HM Revenue & Customs has shaken up its TV tax guidelines, potentially giving freelancers the freedom to work longer on productions in a self-employed capacity.
The refreshed Film, Television and Production Industry Guidance Notes have been two years in the making and HMRC has sought to bring greater clarity to critical areas. These include explanatory notes covering the maximum duration of contracts for working grades accepted as being self-employed, including executive producers and production managers.
Freelancers are typically allowed to be engaged for nine months on a production before they are considered a full-time employee.
However, the refreshed HMRC guidance said that self-employed workers can retain that status if they are working on a show that is recommissioned, taking its duration over nine months.
Freelancers are not currently allowed to work in a self-employed capacity on separate productions consecutively for the same indie. But the HMRC notes said if the freelancer can demonstrate they have had a “break” between shows, then they do not have to join the wage bill.
The tax body said this break must not be “contrived”, such as a Christmas holiday or summer break, and the freelancer must prove they have been “seeking” another job or have worked elsewhere.
Liz Brion, head of media tax at Grant Thornton, said HMRC could have provided an FAQ section for indies and freelancers seeking greater clarity. “HMRC has gone some way here, but it would be useful to have some examples of the changes in practice,” she said.
Other modifications have seen HMRC add new jobs to the self-employed grades, including archive researchers, Foley artists and digital set designers.
Subsistence rates have also been altered. The breakfast allowance, for example, will be reduced from £6 to £5 in April 2013 – the first time it has changed in 10 years.