If the UK public sector is to eliminate all malpractice in the use of contractors it will require a best practice guide, according to the Professional Contractors Group (PCG). The organisation has urged the Treasury to round up the experts and introduce such guidance so that no doubt can be cast on the thousands of freelancers and independent professionals who abide by the rules.
According to PCG chief executive Chris Bryce, “off-payroll” abuses in the public sector result from the inconsistency around “proper use of flexible, project-based resource.” The adoption of a best practice framework would help resolve off-payroll issues without impairing the competitive advantages created through contractor use, Bryce said.
94% of independent professionals engaged by government departments had provided assurances of their proper tax payment
The PCG boss went on to add that the Treasury was seeking to address the issue of off-payroll employment through its own review. The process took well in excess of six months and, unfortunately, brought much stress on innocent contractors. Reporting on the findings, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander revealed before the House of Commons that 94% of independent professionals engaged by government departments had provided assurances of their proper tax payment. Similar results were obtained by the PCG through its own survey. While the Treasury review demonstrated that abuse of the system is definitely not the norm, the recently uncovered instances of malpractice are only working to the detriment of the contractor community, Bryce noted.
The PCG has sent a letter to Alexander, offering its help in the creation of a best practice guide for contractor use in the public sector. The only way to ensure an end to any uncertainty is to develop a clear set of guidelines, entrusting their creation to experts in the field, Bryce concluded.