The Professional
Contractors Group
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Background

The Professional Contractors Group was formed in March 1999 when Andy White, a Chartered Engineer and contractor, first saw the IR35 proposals in the budget. He realised that had these rules come into effect a few years ago then it would have been very difficult for him to have developed his other businesses. His concerns lead to him stepping onto the modern equivalent of the soap box – the Internet – where he made his concerns known on his web site (www.engineerjob.com) attracting thousands of hits in the weeks following the budget. By the end of April, over 2000 knowledge based contractors had pledged over £100,000 to fund a campaign and PCG was formed as a company limited by guarantee.

Membership has grown rapidly with over 14,000 members signed and 10,000 signing up in the first year. PCG members include some of the country’s most able engineering and IT contractors. Through their web based discussion forums these members have carried out one of the most far reaching lobbying campaigns of modern times. They have conducted a carefully co-ordinated campaign to brief MP’s of all parties as to the issues and their concerns. In November 1999, PCG members lobbied their MP in one of the largest Parliament lobbies seen in recent years with some 800 contractors green carding their MP’s for personal meetings.

When the proposals were first issued the Revenue, with the arrogance borne of the Government’s huge majority, stated that there would be no consultation on the proposals, only on the details of how the proposals would work. However, PCG’s actions have largely been responsible for IR35 becoming a major issue for the Government and its political managers. Although the size of the Government’s majority has made it difficult for anyone to shift their proposals they have already been forced to make significant changes, for example, by recognising that an investment in training is, for a knowledge based contractor, just as valid an investment and as much of a financial risk, as a major investment in plant is for a traditional self employed worker.

PCG is now established as the only professional body which represents the interests of contractors. As a group it is independent of any ties to either agencies or any of the specialist contracting accountants. While these other groups have contributed to the debate their interests and loyalties are inevitably divided as they seek solutions which protect their commercial interests – interests which are not always the same as those of contractors themselves.

PCG provides expert analysis of the issues and problems contractors are facing whether it’s through its web site or newsletter. Much of the benefit comes from the expertise of the members themselves who have a vast range of experiences that they freely share with each other, covering not only issues arising out of IR35 but the many practical daily problems that all contractors face. Matters such as what agents and accountants are advising, new contract terms, problems with the Revenue on issues like travel expenses, the pros and cons of working in various overseas locations etc.

Finally, PCG members have found that PCG has given them their own voice and a focus which extends beyond issues of IR35 to encompass all aspects of their life as contractors and small businesses. PCG has arranged additional benefits for members:

  • Free tax investigation insurance
  • Access to professional indemnity and employer’s and public liability insurance at discounted rates
  • Free Legal and Tax helplines staffed by specialists who understand the issues facing contractors
  • Access to top level Legal and Accounting services at discounted rates
  • The PCG Portal – a central resource for finding work or contractors to do the work.

In February 2000 the PCG members agreed to turn PCG into a representative body, providing a full range of services to knowledge based workers, in addition to representing their interests on all relevant issues.