Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What help is available?

This is an ever-changing landscape so we will be updating this page as soon any additional help is released. Perhaps the two most useful pieces of help released which most of our clients would be eligible for are the Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme & Support for businesses paying tax we firmly believe these should be the last resort as they are loans and will have to be repaid eventually. The government must go further and support businesses who are likely to be affected in the form of financial support, not providing a debt facility.

Key points for freelancers & small businesses

Tax helpline to support businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)

HMRC has a set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The helpline allows any business or self-employed individual who is concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus to get practical help and advice. Up to 2,000 experienced call handlers are available to support businesses and individuals when needed.

New HMRC helpline launched to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you run a business or are self-employed and are concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for help and advice: ☎️ 0800 024 1222.

For those who are unable to pay due to coronavirus, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:

  • agreeing an instalment arrangement
  • suspending debt collection proceedings
  • cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately

☎️ 0800 024 1222.
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm
Website: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

Get help and support for your business

Your business can get advice and financial help from government-backed schemes.

Business Support Helpline (England)
☎️ 0300 456 3565
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm
Website: https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline

Limited company owner?

Bad news for company owners!
Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the New self-employed income support scheme but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes. This isn’t ideal for people that take a minimum salary with the remainder in dividends.

March 11th Budget Key measures announced to help freelancers included:

  • The much-criticised minimum income floor in Universal Credit will be temporarily relaxed for those directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating, ensuring self-employed claimants will be compensated for losses in income
  • ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day
  • People will be able to claim UC and access advance payments where they are directly affected by COVID-19 (or self-isolating), without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

We will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

Support for businesses that pay business rates

We will introduce a business rates retail holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

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

If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.

Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch early next week to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.

Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

  • your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year
  • your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria

How to access the scheme

The full rules of the Scheme and the list of accredited lenders is available on the British Business Bank website. All the major banks will offer the Scheme once it has launched. There are 40 accredited providers in all.

You should talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them. This will help your finance provider to act quickly once the Scheme has launched. If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

The scheme will be available from the week commencing 23 March. The page has been updated 23/03/20

This has to be repaid eventually so we feel this should be a last resport and that the goverment must do better in supporting freelancers and small businesses

Support for businesses paying tax

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

This has to be repaid eventually so we feel this should be a last resport and that the goverment must do better in supporting freelancers and small businesses

Insurance

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim.

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.

20 March 2020: businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply to Companies House to request an extension to file their accounts, reports and confirmation statements.

The maximum extension is three months, but stringent conditions apply, the most important being that any appeal must be lodged before a company’s filing deadline.

Updated government advice states that all appeals are treated on a case-by-case basis, and the COVID-19 appeals process will follow the existing criteria based on those for unforeseen poor health.

Ruth Trainer, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at Companies House, told ICAEW: “If you are impacted by the coronavirus (eg, self-isolating) and cannot file on time you can apply for an extension and we will automatically grant a two-month extension.

If you’re self-employed or not eligible for SSP

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance.

If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home.

Support for businesses through deferring VAT and Income Tax payments

We will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months.

If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

VAT

For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

Eligibility

All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

Income Tax

For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021.

Eligibility

If you are self-employed you are eligible.

How to access the scheme

This is an automatic offer with no applications required.

No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities.

The show must go on

We understand that being fit and healthy is paramount in being able to serve our clients. That is why we are monitoring the developments daily and taking all necessary steps recommended by the government to reduce any risk to exposure of COVID-19.

Thankfully, we are set up to work remotely so can work from anywhere should the need arise to self isolate!

As always, Martin is available to talk via phone or video calling (Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime etc)

Can we ask that you schedule time in advance with Martin below


Useful resources

UK Government – Coronavirus: latest information and advice

UK Government – COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses

UK Government – Foreign travel advice

National Health Service – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Acas – Coronavirus advice for employers and employees

CIPD – Coronavirus advice for UK employers

Coronavirus: if your company cannot file accounts with Companies House on time