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UK freelancers lose millions due to late payments

The UK’s freelance community loses an estimated £16.5 million a year in time spent chasing up unpaid invoices and late payments, according to research from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE).

The IPSE’s survey of 830 freelancers indicated that 20 days a year were spent addressing the issue of late payments on average.

In addition, more than two-fifths (41%) of freelancers admitted having difficulties completing their self-assessment tax returns, spending an average of two days to complete their tax return for the tax authority.

Chris Bryce, Chief Executive at IPSE, said: “It’s an absolute travesty that freelancers have to spend a working month chasing late payment.

“Time chasing invoices is time not working, and for some freelancers that could be the work that keeps their business afloat.

“The introduction of the small business commissioner this year should clean up the UK’s poor payment culture, so our smallest businesses can do what they do best.”

More worryingly, 44% of the freelance community said they struggle to communicate with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Almost two-thirds (61%) of freelancers surveyed said they contacted HMRC through its advice helpline, losing up to one full working day a year on the telphone to the tax authority at a cost to the UK economy of £521 million.

“Although the majority are able to complete their tax returns relatively quickly, many are spending too much time trying to get through to HMRC, and are often put on hold for considerable periods,” added Bryce.

“There needs to be a much better line of communication between HMRC and self-employed people.

“Filling out your tax return can be a confusing process, and with the introduction of quarterly tax returns just around the corner, HMRC will be under a lot more pressure.

“It’s essential that they provide the right advice and support, and importantly, make it easy for self-employed people to reach it.”

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