By Lynne Gowers on 7th June 2017

Countdown to polling day: the election promises that will sway the small business vote

election

As Britain prepares to go to the polls in Thursday’s General Election, we take a last-minute look at what may influence the small business vote in the key areas of tax, employment and Europe.
Straight from the manifestos of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, here is our pick of the pledges which mean the most for freelancers and small business owners.

Taxation

The Conservatives plan to increase the personal income tax threshold to £12,500 and raise the higher rate threshold to £50,000. They have also said they will not increase VAT. Corporation tax is scheduled to be cut to 17% by 2020. Interestingly, there is no further word on the controversial increase to Class 4 National Insurance which was announced by Chancellor Hammond in the Spring Budget and subsequently scrapped.

As well as promising a full review of business rates, Labour have ruled out any increases to National Insurance or VAT. However they will increase income tax for those earning over £80,000 a year, increase corporation tax for large businesses and bring in a lower small profits rate of corporation tax for small businesses. In terms of the plans for Making Tax Digital, Labour want to scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of less than £85,000.

The Liberal Democrats echo calls for a review of business rates and and say cutting them is a priority. They also pledge to support entrepreneurs by paying them £100 a week for six months to help with living costs while getting a business off the ground.
Lib Dem negatives for freelancers and small businesses are their plans to increase income tax by 1% and reverse Tory cuts to corporation tax and capital gains tax.

Employment

The employment manifestos of the three main parties all look very different.

The Conservatives are awaiting the publication of the Taylor Report into employment practices. Recommendations contained within the report will drive changes in areas such as the “gig economy” and the definition of self-employment.
They are planning to double the Immigration Skills Charge to £2,000 a year, which will increase costs for small businesses who employ non-EU workers. However, they also pledge a National Insurance break for businesses who employ disabled people, ex-offenders and those with mental health issues.

Labour plan to ban zero-hours contracts and unpaid internships, increase the living wage to £10 per hour by 2022 and for all workers (including temporary staff) to have full employment rights from “day one”.They also propose to increase paid paternity leave from two weeks to four.
Jeremy Corbyn’s party have said they will take a tough stance on the “gig economy”, changing the law to make the worker an employee unless an employer can prove otherwise. Labour also plans to legislate against businesses who undercut staff pay by recruiting abroad.

The Lib Dems also support “day one” employee rights, including presumed flexible working hours. They also want to tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts and to give workers the right to request a fixed contract. They also want to preserve rights currently guaranteed under European law, such as maternity leave and expanded paternity leave.

Europe

Theresa May has been frank about the Conservative promise of a “hard Brexit”. If re-elected, the Tory government will take Britain out of the EU and the single market. They want free trade with Europe and to negotiate free-trade deals which mirror existing agreements.

The Labour party says it accepts the result of the Brexit referendum but stresses that jobs and the economy will come first in negotiations. Labour also plan to guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in the UK, with reciprocal rights for UK citizens residing in EU countries.

The Liberal Democrats oppose a “hard Brexit” and want a referendum on the final exit deal with the EU. They want to remain in the single market and to maintain the rights of EU nationals living in Britain.

A Tory shoo-in? Not necessarily…

Mrs May called a snap General Election in the hope of obtaining a stronger mandate going into Brexit. But with the global political curveballs we have seen in the past year, anything could happen. Could that mean a Prime Minister Corbyn or Farron on the steps of No.10?

Freelancers and small business owners, like the rest of the UK electorate, can only cast their vote and wait.

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Lynne Gowers Written by Lynne Gowers

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