2021…is it a year you’d rather forget?! The year that brought us Lockdown III, more homeschooling and no invites to any Downing Street Christmas parties. But there were some good bits too! Once we’d all had our jabs, we had a summer largely free from restrictions. We hugged our friends again. We visited our grandparents. We danced at gigs. In this blog, we take a look back over how 2021 was for freelancers – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Back in lockdown
The year got off to a truly dismal start with the UK being in lockdown. As if January wasn’t depressing enough with the cold, grey weather, we were all stuck back in our houses with only our rainy government-sanctioned daily walks to give us any relief. For freelancers it once again meant the return of worrying times, losing clients and cancelled work. And frazzled parents got to be homeschool teachers again as well. Just what we needed. The only glimpse of hope on the horizon was the kicking off of the vaccine programme. If you want to relive those halcyon days, take a look back at our blog from last January when we truly were in the thick of it.
Spring budget is announced
Three months later and coronavirus was the main headline as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the nation’s financial plans in the latest budget. The key piece of financial support for freelancers, the SEISS scheme was fortunately extended. This meant that people whose businesses had been affected by coronavirus could continue to claim grants to support their income during lockdown. There was good news for people new to freelancing as well: many who’d previously been ineligible for support because they didn’t have tax returns dating back far enough could now claim in the 4th and 5th rounds of the SEISS scheme.
IR35 reform goes ahead
Most freelancers won’t have seen big changes to the way they work this year, but for freelancers who operate through their own limited company (sometimes called a personal services company or PSC), there were new IR35 rules to follow from HMRC. From April onwards, these off-payroll working rules meant that freelancers operating through a PSC would need a status determination statement from the end client of each new contract they took out, ruling whether the contract was “inside” or “outside” IR35 for tax purposes. Sounds complicated? It is a little – if you’re worried that IR35 might apply to you, take a look at our blog for the full rundown of the rules.
A year of lockdown
April saw the lifting of some of the restrictions of the winter lockdown, and the return of a few of our favourite things: shopping, gym sessions, beer gardens and haircuts. It was great to start to retain some normality, so we looked back over what 12 months of lockdown had felt like for us all, and crossed our fingers about what the summer ahead had to hold.
In April we also joined in with Earth Day celebrations, sharing a few things that we do at Dinghy to keep our operations green. We put together a list of ways that freelancers can play their part in protecting the environment. No contribution is too small to make a difference! Check out our green freelancing tips here.
It was finally Freedom Day. 19th July saw the lifting of the final remaining coronavirus restrictions, meaning we were free to get back to more-or-less normal life. As well as relishing the return of clubs, parties, pubs, meals out, cinema trips and holidays, it also meant hope for many freelancers that finally their incomes might stabilise and work would be easier to come by. We put together a blog of our top tips for freelancers still struggling to get their contracts up to pre-pandemic levels – something that might also be useful for the beginning of the new year if your work calendar is looking a little sparse.
New tax rule delays
COVID has caused disruption in many avenues of life. Some of them have left us feeling sad and frustrated, like not being able to see our families or travel abroad without worrying about tests. Other things, well, we don’t mind so much if they get put on hold – like new tax rules. New Making Tax Digital rules were due to be introduced for sole traders with a turnover of more than £10,000 from April 2023. However, in October, the government announced that this would now be delayed until 2024. This means that freelancers will have a little bit more time to get to grips with the new rules (and recover from the impacts of COVID) before they are introduced. Even though we have a bit more time to prepare, it’s still a good idea to understand what’s coming, so get the lowdown in our blog about Making Tax Digital for freelancers.
The Autumn budget unveiled in October was happily a bit more upbeat than previous budgets have been. No longer having to focus purely on emergency measures to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus on the economy, the Chancellor was able to look forward and introduce new measures designed to stimulate growth and recovery, rather than just getting through. This included £850 million of planned spending on arts and culture, great news for freelancers working in the creative industries. Find out more about how the Autumn budget measures might affect you in our quick-read summary.
So, there you have it! That was 2021 in freelancer news, once again dominated by coronavirus and the uncertainty and disruption it has wrought. As we head into 2022, we’re all hoping for brighter times. One constant that Dinghy customers can rely on is our support – throughout the year, in good times and bad.
Remember all our policies come with Freelancer Assist. This includes access to legal and tax helplines to support you with the tricky stuff, and a 24/7 confidential counselling helpline if you’re struggling to cope with it all. To make sure your finances are as strong as they can be, we’ll also help you chase unpaid invoices, with a team of legal experts at your disposal to help you recover outstanding debts of more than £200. To find out more about how Dinghy can support your freelance business, head to our website.