the new drive to tackle red tape proposed in a report on employment regulation published by the Better Regulation Taskforce.

New measures aimed at tackling skills shortages in IT experienced by small businesses were announced last week by Margaret Hodge the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education.

The Professional Contractors Group campaign over the issuing of fast track visas is continuing to bear fruit. The contractor's Group has now demonstrated to the Government that there is no skill shortage in IT skills, C/C++ and Javascript and, as a result, these skills have been removed from the fast track visa list.

The Professional Contractors Group has handed more than 100 actual examples of Fast Track Visa abuse to the Home Office to demonstrate the system doesn't work and is affecting the contracting sector adversely.

Ruth Lea, Head of the Policy Unit at the IoD released a comment yesterday entitled: "Tax 'n' Spend is here to stay", following the recent Budget announcements. Although more of general interest than a 'contractor' story, the article points out the astonishing rise in the overall tax burden since 1997.

Gordon Brown's budget has received a frosty reception from most industry bodies, including the FSB and CBI. The Professional Contractors Group also expressed disappointment that the Chancellor's Budget failed to address the major concerns affecting small businesses and predicted that many would be unable to continue to operate in this climate of uncertainty.

Although most of us go contracting to gain greater freedom, try new things and make more money (when the market allows it), ZDNet has provided yet another reason to be grateful for our career choice.

The Sunday Times has published its latest Rich List, providing details of the biggest fortunes in the UK. The richest 1,000 have seen their combined wealth rise to its highest level since the survey began 14 years ago, although this year saw the smallest percentage year-on-year increase due to the economic turmoil and world security concerns over the past 12 months.

The CBI has attacked an EU directive on temporary agency workers, describing it as "unworkable for companies and for workers".

Kable, the publisher of 'Government Computing', has carried out a survey of Whitehall's IT managers and has discovered that their main concern is not a lack of funding, but a shortage of IT skills and personnel.

As European policy continues to make its mark on the UK, the European Commission has revealed its plans to solve the skills shortage in member states, particularly in IT.

In a very topical announcement, considering the PCG's current investigation into possible abuse of the 'Fast Track Visa' scheme, Home Office Minister, Angela Eagle recently revealed the total number of work permits approved under the shortage occupation category for information technology since 21 January 2000.

Business leaders have warned against planned EU proposals to provide equal rights to 'temporary' workers. These rights would include equal pay, pensions, annual holidays and insurance should the proposals go ahead.

During 2000 and much of 2001, 'CFT Group' advertised contractor insurance products, such as Professional Indemnity and Tax investigation insurance for IT contractors on the Internet, including on the Contractor UK site.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) need a period of minimum change to the tax regime for at least three years says accountants and business advisors PKF:

The Independent Contractors of Australia, which has been fighting successfully against anti-contractor tax legislation down under, has launched a new site to highlight and lobby against a range of issues which threaten the state of the Australian contracting industry

Following on from our earlier story on the Australian IT industry, there are growing concerns that Western governments are seeking to undermine domestic IT workers, while placating big business at the same time. Given the increases in U.S H1-B visa allocations and the introduction of the Fast Track Visa system in the UK to solve 'skills shortages', are such schemes being abused?

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