Money from the government

SINCE APRIL many freelances have been entitled to Working Tax Credit, or Child Tax Credit if you have any. These allowances have gained some notoriety for the strain they've put on the Revenue bureaucracy, but they can still be had.

Even if your turnover as a freelance looks reasonable, your income as defined on your tax return - after subtracting all your business expenses - can be quite low. That, of course, is part of the point of being self-employed. If you work shifts, avoiding being taxed at source can allow you to claim more expenses against gross income, though it's be foolhardy to summarise what you can claim in a short piece.

In any case, of course you can claim the costs of equipment. The Freelance didn't spot until last month that the full cost of computers is claimable in the year you bought them, which is nice. You deduct a quarter of the cost of cameras and other "capital" items in the first year, and a quarter of what's left in each succeeding year until the arithmetic's not worth the return.

So, can you claim? The Inland Revenue's advice line is quite probably still running a three-week queue. But you can find out at www.taxcredits.inlandrevenue.gov.uk - and apply for them online too. You have to work at least 16 hours a week.

The Freelance tried the site out and it said that a single person under 50 with a taxable income of £10,800 and working more than 30 hours a week is entitled to £20 a year, and those with lower taxable incomes progressively more. Again, this is what's left after you subtract business expenses, pension payments and so on from your turnover but before paying tax and National Insurance.

(By the way, if you too are trying out different numbers to see what happens, you'll need to try several times: changing your gender and changing it back again seems to help.)

Do fax 020 7278 1812 or email editor@freelancenews.org with your experiences of claiming and tips you come up with - in confidence, of course.

One member already reports: "I discovered I was entitled to £1700 a year. I didn't really believe it, but I've just started getting payments.

"Then I went to the dentist and was told I was entitled to free treatment - no-one has yet rung to contradict this. At the chemist I was told I was entitled to free prescriptions. Still can't quite believe it!"

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