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Paying Festival Staff and Contractors.

Andy Robertson

Every festival will usually have a core team of full-time permanent staff who are probably paid a monthly salary. In addition, organisers have to consider the number of seasonal contract staff and contractor suppliers who also need to be paid. What do organisers need to know when it comes to paying staff and how can they make their processes efficient.


Every country has a tax regime that ensures anyone who does paid wok will be liable for tax on that income. How that tax is collected and the percentage varies from country to country and in the UK, it can be a complex system to understand. Festival organisers will probably have a finance team who will be responsible for paying staff, contractors and suppliers. Fortunately, most payroll and accounting software packages come with pre-built templates, functions and processes to make it easier for users to manage payments. The days of cash in hand are long gone, thanks in part to many European countries going cashless for all payments. Currently anyone who performs paid work must be processed appropriately usually going through an accounting or payroll system.

PAYE. 
Pay As You Earn is a scheme run by the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK and is the usual method of payment for full time salaried staff as the whole end to end process is somewhat simplified. The PAYE system ensures that any income tax and National Insurance payments are taken at source and staff receive a net amount. Employers can use the HMRC’s online PAYE system to check tax codes, make appeals and process expenses for example. At the end of the financial year the tax paid can be reconciled with HMRC in case of over or under payments.

IR35. 
In the UK the tax rules changed recently for off-payroll workers, contractors and their intermediaries, referred to as IR35. Previously individual contractors could charge a daily rate via an umbrella company or their own limited company which had numerous tax benefits. The HMRC introduced these new rules to ensure contractors paid more tax. Often called ‘working within IR35’ contractors are now paid in a similar way to staff on PAYE and any tax due is taken at source.

Contract Suppliers. 
For small businesses that supply equipment and other services to festivals they are often operating as limited companies and may be referred to as contractors but are treated as suppliers. They provide invoices with payment terms and the festival pays them through their accounting system as a supplier and not an individual. 

Casual Workers.
Volunteers who are not paid are excluded from any payment or tax regime, however, it is not unusual for organisers to employ casual workers on a temporary basis. This can be more problematic as cash is largely disappearing, even if an organiser pays via a bank transfer or alternative payment system like Revolut all electronic transactions can potentially be audited and tax may then be due. It’s best to avoid cash in hand casual workers as this can be seen as circumnavigating the tax regime. It may be wiser to ask volunteers to perform additional tasks and reward them with VIP access passes for example.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Andy Robertson
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