Over the years, independent workers have experienced both victories and losses in terms of their protections under the law. With a new presidential administration coming into office that greatly differs from the current one with respect to ideology, many freelancers and other self-employed workers are left wondering what they can expect under President-elect Trump.
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The number of independent workers aged 21 and older clocks in at nearly 40 million, according to State of Independence in America 2016, a report from independent work consultants MBO Partners. Independent workers make up a significant part of the economy, not to mention a significant chunk of potential voters. While it's important for workers in this category to pay attention to the effects of new regulations and laws, the administration must also be careful not to step on the toes of such a large voting bloc.
Getting Ready for the Transition
While it's difficult for independent workers to predict what President-elect Trump will do upon taking office, they can still make certain preparations in advance of Inauguration Day.
"While it's hard to predict exactly how a Trump administration would impact independent workers in the near term, the end of the year is a great opportunity to evaluate business assets, expenses, results, and relationships and create a plan to be prepared for the new year," says Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. "For example, based on campaign proposals, we're likely to see the Trump administration propose tax cuts, so now is a good time to organize receipts, W-9s, and other tax documents and schedule time with an accountant to learn about potential business impacts of tax code changes. For independents who work with the federal government, the end of the year is also a good time to determine whether there are new individuals to reach out to – in addition to reinforcing relationships with businesses, clients, vendors, and colleagues – either through a seasonal thank-you card to customers or a holiday greeting card to prospects."
What Independent Workers Want
There are a number of issues that should be addressed by President-elect Trump and his team. Zaino lists the following as particularly important to freelancers and other independent workers:
1. Taxes and Regulatory Oversight
"The tax proposals Trump discussed during the campaign would reduce burdens of the current corporate tax structure, but cutting taxes alone is not enough," Zaino says. "The administration must work to clarify existing legal structures in place from the IRS and Department of Labor to properly draw the line between compliant microbusinesses and solopreneurs and those workers that need protection."
One solution gaining acceptance in Washington is the "safe harbor" idea, which MBO Partners supported in a position paper earlier this year.
"[The safe harbor] would allow independents to proactively declare themselves to be compliant," Zaino says. "This provides independents and the businesses that want to hire them a simple yet compliant way to do business together."
2. Portable Benefits
"The administration should sustainably address portable benefits by devising an actionable solution that helps workers get all the benefits they need, including retirement and healthcare, on a scale that will facilitate economic growth and incentivize domestic employment," Zaino says.
3. Compliance Burdens
"The administration needs to ease compliance burdens by incentivizing companies to become a 'client of choice' for top talent and putting in place measures by which independent talent can be compliantly engaged," Zaino says.
4. The Changing Workforce Landscape
"Finally, the new administration needs to understand the changing workforce landscape, recognizing the differences between gig economy employees and full-time independents who are satisfied with their work and earn significantly more than other freelancers," Zaino says.
What the Platform Says
If President-elect Trump sticks to his proposed platform, there could be benefits for the independent workforce.
"I think President-elect Trump will be very focused on removing friction in our economy," Zaino says. "He's indicated a focus on creating jobs, supporting job growth, and making it easier for people to move around and work quickly. I think part of those efforts will include removing some existing regulatory hurdles around employing independent workers. Trump also discussed tax proposals during the campaign that could reduce burdens of the current corporate tax structure and give more Americans the freedom to chase their own 'American dream' of independence."