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Coronavirus: Why are self-employed dentists getting no financial support?

Blog Author Sarah Canavan 

Blog Date 09/04/2020

Associate dentist Sarah Canavan says it's unfair that the Government’s package for helping those who are losing their income during the Coronavirus pandemic doesn’t apply to most self-employed dentists.


Like most self-employed people in the UK, I waited with bated breath for the Chancellor’s announcement on financial help for those of us who aren’t PAYE. To say I was shocked to find out I was in the 5% of the self-employed population who apparently don’t need any help would be an understatement. My income has evaporated since the outbreak of COVID-19, but Government is providing no support for associate dentists like me.


Are dentists earning ‘too much’?

The Government’s numbers don’t add up. As part of that elite 5%, the Government seems to believe I am earning approximately £200,000 a year! My accountant and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs would dispute that, as my tax return clearly states I earn £54,000.


My self-employed husband, who works as a carpenter is also in the heralded 5%. He receives this dubious honour because he is just £1000 over the threshold! Neither of us can get any financial support from our Government in the midst of this crisis and frankly, we feel abandoned.


And what is even more frustrating, is that another member of my family is earning around £130,000 per year PAYE, and she is eligible to receive support. Now, I don’t begrudge anyone any support in these challenging times, but the unfairness of it is surreal.


I wouldn’t even begrudge my local MP getting help, should it be required, even though he is earning quite significantly more than me, at nearly £79,500 PAYE.


It’s the disparity I find utterly maddening.


Most self-employed dentists will not be able to get financial help

The BDA is urging Rishi Sunak to think again about the impact of leaving over 75% of self-employed dentists out in the cold, as they are deemed ineligible for Government support if they are earning over £50,000.


People like me, my partner and all other self-employed people out there, deserve to be treated in a comparable way to those who work PAYE. Regardless of how people choose to work and earn a living, we all deserve support in these unprecedented times.


I am not a ‘super-rich dentist’, as the media so often like to label us. I have similar financial commitments to many employed people, and it’s going to be catastrophic for my family and my life if I am unable to honour those commitments due to a lack of income.


The viability of the NHS dental service is also going to be undermined. The negative impact on patient care going forward cannot be underestimated. I worry for patients all over the country, if this sad state of affairs is allowed to continue.


New tax rules will penalise dentists  

And the final kick in the teeth (pardon the pun) is that, after being left on the scrap heap by our Chancellor, we are also being told that we are still going to be penalised by the new tax rules he’s decided to push through, which is unbelievable.


This will be taking away the one benefit of being self-employed that we had, so now I’m not only facing the risk of bankruptcy but the whole reason I chose to be self-employed in the first place, is being pulled from under us.



Sarah Canavan  
Chair, BDA Associates Group

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