The President and Congress keep talking about their plans for tax reform. But will their proposed solutions fix any of the problems faced by freelancers, the fastest growing sector of the workforce? Even as the “gig economy” encompasses 94% of new jobs in the U.S., tax policy has lagged behind the reality of a full third of American workers. Sara Horowitz, a social entrepreneur and expert on the freelance economy, penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that lays out the issues with freelance work in a system built around an industrial-era labor force.
The tax system is so complicated that many freelancers require professional financial help. And as Horowitz writes, “Hiring an accountant to serve as one’s guide through the Byzantine process is only the first step — and only the first expense. Freelancers must collect 1099s from each of their multiple clients, organize countless bills and small receipts into deductible expenses, and plan out a confusing payment schedule for making separate, estimated outlays toward federal, state and even local tax collectors.” At the same time, freelancer workers pay into Social Security, covering both the employee and employer shares, but are excluded from programs like workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits.
While there are benefits to freelance work, like flexibility and diverse income portfolios, the burden of tax disadvantages is significant. Horowitz calls on Washington to fix not only the tax system, but for an expansion of the social programs that would allow freelancers more security as they move from job to job. The full article details the challenges of, and solutions for, policy in the age of the gig economy.