The Society of Authors has responded to a Government consultation on tax relief for training, calling for relief to be extended for authors and other self-employed workers who undertake training for new skills.
Under the current legislation, the self-employed can claim tax relief for work-related training which ‘maintains or updates existing skills’. However relief cannot be claimed for training which ‘introduces new skills’. The Government is consulting on reforming these rules, aiming to support individuals ‘needing to upskill or retrain, particularly for those who want or need to change career, to progress in the work place and improve their earnings’.
The Society of Authors – having consulted with our members - fully supports the aim to extend tax relief for training that introduces new skills. This is because these new skills, as well as enabling authors to improve the quality of their output, are often essential requirements for the routine development of authors in the current business environment.
New skills in areas such as digital platforms, social media, marketing and self-publishing are often essential tools for authors trying to connect with their readers and reach new audiences. This is particularly the case due to recent advances in technology, with myriad new ways for authors to publish and market their work.
Training is essential for authors to understand these changes and develop the skills needed to capitalise on them. And yet at the moment they could be construed as ‘new skills’ and therefore training in these areas would not be tax deductible. For this reason we support proposals to reform the system and extend tax relief for those individuals undertaking training to learn new skills.
These are other scenarios that Society of Authors members have described to us:
“One obvious issue is that an author is expected to be a key player in their own publicity, whether self-published or traditionally published. If I wish to acquire social media skills, build a website, learn to run an e-newsletter, learn self-publishing, video editing or podcasting, these are directly derived from my work as a writer and yet 'new skills'. It is therefore absurd to have training linked to the writing tax deductible and the additional skills not. After all, if I bought in marketing, that would be tax deductible.”
“I have considered taking a TEFL course - I teach writing courses, but where there is a high proportion of overseas students, TEFL would be useful - but it is a new skill and an expensive course which I would be unclear about claiming.”
“I took a creative writing degree course, which included training in writing fiction. I am a non-fiction writer. Does that mean I cannot claim for the fiction writing component? Is that not part of being a writer?”
“I have contemplated writing a book about a blacksmith, and thought about taking a training course on blacksmithing. Would that be claimable? I think if, as an author, I can produce reasonable evidence that I intended to write such a book (bearing in mind that, of course, it may never be published), it should be so.”
Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, said:
“The current rules around tax relief for training are incoherent and in serious need of reform. It is absurd that training for ‘new’ skills does not qualify – surely the primary purpose of undertaking training should be to learn new skills.
“Authors are especially disadvantaged by the current rules. The world of writing and publishing is constantly evolving, and authors are always in need of new skills to prosper in this changing climate.
“I am pleased that the Government is consulting on changing the current rules. I hope that it listens to the views of authors and other self-employed workers, and takes action to extend tax relief for new skills training.”
The consultation is open until 8 June. You can respond and find out more here.