With less than a month to go before changes to National Insurance (NI) come into force, it seems that many people working in the entertainment industry have been asking the same two questions: am I affected and, if so, is there anything that I can or should do?
Before we address these questions, let’s get an overview of the legislation.
Under the current system, those working in film, TV, theatre, radio and commercial production are treated as employed for NI purposes and self-employed for income tax purposes. This enables low-income earners to qualify for state benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), which can offer vital income when between roles.
Forthcoming changes to the tax system could have serious financial implications for people working in film, TV, radio, theatre and commercial production. Tax and accountancy experts ClearSky Entertainment explain.
Under the current tax system actors, musicians, singers and other performers are treated as self-employed for taxation purposes, but employed for National Insurance (NI) purposes.
However, if proposed reforms go ahead, from 6th April 2014 every UK-based performer will be classed purely as self-employed.
The government’s move to repeal the so-called dual status follows a consultation by HM Revenue & Customs, in which an overwhelming majority (99.1%) of the 11,814 respondents supported simplification of the system.
The ongoing discussion on our Watercooler forum headed ‘Camera Person with Own Kit: £100’ gets to the heart of the worries of thousands of TV freelancers. At first reading, it looks as if the debate is about what is a fair rate for the job. In fact, the real subject is whether the team offering the work, and the people who apply to do it, are working within a professional industry, or one for amateur enthusiasts.
Let us be in no doubt that there is a professional television industry. A 2005 Film Council study noted that the UK’s total TV turnover was £13.4 billion in the previous year, and it has grown over the last four years. Skillset estimates that there are some 75,000 people whose livelihoods directly depend on that turnover for their income, which probably includes you and me.
Film and television-making is not a monopoly controlled by the professionals, any more than baking is controlled by Rank Hovis McDougall. You can bake cakes at home, or to sell at your tea shop but if you were employed to make Mr Kipling’s French Fancies, you would not expect to bake them in your home oven, and you would expect to be paid a sustainable rate in return for your employers’ intention to make a profit from them.