The Joy of Sets! Freelancer 2021!!
It's been a bumpy ride for information and truth for the beginning of 2021. We have a meeting that has taken place between two parties and both blame each other for the outcome, and no, I'm not talking about the Democrats and Republicans in Washington.
Information has been coming out about free movement for short term paid workers and how it was negotiated, or not, during the withdrawal agreement process. The blame and the detail are interesting, but they don't help the Freelancer of 2021 adjust and plan how to make a living in Europe, after many years of never having to think about it.
So lets look at some of the factors that the freelancer, lets call him C.Hippie, is going to have to look at this year.
Firstly, working in Europe as a paid worker on a temporary basis. Thankfully the music industry has a stong lobby and has got a lot of coverage in the last week about UK musicians and their production crews having lost the free travel rights to tour, that once was taken for granted in Europe. Now, our freelancer C.Hippie is thinking about how to get around it. There isn't a way around it as such, as this would imply breaking the law and C.Hippie despite his name, is law abiding. The only way to approach it currently, is to go to the country of first arrival UK website set up by their Embassy and read the regulations for that country, fill in the forms, or not in the case of France, and make an appointment for your permit/visa. France was the first to break ranks and let people know in the media its doors are open for up to 90 days for temporary paid workers. A marvellous set of links put together by ,http;//www.ukeartswork.info/working-eu.php shows each of the member states and their current requirements which makes it really simple to see where there are gaps and where there are challenges. A note to all though, it doesn't mean that other documents aren't required, the A1 for example and France for instance, still requires the SIPSI https://www.sipsi.travail.gouv.fr/#/auth/login .
So its great that there is more information slowly being unearthed as some countries are making it more known what their criteria are. Hopefully C.Hippie will adhere to the rules and not enter as a tourist, as I have seen on some social media feeds as a solution!
So while C.Hippie is working out how to get to work in these countries, it is now apparent that tech and production companies are sending out letters to their freelance base and asking if they have the right to work in Europe. This would immediately be perceived by C.Hippie, as he doesn't have the right to work in Europe, that he is being marginalised and being set aside for favouring the European based freelancer. Well it does seem that way, but looking from the tech company point of view it is simply finding out what it's options are. Having seen one of these letters , they could be more thoughtfully phrased though. C.Hippie is a gentle soul and wants to be loved and respected and he is prepared to do things to make sure he is available for you, so some extra thought would be appreciated on this subject.
As most projects take time to design, organise and promote there is time, based on the normal operating times of Embassies, for even the most intransigent countries to process paperwork. I have seen alot of embassies this week stop processing until further notice new visa and permits, while the current Covid restrictions apply, so this is not going to help. As I said above, look at the links and see which countries are not a barrier for UK workers before you answer these letters. ( I am aware, especially in the corporate world, that planning time scales can be much tighter than rock and roll schedules, but for exhibition installs for example, these are normally planned well in advance ).
So while C.Hippie is now engaged in more paperwork than a Japanese origami expert, he has a few other things to consider.
In April the delayed Off Payroll Working rules (IR35) tax regualtion is still scheduled to come in. It's going to be a tough call considering most freelancers have seen a dramatic downturn in their incomes and it will be as popular as a fart in a space suit, but its coming, whether this April or later, so we have to be prepared to understand the consequences.
The law is essentially trying to enforce what has been there in the past, the repsonsibility of the employer to assess the freelancer as to whether they are truly what they are, in realtion to their tax and national insurance responsibilities. The Employer will now be forced to determine for every contract whether C.Hippie falls into the Freelancer or Employee category. So how do they do this. There is a an assessor tool for employers and freelancers to use to see what your status is likely to be https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-employment-status-for-tax .
If you read the detail, which hasn't been updated this year yet, here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/understanding-off-payroll-working-ir35 you will get a clearer view of the requirements. (I would say the explanation of Intermediary is up for interpretation by employers and freelancers, but that's just me) The responsibility on all people employing others is now to assess them for tax after this law comes in, so be prepared. It will need to be done on a contract by contract basis with a system set up for informing the Freelancer of your decision and for them to appeal and for you to make payments to HMRC. The biggest bug bear for C.Hippie is that he could be considered an employee for periods of work, but get none of the benefits, which as a freelancer, he accepts he doesn't have holiday pay etc. I don't want to get into the rights and wrongs of this as a tax system but suffice to say that it appears the UK Government, can have its cake and eat it! The major initial affect will be the drop in cash flow for C.Hippie, a drop of around 22% in the daily rate.
C.Hippie also has to consider working in Europe for Tax and National Insurance contributions. Although the reciprocal tax arangements are in still in place here in Italy for example, if a UK company sends UK employees here for more than 8 days they need to register at the local Commune office (Questera). This would need financial information of guarantees of being able to support yourself. It will aslo require tax status declarations, amongst other documents. If your employment is solely here for this contract you may be liable for Italian Tax and national insurance rules. I am currently investigating this for clarity with our Italian accountants, but assume in Italy that this is the case until proven differently. The A1 will support your status as it declares your NI contributions are being paid in the country of residence, but tax here is very different to the UK so seek advice or contact us and we can put you in contact with a suitable advisor. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-certificate-or-document-if-self-employed-in-the-eu-eea-or-switzerland-ca3837
A useful link to Europes tax guidelines is here: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/work/taxes/income-taxes-abroad/index_en.htm
So C.Hippie just needs to check a few final details. For musicians an ATA Carnet is required to transport equipment used for their trade and such is the case for tools. I am guessing it could be argued that they are personal belongings and therfore not subject to scrutiny. The best source of information is your local Chamber of Commerce but there are plenty of online advisors. The government website does not mention tools specifically but this link clarifies it as "professional equipment" from the London Chamber of Commerce. https://www.londonchamber.co.uk/getattachment/Export-Documents/ATA-Carnet/Attachment-3-FAQ-ATA-Carnets-2019.pdf/?lang=en-GB
Finally for this week it is worth just looking at a few other documents,
Check your work insurance as a third national working in Europe, Worldwide cover would cover this normally.
Check you have suitable travel insurance, its a requirement of most countries.
Check your Health card status and apply for a new one when your current one expires. https://www.ghic.org.uk/Internet/startApplication.do
Meanwhile here in Italy, we are available to help any teams wanting to come from the UK, with sponsorship, venues and production backup and on the ground paperwork www.penhaligonec.com . The Italian government is working on their normally cumbersome information to give access to temporary workers according to their website. I have had correspondence with them and they confrm this and other information that I am double checking to avoid disinformation.
Hopefully these missives are useful to point you into areas that you may not have time to look into yourself, but it is by no means all the information out there. I think being prepared to plan is the best defence and hopefully as Europe and the UK start a process of re looking at some aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement, we can keep our industry in the headlines to be recognised as a valuable contributor to the UK economy.
Change is inevitable, but usually as welcome as a jazz flute solo, but if as an industry we have survived 2020, we can master extra onerous paperwork to continue doing what we love.
Pictures: Shutterstock and Richard Penhaligon (gratuitous shot of Venice)