What a month November has been.
Starting off with an attempt at National Novel Writing Month, I had a wonderful time rediscovering my love for writing fiction (and Luna and Clover got starring roles in a story about how they became witch’s cats). Alongside that I spent some time working on Unfurling, which is beginning to take real shape, and is making me very happy.
I got a Ralph unexpectedly at the end of October…
… and spent a weekend wedding dress shopping with my best friend (for her, not me!). Which was glorious though I’m not allowed to share photos yet!
Completely differently but equally excitingly, on Sunday I appeared on my first live call, an interview by Vaska the Curious Cat, for Free Range Humans‘ storytelling tent. I am told I inspired people… and this is massive, as that’s all I ever really wanted to do. Show people that they too can live life their way, whatever that means to them.
There was a housewarming with wonderful friends from uni, and a christening with my closest friends at home in Essex – and the newest member of our group, baby Jessica (whose special day it was).
It was shaping up to be a quite glorious month.
And then I spotted, quite by accident, a post on social media about the new VAT rulings. When I first saw this, I didn’t have any digital products so assumed it didn’t apply to me and thought no more about it. This time round, I really read it – and quickly realised exactly how disastrous this could be for all my ventures.
I’ll post about it in full later on – along with some solopreneur friends, currently I’m in the middle of campaigning for some change, recognition or at the very least a bit more clarity from HMRC about what is and isn’t covered, and what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of digital product sales, restricting the countries where purchases can be made, and other essential questions.
But in short, it threatens the viability of a vast number of businesses in the UK – and all of mine except Ink Drops’ physical parcels, and of course the tarot and crystal goodness in my shop here. It only applies to digital products (though it’s fairly obvious that whoever wrote it doesn’t really understand the internet), and without boring you with detail, effectively removes the £81k threshold at which you must register for VAT, dropping it to zero. Yes, zero.
Now I ask you – how many freelancers and self employed people do YOU know who earn anything close to £81,000 a year?! So why punish those of us who have gone forward and forged new business models in the digital age, using new technology?
I don’t have a lot of digital work at the moment, but have been working on Unfurling and some other programmes for several months, and their future is now uncertain. Rosie of One Man Band Accounting has written an excellent summary blog post, and Rachel Andrew is keeping a list of information and resources.
Though I knew from the start of self employment that you never really leave your business behind, I’ve been amazed at the strength of feeling and how pervasive the worry can be when something like this happens. The solidarity and support in the groups I’m part of is wonderful, and it’s good to know we’re not alone. But apart from the time at my day job, which has been filled to bursting with a massive and not particularly enjoyable project with very tight deadlines (for which I’m not exactly grateful, but which does require all my attention during the day), this has consumed my every waking moment since I found out, and quite a lot of my sleeping ones too.
Currently the Guardian and TechCrunch have picked up our predicament, and I have had contact with the Telegraph’s enterprise editor too (the first time for ages I’ve wished I still worked there, actually) so we’re hoping for more press coverage and some kind of change, exemption or threshold to be introduced before the rules come into force on 1 January. Otherwise it’s going to be a very unhappy new year for thousands of business owners like me. Not to mention the future ones who will be put off starting.
UPDATE: Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor of the Telegraph, has covered the VATMESS and quoted me. First national newspaper mention!
This has replaced my usual blogging because it is such an important issue (though I did manage to get a picture of a cat in here as well – Clover was feeling obliging). But seriously, if you want to know more, read the links, and if you want to help, please contact your MP and MEP and let them know how you feel. That contact is worth hundreds of signatures on a petition (though you can also sign our petition here).
And if you have any press contacts who would be interested, please point them in my direction (or me in theirs). Wouldn’t normally ask – but this is critical.
With love, unicorns and hope for this mess to be sorted so small businesses can continue to innovate and thrive, and also so I can have an uninterrupted night’s sleep again,