Budget changes: IT contractor worries in 2016

Budget changes amongst top worries for IT contractors in 2016

 

With the 2016 budget just around the corner, we look at the key concerns of the IT contractor sector and the challenges that the new budget may pose.

 

When we talk about contracting, people often think about IT contractors first. This is in part due to the historical demand for contractors in the IT industry, who often amass a huge breadth of experience by working for lots of different clients.

 

Research by IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, shows a 71% increase, over the past seven years, in the number of independent professionals working in Information Technology and Communications.

 

This steep rise in interest is likely to be thanks in part to the lucrative contracts often enjoyed by IT professionals, who tend to receive financial benefits beyond what their permanently employed counterparts receive.

 

Nevertheless, even the IT sector faces challenges ahead in 2016. According to CUK, demand for temporary technology workers has slowed over the last two years. However the market for freelance IT skills as well as hourly pay rates are still growing.

 

Another area of opportunity for the IT industry in 2016 is to promote itself more to women. In a previous article on women in contracting that I wrote for IPSE, I discussed how the IT industry is taking steps to attract more women to IT roles and to get more school age girls interested in coding.

 

The inaugural Women in IT Awards launched in London last year with the aim of celebrating the outstanding innovation achieved by women in the IT industry. Despite all this, more still needs to be done to remove the existing boy’s club reputation of the IT industry.

 

In an article on recruitment website Uniting Ambition, recruiter Tina Bicknell says it’s difficult sourcing women for programming roles and that this is a genuine issue for the sector. In her article, Tina believes women are drawn to management rather than coding – a product of industry stereotyping.

 

State of the IT Nation

So how are such IT professionals feeling about the state of the industry and contracting in general? We wanted to find out so, in December, Intouch carried out a survey – including both permanent employees and contractors – to get a better picture of the IT landscape.

 

Looking ahead to 2016, those polled who are already contracting or freelancing said the 2016 Budget, proposed changes to travel and subsistence (T&S) and the negative impact on take home pay were their top worries, each with 16% of the votes.

 

Many of our respondents had completed the survey prior to the publication of the draft Finance Bill, released on 9th December. Those who are Umbrella workers now know for certain that they will lose tax relief on T&S expense claims in April this year – a huge blow to them.

 

Those operating their own Limited Company breathed a huge sigh of relief as it was confirmed that if they are truly independent and are not “disguised employees” (outside IR35) they can still claim tax relief on T&S after April 2016.

 

These hot talking points were closely followed by changes to dividends, which was the main worry for 15% of temporary IT workers.

 

They are right to be concerned as Limited Companies have not escaped entirely unscathed by recent tax changes. From April 2016 the way dividends are taxed is changing to increase the amount of tax paid, although the first £5,000 of dividends will be tax free. Overall, post April 2016, most Limited Company workers remain financially advantaged over Umbrella company employees.

 

IR35 is another key worry for 13% of contractors. The proposed changes to IR35 (Intermediaries Legislation) is something I have discussed at length in a previous blog and although no announcements were made in the Autumn Statement it’s unlikely this debate is over.

 

Understanding the ins and outs of IR35 is certainly a complex issue. My advice to anyone who is concerned about the proposed reforms or their compliancy position is to speak to a contractor accountant to find out where you stand.

 

Another subject I have frequently discussed on the blog since the 2015 Budget was announced is the proposed changes to supervision, direction or control. This is a worry for 12% of IT contractors and freelancers.

 

The thought of HMRC investigations is keeping another 12% of IT professionals up at night. This is a worry we are well aware of at Intouch, which is why we now include professional fee protection cover in our all-inclusive monthly services – it means our clients are covered if HMRC raise an enquiry into their tax affairs or challenge their IR35 status.

 

Some of the IT professionals we spoke to are not currently contracting, although over half (56%) have done so previously. Of those we spoke to in permanent employment, nearly two thirds (60%), would not consider contracting in 2016, whilst one in five (20%) are very likely to take the plunge.

 

The number one concern preventing 29% of employed IT professionals from contracting is the perceived fear of leaving the ‘safety’ of permanent employment. This is followed by personal worries for 22% of employed respondents, such as family commitments, personal finances and keeping on top of mortgage repayments.

 

When speaking to IT contractors and freelancers about their trading model, over two thirds (69%) are using a Limited Company – a significant majority. Of the remainder, 17% are using an Umbrella Company and 11% are classed as self-employed, either as a Sole Trader or partnership.

 

Reasons for going Limited include having greater control and independence, tax efficiency and being able to operate as a small family company. Those operating through an Umbrella company said flexibility and low cost when not working were the main appeals. For the self-employed (Sole Trader / partnership), being able to spend more time at home with their children was a major benefit.

 

If you are unsure which trading model to use, our popular guide Limited Company or Umbrella – which is the right choice for you? explores the different trading models available to you and which is best for your circumstances.

 

When it comes to managing their finances, 44% of IT contractors and freelancers use a specialist accountant. Nearly a third (31%) are using a high street accountant and 13% are doing their accounts themselves. The survey also shows 6% of people are using online accountancy software to do their accounts.

 

Whether you’re an employed IT professional considering a move to contracting or a seasoned temporary worker looking to maximise your earnings, our team of expert contractor accountants can help you work out what trading model is best for your circumstances. Speak to us today on 01202 375562 or email enquiries@intouchaccounting.com

 

This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.