Artists' Union England (AUE) response to the government announcement on self employed people.
Thursday 26th of March 2020
AUE broadly welcomes the package just announced by the Chancellor for self-employed workers including artists. The support offered for those registered as self-employed is in line with recent suggestions by AUE, other unions and the TUC and other voices from within the creative sector. However we have some concerns, as there will be many practising artists for whom the provisions fall short.
We wrote to the Chancellor at the start of this week and will write again as a matter of urgency, to raise these. We will also continue to update members on any support mechanisms and campaign actions.
Here are the key points of the package for the self-employed and our concerns:
- A new self-employed income support scheme will pay self-employed people a taxable grant worth 80% of average monthly income, capped at £2,500pm. Our concern here is that assessing tax for self-employed people is not straight forward and monthly income from one year to another could vary greatly.
- Income will be calculated by taking the average of income over the last three years. Not all self-employed people will have been working for 3 years; some could be recent graduates for example or could have switched from being employed by a business to self-employment. It is not clear how the government plans to assess those with fewer than 3 years self-employed tax history.
- Self-employed people can claim these grants and continue to do business(so it's not the same as furlough leave, where employees have to remain at home, and any commissions that are in process or arise during the lockdown can be continued).
- The scheme is only open to those with trading profits of up to £50k (this covers 95% of self-employed people). Self-employed people who earn more will not qualify.
- The scheme is only open to those who make the majority of their income from self-employment - if you are employed but also work on a self-employed basis, you will not be eligible. This will not benefit, for example, those whose main income is from teaching (or any other work as an employee) and only a part of their income derives from their practice and means they will not be compensated for the earnings they are missing for their self-employed work.
- The scheme is only open to those who have submitted a tax return for 2019 (this is to minimise fraud). However, those who did not submit their tax return by the due date of 31 January 2020, and have not yet submitted one, can still submit a tax return for 2019 for a further four weeks from today (26 March).
- HMRC will contact eligible self-employed people directly and pay the grant straight into their bank account after inviting them to fill out an online form.
- The self-employed income support scheme will be open to people across UK for at least 3 months. However, the scheme is unlikely to be up and running before the end of June, so it will not help for those who are suffering financially now and struggling to survive at an already stressful and difficult time. When questioned, the Chancellor suggested that Universal Credit might be the only option for those who cannot wait until the June (backdated) payment is received. This is inadequate. We recognise that workers who are also union members have to work flat out, night and day and through weekends to administering all of the recently announced government measures but self-employed people need and deserve parity and equity with everybody else and are already experiencing the immediate financial impacts. They have families to support also.
Whilst what is proposed will be subject to review, we know that the economic impacts of coronavirus on self-employed artists will be long lasting and have consequences even when we are eventually through the worst part of the virus.
We will continue to raise concerns with the government and with the Trades Union Congress, to whom AUE are affiliated.
AUE response to Chancellor Statement on self-employed