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Over one-third of freelancers struggle to pay their tax bill

2 February 2021

New research has found that 37% of freelancers say they are having difficulties paying the tax they owe because of the financial impact of the pandemic.

The research, conducted by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) ahead of the self assessment deadline of 31 January, found that over half of freelancers (57%) said their tax bill this year will squeeze their personal finances, with a quarter (26%) saying it will have a "strong negative impact".

Other key findings show that:

  • 7% of freelancers said they will not be able to pay at all;
  • 12% said they will have to borrow to pay it - either from friends and family (4%), with a loan (3%) or with their credit card or overdraft (5%).

The government has put two key measures in place to mitigate the impact of this year's tax bill. Time To Pay allows freelancers to spread tax payments throughout the year. HMRC has also waived penalties for late tax returns for a month. However, IPSE's research shows that nearly half (48%) of freelancers had not heard of either of these measures.

"It is clear from these results that this year's tax bill will be an enormous strain for many of the self employed - especially since such a large proportion of them have been excluded from support during the pandemic," said Andy Chamberlain, IPSE director of policy.

"Government has taken positive steps to mitigate this strain, but it is evident that far too many of the self employed do not know there is help available. In the short-term, we urge the government to do more to publicise schemes such as Time To Pay to reduce the hit to this struggling sector. We also urge government to make it clear that being late to pay tax could still incur extra interest payments for freelancers, even if no penalty will be charged for late filing."

HMRC has reported that more than 10.7 million people submitted their 2019/20 tax returns by the 31 January deadline. However, there are 1.8 million Brits who have yet to file their self assessment tax returns and who will have to pay interest on their outstanding balance.

HMRC is urging those that have not yet filed their return to pay an estimated amount as soon as possible in order to minimise interest payments. Self employed people can use the calculator on the government website to help estimate their tax bill.

Meanwhile, IPSE is once again calling for more help for the 1.5 million self employed workers that have been excluded from government support schemes. Andy Chamberlain said: "The gaps in support are a key part of why so many freelancers are struggling with their tax bill now. Ahead of the fourth round of SEISS grants, government should look again at the application criteria and the many policy proposals put forward to now include the newly self-employed, limited company directors and the other excluded groups."

According to IPSE, there is "no excuse" for government not to include the newly self employed in upcoming support as most will have filed their first full annual tax return by the time of the next grant.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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