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Coronavirus Government Support

Self–employment Income Support Scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) provides a grant to the self-employed worth 80% of their average monthly profits – up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. HMRC have begun sending emails, SMS messages and letters to those eligible for this scheme inviting them to make their claim online.

The scheme:

  • The SEISS will pay a directly payable taxable grant to the self-employed (including members of partnerships) based on 80% of profits averaged over the last three tax years (or shorter periods if self-employment started after 2016/17), subject to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
  • The £2,500 figure (which also applies to the employees’ Job Retention Scheme) is the maximum payment that will be made, not the maximum earnings that are protected, i.e. 80% of up to £37,500 of profits ([£37,500 x 80%] /12 = £2,500) will be covered.
  • The initial payment term of the SEISS grant will be “at least three months”.
  • The payment of the grant will not prevent the claimant from continuing to work.
  • The SEISS will be restricted in that is open to those who have annual self-employment trading profits of less than £50,000 and receive at least half their income from self-employment. Non-trading income might include income such as PAYE employment, property income, dividends, savings income, pension income, overseas income and miscellaneous income, including social security.
  • Payments from HMRC should start at the beginning of June. The initial sum will represent three months’ cumulative payments. Until then the self-employed can claim Universal Credit. In his statement the Chancellor said Universal Credit could give a self-employed person with a non-working partner and two children, living in the social rented sector, support of up to £1,800 a month.

Eligibility:

HMRC will use their existing information to assess eligibility and contact individuals directly, requesting completion of an online form. The “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach is aimed at preventing HMRC being overwhelmed with telephone queries, as has happened with the DWP’s Universal Credit system.

The eligibility criteria that HMRC are applying means that you will be able to claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and all of the following apply:

  • carry on a trade which has been adversely affected by COVID-19 (for example because you’re unable to work, or you have had to scale down/stop trading);
  • traded in the tax years 2018-19 and 2019-20;
  • submitted your self-assessment return for the tax year 2018-19 on or before 23 April 2020;
  • intend to continue trading in 2020-21; and
  • meet the profits condition (details of which can be found at .Gov here)

However, you should also note that:

  • If you did not submit your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019 on or before 23 April 2020 you will not be able to claim. Claims based on late returns submitted between 26 March 2020 and 23 April 2020 will be subject to additional anti-fraud checks by HMRC.
  • Those who operate through one person companies are not covered by the scheme as, despite the media label often given to them, they are not self-employed. The Treasury press release states that such people “will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes”. The use of the word ‘salary’ is key here, as many one person companies route the bulk of their employee’s remuneration via dividends to reduce National Insurance liabilities.
  • Anyone whose self-employment started after 5 April 2019 and thus has no self-employed earnings recorded with HMRC cannot benefit from the scheme and must rely on Universal Credit.
  • You can check if you are eligible to claim via a tool on the .gov website here. You will need your Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number and National Insurance number to hand.

    Your claim:

    HMRC have begun sending letters to those eligible for this scheme stating that they can make their claim online from between 13 – 18 May 2020. In order to make a claim you will need a Government Gateway user ID and password, Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR), National Insurance Number and your UK bank account details to receive payment by Bacs.

    If a claim under SEISS is approved, the sum will be payable in a single instalment, by 25 May 2020 or within 6 working days of making a claim.

    If you haven’t received a letter:

    Inevitably, some people’s records will not be up to date or they may not be at their normal address. HMRC says anyone who thinks they are eligible but has not heard from it should go to its website and use the checker tool. Claims can then be made from 17 May.

    We say…

    HMRC have stated that ‘You must make the claim yourself. Your tax agent or adviser must not claim on your behalf as this will trigger a fraud alert, and you will have to contact HMRC. This will cause a significant delay to you receiving your payment.’ We are therefore unfortunately unable to complete these claims on behalf of clients. However, our tax team can provide some instructions on how to make their claim, should any clients require support. Full details of the scheme can be found at .Gov here.

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

A refund covering up to 2 weeks Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to absence caused by COVID-19 will be available to employers. This applies for businesses with less than 250 employees and is available from the first day of absence.

What we know so far:

  • Employers will be able to claim SSP for up to two weeks for any employee who had been off due to Covid-19 (including those in self isolation)
  • The SSP can be claimed from day 1
  • The claims can start for sicknesses starting on or after 13th of March 2020
  • Employees do not have to have doctor’s fit note to make a claim
  • Employers must have a PAYE scheme in place on or before the 28th of February
  • Employers must have fewer than 250 employees on 28th February
  • All employee contracts are included, FT/PT, agency and zero hours contracts
  • Connected companies can also use the scheme but only if the total number of PAYE employees is fewer than 250 on or before the 28th of February

Record keeping

The employer must keep all the records of the employees’ absences – those records will have to be kept for at least 3 year following the claim and must include:

  • Reasons for absence
  • Details of the period in which each employee has been off from work
  • Details of the SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work
  • National Insurance numbers of all employees who you have paid SSP to

Our support service:

  • We will be putting in place an additional service for payroll clients to submit their SSP rebate claims to HMRC.
  • For clients where we are already your PAYE Agent, we are able to carry out this work from 26 May when the online service opens. If we are not your PAYE Agent we will need to make arrangements for you to authorise us to submit information on your behalf to HMRC before we can begin.
  • If you would like us to complete this for you, please contact our Payroll Manager, Ula Namyslowska by email. Ula will confirm the information that is needed from you and how to send this to her.

We say…

The online service to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be available from Tuesday 26 May 2020. We will be sending communications to our payroll clients regarding our support service shortly.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (80% wage cover)

Under the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), government grants will cover 80% of the salary up to £2,500 each month for PAYE employees who would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

The scheme:

  • The portal to reclaim 80% of an employee’s costs is now open. It can be accessed through the Government Gateway here.
  • The government has extended the start date for eligibility for furlough to 19 March from original 28 February meaning 200,000 more people can benefit.
  • The scheme will be available to all UK employers, of any size and in any sector (small or large, including charitable or non-profit).
  • It involves “furloughing” designated workers who would otherwise have been “laid off” during this crisis.
  • This will involve keeping those workers on the payroll instead of dismissing them as redundant or putting them on unpaid lay-off.
  • HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ gross wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per worker per month.
  • Workers cannot do any work for an employer that has furloughed them.
  • The employer can top-up the 80% HMRC payment but does not have to.
  • The scheme will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and will run until the end of July in its current form.
  • It has now been announced that the scheme will be extended until the end of October. It will continue in its current form until the end of July. From 1 August to the end of October, there will be more flexibility so that employers are able to bring their furloughed employees back to work part-time and contribute to paying employees’ wages while still receiving support from the scheme. Further details of how this will work are expected to be published by the end of the May.

Before you furlough you should:

  • Advise the employees who you intend to furlough.
  • Send a letter to these employees confirming how much they will be paid, the date from and to (of if until further notice) and that their contract of employment will be temporarily varied. They should provide their consent.
  • There are templates for such letters available from ACAS here.

To make a claim you will need:

  • to be registered for PAYE online
  • your UK bank account number and sort code
  • your employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • each employee’s National Insurance number
  • each employee’s payroll or employee number (optional)
  • the start date and end date of the claim
  • the full amount you’re claiming for including employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum pension contributions
  • your phone number
  • contact name
  • You also need to provide either: The employer name, your Corporation Tax unique taxpayer reference, your Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference or your company registration number.
  • Further detail on furloughing workers can be found on .gov here.

Your claim:

  • The system will be managed through HMRC’s online portal and after checking the claim, HMRC will pay it by BACS to a UK bank account within 6 working days.
  • You must then keep a copy of all records, including:
    • the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
    • the claim reference number for your records
    • your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
    • tell your employees that you have made a claim and that they do not need to take any more action
    • pay your employee their wages, if you have not already

Watch our video guide to making a claim through the government portal

Our furloughing service:

  • We have put in place an additional service for payroll clients to process and submit their furloughed employee reports to HMRC to process their claims.
  • For clients where we are already your PAYE Agent, we are able to carry out this work immediately. If we are not your PAYE Agent we will need to make arrangements for you to authorise us to submit information on your behalf to HMRC before we can begin.
  • If you would like us to complete this for you, please contact our Payroll Manager, Ula Namyslowska by email. Ula will confirm the information that is needed from you and how to send this to her.

We say…

We have contacted our Payroll clients regarding our furloughing service for submitting their claims to HMRC. Please contact our team if you would like to discuss how we can assist.

Bounce Back Loans for small businesses

The government has launched a new 100% government backed loan scheme for small businesses. Businesses are able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, which are interest free for the first 12 months. The scheme launched for applications on Monday 4 May 2020. You can access these loans through a network of British Business Bank accredited lenders, a list of which can be seen here.

What we know so far:

  • The government is offering the guarantee but the funds will issued by accredited lenders.
  • Businesses can apply for a Bounce Back Loan of up to 25 per cent of their turnover, up to £50,000.
  • No interest or capital repayment will be needed in the first 12 months. The government will pay the interest on the loan and any associated fees for this period.
  • Loan terms are be up to 6 years.
  • Sole traders, micro-firms and small businesses that meet the eligibility criteria can apply.
  • The government has requested lenders offer “….a low standardised level of interest for the remaining period of the loan”, however the level of interest rate to expect is not yet known.
  • This new scheme was launched due to the slow uptake of CBILS finance, which so far has seen just 16,000 loans issued, and is 100% backed by the government as opposed to CBILS finance, which is 80% backed by a government guarantee, therefore it offers increased reassurance and security to the lender.
  • At this point, it appears that there is no limit on a firm’s turnover. However, the government expects only smaller firms to apply because of the limit on funds.

Eligibility:

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • has been negatively affected by Coronavirus
  • was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019
  • has been trading for 12 months
  • You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). However, If you have already received a loan of up to £50,000 under CBILS and would like to transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4 November 2020.

We say…

Applications are now open and you should contact your bank to discuss whether they can assist or make an application directly with an accredited lender.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Any business that needs access to cash to pay their rent, salaries, suppliers, or to purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loans under the ‘Coronavirus Business Interruptions Loans Scheme’ (CBILS). This will be issued by lenders that partner with the British Business Bank, including all the major banks. The lender receives a guarantee of 80% of the loan amount from the government. The borrower remains liable for 100% of the debt.

What we know so far:

  • Loans are available from £25,001 to £5 million
  • Available from 1-6 years
  • No interest is payable for 12 months
  • Capital repayment holidays are available for 12 months as well – so some businesses will have no payments to make in the first year
  • Some lenders may limit loans to 25% of the business’ turnover in 2019, or double the annual wage bill
  • Self-employed sole traders can be eligible for CBILS as long as the business activity is operated through a business account and satisfies other criteria for the scheme.

We say…

Applications are now being taken by many of the approved lenders, however the criteria may vary from one lender to another. There has been criticism of some banks insisting on personal guarantees against the loans, but this is not across all lenders (source: BBC) and the Big Four banks have agreed that personal guarantees will not be taken as security for lending below £250,000. You should therefore check your banks terms. All major banks are issuing these loans so you should contact your bank relationship manager in the first instance.

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

The COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy. It will help businesses across a range of sectors to pay wages and suppliers, even while experiencing severe disruption to cashflows.

The facility will offer financing on terms comparable to those prevailing in markets in the period before the Covid-19 economic shock, and will be open to firms that can demonstrate they were in sound financial health prior to the shock. The facility will look through temporary impacts on firms’ balance sheets and cash flows by basing eligibility on firms’ credit ratings prior to the Covid-19 shock. Businesses do not need to have previously issued commercial paper in order to participate.

The scheme will operate for at least 12 months and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy. In practice, firms that meet this requirement would normally be: large UK incorporated companies, including those with foreign-incorporated parents and with a genuine business in the UK; companies with significant employment in the UK; firms with their headquarters in the UK. It will also consider companies which generate significant revenues in the UK, serve a large number of customers in the UK or have a number of operating sites in the UK.

We say…

If you would like to use the CCFF and have not issued commercial paper before, you should contact your bank to discuss whether they can assist.

Future Fund

A new Future Fund will be launched to support the UK’s innovative and high-growth businesses. The scheme will see the UK government invest between £125,000 and £5 million in qualifying businesses, who may have otherwise seen reduced opportunities for venture capital or private equity funding during the current climate.

What we know so far:

  • The Government will make unsecured bridge funding available alongside other private third party matched investor/s. The government loan shall be no more than 50% of the bridge funding being provided to the company by the investors.
  • The government’s investment will be made through a convertible loan note with interest accruing at a rate of 8% per annum (non-compounding), which is ‘rolled-up’ into the principal amount to be converted into the Government’s equity.
  • The bridge funding shall be used solely for working capital purposes and shall not be used by the company to repay any borrowings, make any dividends or bonus payments to staff, management, shareholders or consultants or, in respect of the Government loan, pay any advisory or placement fees or bonuses to external advisers.
  • The loan will mature after a maximum of 36 months.
  • On maturity of the loan, and at the option of the holders of a majority of the principal amount held by the matched investors, the loan will (i) be repaid by the company with a redemption premium (being a premium equal to 100% of the principal of the bridge funding); or (ii) convert into equity at the Discount Rate to the price set by the most recent funding round provided that the Government’s loan shall convert unless it requests repayment in respect of its loan.

Eligibility:

  • The company must be an unlisted UK registered company that has raised at least £250,000 in aggregate from private third party investors in previous funding rounds in the last five years and have a substantive economic presence in the UK.
  • It is available on new rounds of funding. The Government is not currently proposing to provide matched funding in respect of recently closed financing rounds.
  • Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or the Venture Capital Relief (VCR) based investments do not currently count towards the match-funding target.
  • If the company is a member of a corporate group, only the ultimate parent company, if a UK registered company, is eligible to receive the loan.
  • An eligible company shall also be subject to customer fraud, money laundering and KYC checks prior to any loan being made.

Applications:

  • The scheme is expected to open in mid-May 2020.
  • The application process has not yet been set out, although it is likely that the British Business Bank will administer the scheme and the application process.
  • The scheme will initially be open until the end of September 2020.

We say…

The Future Fund is likely to be welcomed by pre-revenue, knowledge-intensive companies. These companies may have been unable to access the other government business support programmes (such as CBILS) because they are either pre-revenue, pre-profit or relying on equity investment. You can find further details on this scheme at .gov here.

VAT Payment Deferral

If you are a UK VAT registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to (1) defer the payment until a later date or (2) pay the VAT due as normal. Please note it does not cover VAT MOSS payments and HMRC will not charge interest or penalties on any amount deferred.

We say…

This is likely to be a significant help for businesses with the immediate cashflow strains. It is an automatic offer with no applications required but you must still submit VAT returns to HMRC on time. If you normally pay by Direct Debit you should contact your bank to cancel your Direct Debit as soon as you can, or you can cancel online if you’re registered for online banking. Businesses will be given until 31 March 2021 to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims during this period will be paid by the government as normal.

HMRC Time to Pay

Time to pay for business tax: Businesses and the self-employed in financial distress can agree bespoke ‘Time to Pay’ arrangements giving extra time to settle tax affairs.

We say…

Each case must be agreed on an individual basis by contacting the helpline on 0800 0159 559

Income Tax Payment Deferral

The self assessment payment on account, that is ordinarily due to be paid to HMRC by 31 July 2020 may now be deferred until 31 January 2021.

What this means:

All UK taxpayers, including those who are self-employed, who were due to pay self-assessment income tax payments in July can now defer this payment until January 2021.

The deferment is optional and any persons still able to pay their second self-assessment payment on account on 31 July 2020 can still do so.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment of your 31 July 2020 payment on account until 31 January 2021.

We say…

No application is needed. Your business is automatically eligible and you can defer these payments without penalties. Any Income Tax refunds will be paid to you as normal.

£25,000 Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000 may be eligible for a grant of £10,000. Businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 may be eligible for a grant of £25,000.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the grant if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector
  • your business has a rateable value of under £51,000

Eligible businesses will be contacted by their local authority, though some local authorities have decided to operate an applications process.

Please note: If your business is eligible for the Small Business Grant Scheme and the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme, it seems you’ll get both grants. However this isn’t confirmed yet by the Government. Your local council are currently organising how to distribute the money and they’ll contact all eligible businesses. They’ll be in touch with you as soon as they can.

We say…

You should contact your local authority with any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of the grants. You can find your local authority at .gov here.

Commercial tenant eviction ban

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.

Many landlords and tenants are already having conversations and reaching voluntary arrangements about rental payments due shortly but the government recognises businesses struggling with their cashflow due to coronavirus remain worried about eviction.

These measures, included in the emergency Coronavirus Bill currently going through Parliament, will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months.
The amendment to the Coronavirus Bill on commercial leases will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It applied to all commercial tenants.

The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent. It will last until 30 June, with an option for the government to extend if needed.

Business Rates Holiday

Businesses in a number of eligible sectors will not have to pay business rates for 12 months, covering the 2020/21 tax period.

This will include hospitality, retail and leisure businesses such as:

  • Food, drink and retail: Shops, restaurants, cafes, takeaways, coffee shops, pubs, bars, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues (Including florists, bakers, butchers, grocers, greengrocers, jewellers, stationers, off licences, chemists, newsagents, hardware stores, supermarkets, etc), Charity shops, Opticians, Post offices, Furnishing shops/ display rooms (such as: carpet shops, double glazing, garage doors), Car/caravan show rooms, Second-hand car lots, Markets, Petrol stations, Garden centres, Art galleries (where art is for sale/hire)
  • The provision of services: Hair and beauty services (such as: hairdressers, nail bars, beauty salons, tanning shops, etc), Shoe repairs/key cutting, Travel agents, Ticket offices e.g. for theatre, Dry cleaners, Launderettes, PC/TV/domestic appliance repair, Funeral directors, Photo processing, Tool hire, Car hire, Employment agencies, Estate agents and letting agents, Betting shops
  • Sport, leisure and facilities: Cinema’s and live music venues, Sports grounds and clubs, Museums and art galleries, Nightclubs, Sport and leisure facilities, Stately homes and historic houses, Theatres, Tourist attractions, Gyms, Wellness centres/spas, Casinos/gambling clubs/bingo halls.
  • Hotels and accommodation: Hotels, Guest and Boarding Houses, Holiday homes, Caravan parks and sites.

We say…

No action should be required as these changes should be made automatically for your next business rates tax bill for April 2020. However, in some cases local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge so it is worth contacting them. You can find your local authority at .gov here.

£10,000 Small Business Grant Scheme

The government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Eligibility:

You are eligible if

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a business that occupies property
  • you are receiving small business rate relief or rural rate relief as of 11 March

Eligible businesses will be contacted by their local authority, though some local authorities have decided to operate an applications process.

Please note: If your business is eligible for the Small Business Grant Scheme and the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme, it seems you’ll get both grants. However this isn’t confirmed yet by the Government. Your local council are currently organising how to distribute the money and they’ll contact all eligible businesses. They’ll be in touch with you as soon as they can.

We say…

You should contact your local authority with any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of the grants. You can find your local authority at .gov here.

3 month extension to file your accounts

If your accounts will be late because your company is affected by COVID-19, you can apply for an automatic and immediate 3 month extension to file your accounts. Companies that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, may not be eligible.

We say…

You can apply online here providing the reason, your company number, your email address and any supporting documents (optional). You should hear back within 5 days to tell you whether your application has been successful or not.

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