Published yesterday, the CIPR‘s first ever Election Manifesto, setting out questions of public interest where it has something to say, makes particular mention of the training needs of independent practitioners and other small businesses (something important to me – see 18 December 2014 post, among others). It says:
Self-employment in the UK hit the highest level since records began in 2014, with 15% of people working for themselves. Around 13% of CIPR members are independent practitioners of public relations, often servicing smaller clients who cannot afford to retain an in-house function.
The UK Government recognises the vital importance of skills and training for the future of the UK economy and our competitiveness in the global market. Many self-employed people and other small businesses have to be highly flexible, adapting to changing client needs and moving swiftly from declining areas of business to new opportunities. A government which is friendly to entrepreneurs will do everything it can to encourage this resilience.
Unfortunately HM Revenue and Customs currently takes the opposite view. The advice in BIM35660 is that training to refresh existing expertise is deductible in arriving at the profits chargeable to tax. On the other hand, training intended to give someone completely new expertise is not deductible. Although the reasoning behind this distinction is well established, it does not create a tax environment favourable to the kind of innovation and personal development which will allow the self-employed to thrive. We therefore believe that it is contrary to the long-term interests of UK business to retain this distinction.
It is a detailed point of tax law (no speciality of mine, of course – unless perhaps I retrained!), but the HMRC view (collating guidance from as long ago as 1991) does seem out of touch with a world in which technology and business practice no longer changes incrementally, but advances in leaps and bounds. Individuals across many industry sectors, therefore, may need to retrain (maybe multiple times) to remain relevant and marketable.
Discussing career progression with a fellow mentor on the CIPR’s first mentoring programme on Monday, we reflected on how we’d reached our current positions. We both agreed that our career paths could not have been predicted when we set out – government policies, economic circumstances, social and technological changes all had an impact. The media and communications professions have changed almost out of all recognition, and increasingly PR practice demands new capabilities – SEO, HTML, statistical analysis skills, etc – that often cannot be learned on the job, but require additional training.