ContractorCalculator: Contracting news in brief – 16/Mar/2012

Contractor witch-hunt extends to local authorities

Contractors with local council contracts are now in the firing line following a BBC Radio 4 freedom of information (FOI) request to over 400 local authorities. According to a report by Fran Abrams, published on BBC News, “almost 100 permanent posts at local councils are being filled by people paid through limited companies”. Widening the witch-hunt to include local authority contractors won’t benefit the taxpayer, nor will it generate additional income, says ContractorCalculator CEO Dave Chaplin: “Even greater numbers of talented interim management contractors could be lost to the public sector as a result.” More…

IT and engineering contractors enjoy surge in online demand

Online demand for IT and engineering contractors increased by 13% and 7.3% respectively between January 2012 and February 2012 according to the latest Monster Employment Index. The headline index also increased sharply, by 12.4%, reversing a three-month downward trend. Year-on-year, online demand growth for IT contractors was the highest across all 21 industry sectors at 23%, with engineering in second place and showing 16% growth. More…

Contractors who used EBTs targeted by HMRC’s ‘retrospective’ investigations

Contractors who used Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) prior to the disguised remuneration rules that came into force in December 2010 may find themselves the subject of retrospective investigations by HMRC. Accountancy Age’s Liesl Fichardt reports that HMRC is now “investigating EBT structures set up prior to the 2011 legislation, to review their intent and use”. HMRC is casting the net wide, as Fichardt explains: “We believe there are at least another 280 EBT's currently being investigated by HMRC and it is expected more will follow.” More…

Contractors with manufacturing sector clients can expect growth in 2012

The engineering organisation EEF and business advisors BDO are forecasting modest growth in the UK’s manufacturing industry in 2012 – good news for contractors with clients in manufacturing. Despite a weak end to 2011, the EEF/BDO’s survey reports a strong improvement in sentiment, which is translating into investment and increased hiring. “The confidence shown in our survey again demonstrates the resilience of manufacturing in the face of a changing global outlook,” explains EEF Chief Economist Lee Hopley. “This is feeding through to a continuing willingness to recruit and invest.”

Contractors with tax skeletons a step closer to a ‘general disclosure facility’

Contractors with less than perfect tax histories may be a step closer to being able to put their tax affairs in order whilst facing lower penalties. The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) is pushing for a House of Commons Treasury Committee recommendation for a general disclosure facility to be adopted by HMRC. CIOT’s Gary Ashford explains: “HMRC should focus their efforts on a big national campaign open to all taxpayers whose tax affairs are not up to date; a one-off disclosure that lasts sufficiently long and is sufficiently attractive to get people to come forward to clean the slate.”

Contractors confident about their 2012 contract prospects, but not rates

Contractors are feeling upbeat about the year ahead, but most don’t expect much upward movement on rates. These are the headline results of a new survey by The Pulse Umbrella Group, showing that almost three-quarters (73%) are confident about the demand for their skills in 2012. Pulse’s Contractor Confidence Survey also shows that the majority of contractors (70%) expect contract lengths to increase or stay the same in the next twelve months, with just 16% expecting a decrease. Most see their rates remaining the same, but 30 per cent see them decreasing. More…

New sources of finance for small firms could unlock SME contracting market

Contractors may find small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have increased budgets to invest in their services after a new government-backed loans scheme is launched alongside the 2012 Budget. Reuters’ Fiona Shaikh reports that the National Loans Guarantee Scheme could unlock £20bn worth of bank lending for small firms, enabling greater investment in growth that could lead to a mini contractor hiring spree. More…

Contractor and freelancer numbers on grow at record pace

Contractor and freelancer numbers on are growing at a record pace. The website believes this to be as a result of Britons turning to flexible working and self employment as an alternative to unemployment. In the last three years, has seen a 300% increase in the number of registered users. Its data reveals a 64% rise in contractor and freelancer earnings via the site in the first two months of 2012, compared with the same period last year. And last year UK-based small businesses registered on the site increased by 134% their spending on freelancers from around the world. More…

HMRC cybercrime team to tackle online fraudsters, and possibly create contracts

HMRC has launched a new cybercrime team that could reduce the risk of contractors becoming victims of online fraud. According to HMRC, “the team is designed to protect both HMRC and taxpayers from organised criminals and will build on HMRC’s existing cyber counter-fraud capability and existing investigation and intelligence work”. Historically, HMRC has drawn heavily on the IT contractor sector to fulfil its IT needs, so the initiative may also provide contract opportunities for specialist IT contractors.

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012

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