Business: Revenue adverts tax small firms’ patience

SMALL businesses in Huntingdonshire are furious about an advertising campaign launched by HM Revenue & Customs, which they say brands self-employed people as crooks. The campaign in the national press, publicising a hotline to report self-employed who do

SMALL businesses in Huntingdonshire are furious about an advertising campaign launched by HM Revenue & Customs, which they say brands self-employed people as crooks.

The campaign in the national press, publicising a hotline to report self-employed who do not pay their taxes, features a plumber hiding under the kitchen sink.

The Federation of Small Businesses, which has several hundred members among sole traders and small and medium-sized enterprises in Huntingdonshire, has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority on their behalf.

The FSB's complaint is about HMRC's claim that "with your help, we'll make sure self-employed people who don't pay their tax have nowhere to hide".


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Malcolm Lyons, FSB Huntingdonshire chairman, retorted: "The self-employed contribute greatly to rural districts, so this is especially offensive to rural businesses".

In recent years the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been encouraging farmers and other agricultural workers to become self-employed in other sectors to offset the decline in employment in the nation's agricultural industry.

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FSB tax spokesman Simon Sweetman said the campaign could have generated widespread public support if it had not tarred the nation's 2.72 million self-employed people with the same brush. "The majority of self-employed people abide by the law and pay taxes. We find it offensive.

"The self-employed in the UK contribute to the economic well-being of this country, and this advertisement is a harmful and misleading attack on them."

People working from home in Huntingdonshire, the majority of them self-employed, account for more than 10 per cent of the workforce, far higher than the national average.

* HMRC was formed by the amalgamation of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs & Excise. It collects VAT and other excise duties, as well as personal and corporate taxes. Vehicle Excise Duty, from what is still often referred to the "Road Fund Licence", is collected by the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority. The Road Fund was abolished almost a century ago.

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