Covid-19 Business Support Update
In light of the recent Covid-19 situation the UK 200 Group (Association of independent Accountants and Lawyers), of which we are an active member, have been in contact with the Treasury and HMRC in order to gain some guidance on what support is available to businesses across the UK. With the rapid development of the current situation there has not been much confirmed by the government but as this develops we should know more and pass on what we know.
Time To Pay
HMRC are apparently going to be a lot friendlier with Time to Pay applications, and will even waive interest and penalties on late payments. Time to Pay is the service HMRC offer to companies which have defaulted on their corporation tax, VAT and PAYE payments.
The helpline number for this is 0800 0159 559, rather than the usual Time to Pay lines. The Helpline can assist with:
- setting up a time to pay arrangement,
- suspending debt collection proceedings, and
- cancelling late payment penalties and (unusually) interest.
The staff are also supposed to be able to help with other bits of tax-related help and advice, although it’s not clear what those might be at this stage (other than arranging for the collectors not to pay you a visit just yet).
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) has been made easier to claim and can be paid from the first day of absence due to Covid-19, or to self-isolation because it’s suspected. This mostly concerns internal HR systems as employees do not require a sick note from a GP and therefore reasonable checks on absences is down to the employer.
Employers with fewer than 250 employees are going to be able to claim back the first two weeks’ worth of SSP per employee. There is nothing yet in place for this but they say this will be set up ‘as soon as possible’. All these changes are due to come into effect from the day the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force, which was Friday 13 March.
They also have a sunset clause, expiring after eight months (13 November). So that tells us something about how long HMRC expect things to go on for. The main thing for employers with regards to SSP is how fast the repayment mechanism can be set up.
The self-employed will have to go through the benefits system, but can claim from the first day of illness or isolation instead of waiting for seven days. They can be classed as having limited capability for work, too.
Apparently those who are self-isolating will not be required to go to a jobcentre to prove it, and the whole claim procedure is supposed to be ‘quicker and easier’ than it currently is. Which is nice.
Various discounts have been announced, but nothing has yet been implemented. It therefore looks as though they’ll just feed through the normal system, which presumably means that rates bills which have already been issued will need to be recalculated.
For those with full rates relief anyway, funds are available to the local authorities to provide grants which are meant to be £3,000 per business. There are no details of how to claim - the process will presumably vary by authority.
The British Business Bank is to support up to £1bn of lending by guaranteeing up to 80% of loans up to £1.2m. This isn’t additional funding, it’s just supporting loans made by banks in the usual way.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that banks are getting a lot of enquiries from businesses looking for cash-flow loans, so one wonders whether one billion will be enough.
Author: Alan Taylor FCCA
A former pupil at Ripley St Thomas C of E High School in Lancaster, Alan joined Scott & Wilkinson directly from school in 1994 and qualified as an Accountant in 2001. Alan is the Partner with responsibility for the day-to-day...
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