I already had a concern about Ian Duncan Smith's long awaited proposals to reform the benefits system. I'm a supporter in principle but wonder if it will address a much overlooked but important issue. The benefits system at present discriminates against honest entrepreneurs.
I was reminded of this when I heard that the PM has urged:
"more people to make a job rather than take a job."
And that Vince Cable has backed the PM's call during Global Entrepreneurship Week UK, pledging to tackle:
Vince then made the all too common assumption that all entrepreneurs start new companies when they start new businesses. In fact this is rarely a good move from a tax planning perspective unless the entrepreneur is confident they will make substantial profits from the outset.
The point being that many people who start a businesss, whether they are contractors, service providers or web based, will do so as self employed people. They may or may not have entrepreneurial ambitions.
There are few 'onerous regulations or taxes' that can act as a disincentive here. But the benefits system can do so.
When someone goes to register for, what is currently called, job seekers' allowance they are asked how many hours a week they are available for work. That's not unreasonable as the benefit is evidently for 'job seekers'. By definition therefore it is not available to anyone who takes the opportunity to start a business. In most cases they will do so, at least initially, as a sole trader or in partnership with someone else. This means they're not available for a job so are denied the 'benefit'. Or they could lie and not tell the benefits agency that they are looking for business as a sole trader. The system should not incentivise lying.
I imagine this is all quite common and that the job seekers' allowance is paid to people who do some causal work and those who promote their services as a contractor, service provider or whatever. The problem is though that they are then disincentivised from declaring this income. To do so would deny them future benefits - although self employed/causal income is hardly comparable with employed earnings. Much the same is true for tax credits although at least there the system doesn't discriminate against those who start new businesses of their own.
I suggest that the new universal credit needs to recognise that not all unemployed people will be looking for a job. If the Government is serious about encouraging "more people to make a job rather than take a job" the benefits system must support this aim.