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No Musician Should Be Left Behind, A Lobbying Update

MU Head of Communications & Government Relations Isabelle Gutierrez: “Our focus at the moment is on lobbying for members who are currently ineligible for either of the Government’s assistance schemes for employed and self-employed workers.”

Published: 03 April 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:30 PM
a person holding a trumpet
We have been lobbying for members who are currently ineligible for either of the Government’s assistance schemes for employed and self-employed workers. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Right now, we are primarily lobbying the Government on the following points:

We also continue to argue for emergency financial assistance for the period before the remuneration becomes available, either by speeding up the Universal Credit application process up to cover the gap until support is made available in June, or finding an alternative method of covering the income gap.

We are in daily contact with DCMS, BEIS and the Treasury. A number of MPs have also been arguing the case for our members – often directly referencing the MU’s Impact Report.

These MPs include, but are not limited to – Keir Starmer, Bambos Charalambous, Rosena Allin Khan, Thangam Debbonaire, Alison McGovern, Kerry McCarthy, Stephen Doughty, Kevin Brennan, Rachel Reeves, Jo Stevens and Tim Clement Jones in the Lords.

The Newly Self-Employed

We have a large number of members who have only recently begun their self-employed careers in the last year, and so are not eligible for the self-employed scheme. We are lobbying for HMRC to accept a tax return for the period that they have been working in 2019-20.

As a result of our lobbying, the Treasury is currently considering whether they could allow use of 19/20 tax year data for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), but stress the need to avoid fraud and prevent individuals manipulating tax records that have not yet been submitted to maximise gains. 

Those with 'profits' of over £50k

Some of our members, for instance those who work in the West End theatres, may register profits that are higher than the £50k cap.

Many of them, though, despite having lost all of their income overnight are now not eligible for this scheme. We have been arguing very strongly that these musicians should still receive income replacement up to the cap, since there is no equivalent cap on the employed scheme.  

Currently, the Government is continuing to say that they have no intention of changing the cap system as, in their words, ‘it is important that the scheme is deliverable and targeted at those who need help most.’

This is not the MU’s view and we continue to fight hard for these members. We would urge musicians who find themselves in this position to also email their own MPs to ask for representation.

Musicians whose self-employed work is less than 50% of their total annual income

Musicians who are part-time employed and part-time self-employed can qualify for both the employed and self-employed schemes. But crucially, you only qualify for the self-employed scheme if self-employment makes up more than 50% of your annual income.

We know that many musicians are therefore falling through this ‘gap’ and we are arguing that the scheme should be broadened. Members should also check whether they are eligible for compensation under the employed workers scheme.

Limited Companies/Personal Service Companies

Musicians who operate through limited companies cannot claim under the self-employed scheme, although they may be able to claim a grant towards salaries paid under the PAYE system. We wrote more about this in our news story on furlough for limited company directors.

The MU has argued for dividends to be included in the SEISS, but it is clear that there is a lot of resistance to this from the Government.

Non-UK Nationals

Some musicians are here legitimately under their working visa, for example Tier 1 exceptional talent, and have also seen their work disappear overnight.

We are seeking urgent answers as to whether the schemes will apply to them and will update members as soon as we hear back from DCMS. We are arguing that the SEISS should be accessible to all workers who have been paying tax in the UK.

Parents and Carers

The MU has also been investigating the situation regarding members who have recently had time out for pregnancy or caring responsibilities, and therefore may have gaps in their earnings that bring down their average taxable monthly profits. 

The Treasury has said that having one year of records would allow for payments under the SEISS even if the person had also been employed at some point in this period.

Take Action to Protect Musicians

If there is one thing that will change the game for all musicians, it is immediate and informed Government action.

Email your MP using Write to Them. You can still write to your MP if you have no fixed address, find out more via parliament.uk.

If you’re not sure what to say, see our advice including a template letter to get you started. 

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