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REPORT URGES END TO RED TAPE AND TAX PENALTIES TO ASSIST HOME WORKING

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One in four UK workers now do some of their work from home, but they face significant barriers with red tape, tax p...
One in four UK workers now do some of their work from home, but they face significant barriers with red tape, tax penalties and antiquated planning policies, a new report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds.

Living at work - a new policy framework for modern home workers, calls for a co-ordinated policy review of modern home working in the UK. It cites barriers including:

planning authorities discouraging home work in residential areas;

higher insurance costs for home workers, despite increased home security;

mortgage lenders viewing home working with suspicion;

taxation of home workers' use of residence as office;

home workers avoiding such problems by hiding their activities from authorities.

The report also suggests that poorer workers may be increasingly excluded from the benefits of home working in future, if steps are not taken to widen access to it.

Internet access via TV will allow more people to consume/buy goods and services using new technology, it argues, but it will not help enable them to produce/sell work from home.

In addition, the living room is often an unsuitable space to use as a home office and sharing the TV between the internet user and the rest of the family can impose considerable strains.

Many social housing tenants are also hit by landlord restrictions on using their home for work and by allocation policies which rule out spare rooms which are essential for productive home-based working.

The report calls for initiatives which could include:

Allowing homes where business takes place to be exempt from business rates and capital gains tax;

Extending the existing tax exempt 'rent-a-room' scheme to business lets, so home workers can let a working space to their own business (or another) and pay no tax on actual/imputed income;

Reviewing social landlord tenancy agreements which harm tenants' employment prospects by ruling out use of the premises for work;

Reviewing social landlord under-occupation policies to allow one spare room as a home work space and/or school children's homework space;

Funding agencies that offer shared high bandwidth facilities and other support services to home workers and small businesses that cannot afford them individually

Developing polices to support home workers as a key economic force in areas of traditional employment decline;

Encouraging economic development in residential areas, particularly in less well off areas;

Including home working as part of sustainable transport policy and promoting it as an alternative communication option, to reduce car use;

Prioritising 'live/work' mixed use developments to discourage traffic and pollution.

Tim Dwelly, author of the report, said: 'The home working revolution has enormous implications for an economy like the UK's, which is heavily reliant on the service sector.'

'It suggests a growing integration of home and job, of family life and work life. Policies on transport, housing, employment, tax and rural environmental issues all need updating to take account of the impact of tele-commuting. Meanwhile traffic congestion and pollution is a national problem which home working could help address. Yet there is to date no national policy framework, no government strategy, to make home working work.'

Note

Living at work - a new policy framework for modern home workers, by Tim Dwelly, is published by York Publishing Services, price£10.95 plus£2. p&p.

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