In this world nothing is certain except death and taxes. Less than a week ago we were all hoping that a generous dollop of hand wash could delay the first. Now that has changed. Many of us are in survival mode, and for those of us who were unemployed and have no hope of restitution from being pushed out of a job, the situation is rapidly getting dire.
You may have done what everybody has advised you to do. Clever husbandry. A tax account. Monies squirrelled away to pay HMRC in January and July. That may now be your only source of income for a mission to Lidl. It may be all that is keeping you going. And that’s what we have to do. Keep going.
And yet the government has made huge omissions in its ‘billion-pound handout’ when dealing with actors and the self-employed. Watching Rishi Sunak last Friday reminded me of those old Sun newspaper ads featuring Christopher Timothy in which pound notes cascaded behind him.
‘Get Lucky in Your Big Virus-Free Sun on Monday’ – I can see it now. But we are not going to be lucky. VAT payments have been delayed. We have also been told that July self-assessment payments have been delayed. So perhaps dipping into our tax accounts is the right thing to do?
And yet the important word there is ‘delayed’. Like so much of the money being thrown about by a government that doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing, delayed means it will be asked for at some point in the future. As soon as this nightmare stops, so will the generosity. If you have spent your VAT fund, or your tax nest egg, how will you earn it back quickly enough to pay what you already owed, and the taxes on the new earnings?
We don’t need to delay. I’d much rather pay the tax and the VAT I already owe in the hope it’s going to help emergency service workers and the NHS deal with the crisis. But I’d also like to know that I’m not going to be cast aside just because I choose to be self-employed. The insult of offering Universal Credit (which normally has a five-week wait at least) so that we can get statutory sick pay of £94 a week is beyond belief.
Many charities are doing their best. But the government needs to do its best too and recognise our sector now. HMRC has records of our accounts: take a three-year mean and give us 80% of that up to a ceiling, as you are doing with other workers. Let’s not make death and taxes such a certainty for any of us.
Paul Clayton is an actor, director and author. Read more of his columns at the thestage.co.uk/author/paul-clayton/