The actions of a few people in high profile media positions is painting a bleak picture for the majority of freelance and contract workers operating under perfectly legitimate means.
That’s the view of Brookson’s managing director Martin Hesketh in the wake of the row involving the methods used to pay workers freelancing for the BBC.
Allegations that the nation’s public-funded broadcaster has forced some people into setting up as their own limited companies while pushing others down the personal service company route as a way of avoiding tax and national insurance payments have been rife in the tabloid press.
Even the head of the Student Loans Company, Ed Lester, has gotten tangled up in accusations that he has used ‘freelancer’ status as a way of avoiding the tax liabilities he would have if he was on the body’s payroll.
Mr Hesketh believes that cases like these have created a situation where all freelancers, the majority of which are normal law-abiding citizens, to be tarred with the same brush as those which have attempted to play the system.
In a recent letter to the freelancing website Shout99, he pointed out that there are 1.6 million people working on a freelance basis in the UK but all the recent scrutiny results from the actions of just 148 high profile individuals.
"The attention given to this select group overlooks the average freelancer who has chosen this way of working and who does so in line with current tax legislation,” he wrote.
“Freelancing is a popular way of working for many professionals in the creative sector and is reflected in the high numbers of people choosing to be paid through a public limited company.
“Individuals choosing to be self-employed are in a very different position of security to someone who is a full time employee – they run the risk of customers not paying bills, no sick, holiday or maternity pay and contracts being ended at very short notice.
"In exchange for the risks and for the contribution they make to the UK’s economy, genuine freelancers should be afforded with flexible and variable work and the rewards associated with the risk they are undertaking and deserve to be supported by an effective tax system.”
He added that the government and the HMRC are merely using the examples of a high profile few to hide the real issue of tax avoidance and would be better to focus their attention on putting in place rules and regulations which work.