Now is the time to support the self-employed

The rate of self-employment is higher today than at any time since records began 40 years ago. Some 15% of those in work now work for themselves. This is a clear and inspiring illustration of the entrepreneurial spirit that will help guide the UK to recovery.

Now is the time to support the self-employed

The rate of self-employment is higher today than at any time since records began 40 years ago. Some 15% of those in work now work for themselves. This is a clear and inspiring illustration of the entrepreneurial spirit that will help guide the UK to recovery.

Indeed, it is the self-employed who now form the backbone of the economy – and it is these individuals who can put the country back on the path to sustainable growth. But they need support if they are to do this, and to date they have not received it.

For all the government’s talk of supporting small businesses, it is yet to put its money where its mouth is. For too long the coalition has ignored micro-businesses – the agile, inspirational firms employing up to ten people, that can yet prove to be the engine room of a true recovery. These small businesses are unique. Their needs are different to those of other SMEs, and they need targeted support to help them thrive.

In practice, this means further simplification of tax and reporting laws. It means a reinstatement of the National Insurance Holiday, along with a more efficient campaign to raise awareness about this crucial tax break. It means a new network of practical support and advice for micro-businesses seeking finance, to replace the much-mourned Business Link.

But just as importantly, if the government is to really support micro-businesses, it needs to level the playing field for all small firms. To date the coalition has done nothing to solve the imbalance of power that allows big multinationals to exploit tax loopholes with impunity, while the smallest firms are chased ever more aggressively by HMRC. This is unfair, and it is unproductive.

Micro-businesses can reinvigorate the UK economy, and deliver the recovery that we need. It’s time for government to help it fulfil that potential.

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