Covid-19 Information Centre
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THE INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE IS LIKELY TO CHANGE AS THE GOVERNMENT UPDATES ITS POLICIES.
THIS SUMMARY WAS LAST UPDATED 23rd October 2020 AT 15:12.
As Covid-19 develops, so too will the information made available regarding what support there is for both businesses and individuals. In order to keep our clients as up to date as possible, and make useful resources readily available, we will be regularly updating this page with important information and links.
HMRC's New dedicated helpline number is 0800 024 1222.
Please use the tabs below to navigate through the different support available to you.
Job Support Scheme
A new Job Support Scheme will be introduced which will take over from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme from 1 November and will protect jobs where businesses are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Under the scheme, which will run for six months, the government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand.
Employers will continue to pay the wages for the hours' staff work. For the hours not worked, the employee will be paid 66.67% of their normal pay, of which the employer will pay 5%, up to a maximum of £125 per month, and the government will pay the remainder of the 61.67%, up to a maximum of £1,541.75 per month. This means employees will continue to receive at least 73% of their normal wages, where they earn £3,125 a month or less.
Employers will need to meet their share of the pay for unworked hours, and all employer National Insurance contributions and statutory pension contributions, from their own funds.
To be eligible, employees must:
- be registered on PAYE payroll on or before 23 September 2020. This means a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment in respect of that employee must have been made to HMRC on or before 23 September 2020
- work at least 33% of their usual hours. The government will consider whether to increase this minimum hours threshold after the first three months of the scheme.
The Job Support Scheme will be open to employers across the UK even if they have not previously applied under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which ends on 31 October.
The Job Support Scheme will start from 1 November and employers will be able to claim in December. Grants will be paid on a monthly basis.
The scheme will operate in addition to the Job Retention Bonus (the £1,000 bonus paid in February 2021 for retaining staff). Businesses can benefit from both schemes in order to help protect viable jobs.
SEISS Grant Extension
The grant that already exists for the self-employed will be extended for an additional six months. Self-employed individuals and members of partnerships who are eligible for the SEISS and are actively continuing trading but are experiencing reduced demand due to coronavirus (COVID-19), will be eligible for a further SEISS grant to provide support over the winter months.
The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November 2020 until the end of January 2021. It will be a taxable grant to cover 40% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £3,750 in total.
An additional second grant will be available for self-employed individuals to cover the period from February to the end of April, although this may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances. The government will review the level of support needed at a later date.
Extension to the reduced rate of VAT for Hospitality and Tourism
The government has extended the temporarily reduced rate of VAT (5%) to tourist attractions and goods and services supplied by the hospitality sector. This relief came into effect on 15 July 2020 and will now end on 31 March 2021 (originally set to end on 12 January 2020) across the UK.
VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme
If you deferred VAT payments that were due between 20 March and 30 June 2020, then these payments need to be made to HMRC by 31 March 2021. If you are unable to make these payments then the New Payment Scheme will allow you to spread these payments over equal instalments up to 31 March 2022, interest free. You will need to opt-in to the scheme but more information regarding this will be released in the coming months.
For those that can pay their deferred VAT, they can do so by making payments by 31 March 2021.
New Self Assessment Self-Serve Time To Pay Scheme
If you deferred paying your July 2020 Payment on Account, you will need to pay the deferred amount, in addition to any balancing payment and first 2020/21 Payment on Account, by 31 January 2021.
If you are unable to pay your Self-Assessment (SA) bill in full by 31 January 2021, you can set up a Time to Pay payment plan of up to 12 months online without speaking to HMRC. For SA tax debts of up to £30,000, then access to this Time to Pay facility will be available through GOV.UK and the taxpayer will get automatic and immediate approval. If your SA debts are over £30,000, or you need longer than 12 months to repay your debt in full, then the Time to Pay arrangement will still be available however you will need to call HMRC to arrange.
Extension of access to finance schemes
The deadline for arranging government backed loans has been extended to 30 November 2020. The four loans available to businesses are Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) and the Future Fund.
Pay as you Grow for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)
Additional repayment flexibility has been provided for those businesses who have borrowed under the BBLS which include:
- the option to repay the loan over a period of up to ten years which will reduce average monthly repayments,
- the option to move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which can be used up to three times);
- or to pause repayments entirely for up to six months (an option which can only be used once and only after having made six payments).
CBILS Loan extension
The government intends to allow CBILS lenders to extend the term of a loan up to ten years.
For the latest package of government support announced on 24 September 2020, please see the 'Latest Support' tab.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
For details of the recently announced Job Support Scheme see the 'Latest Support' tab.
In a bid to help retain jobs the Government announced in March that businesses will be able to apply to HMRC to be reimbursed for the wage costs of those employees who are not working. The Government announced in May that this funding will begin to be reduced from 1 August. Funding will now cover wages from 1 March 2020 for up to 8 months until the end of October.
To apply for the funding employers need to designate those employees who are unable to work as 'furloughed’. From 1 July 2020, there is no minimum furlough period and employees can be flexibly furloughed where they only work part of their usual hours. Employers can then apply for a grant to cover the hours not worked.
Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law. Where it is intended that employees will become furloughed or flexibly furloughed then employers should seek agreement of this with the employee in writing and keep a record of this.
Salaried company directors who are frequently paid are eligible to be furloughed and receive support through the CJRS. Where furloughed directors need to carry out particular duties to fulfil the statutory obligations they owe to their company, they may do so provided they do no more than would reasonably be judged necessary for that purpose. For instance, they should not do work of a kind that they would carry out in normal circumstances to generate commercial revenue or that provides services to or on behalf of their company. This also applies to salaried individuals who are directors of their own personal service company (PSC).
From 1 July 2020, employers will only be able to furlough employees that have already been furloughed for a full 3 week period, at some point, prior to 30 June. Employers have until 31 July to make claims in respect of all claim periods prior to 30 June.
Where an employee’s furlough period commenced after 10 June 2020 and before 1 July 2020 then the employee cannot be moved onto flexible furlough until they have completed a minimum of 3 weeks fulltime furlough.
The number of employees that an employer can claim for in any claim period post 1 July cannot exceed the maximum number of employees they have claimed for under any one claim prior to 1 July 2020.
From 1 March to 31 July the grant available for each furloughed worker will be 80% of the employee’s gross pay (capped at a maximum of £2,500 per month) and will cover both the employer’s national insurance (ER NIC) and the minimum employer pension contributions (required under auto enrolment) on this reduced wage. Employers must pay furloughed employees at least 80% of their normal wages for the hours not worked as they are not allowed to profit from the scheme. However, employers may choose to top up furloughed employees’ wages to 100% of their normal pay.
In August, the Government will continue to pay 80% of furloughed hours up to a cap of £2,500 but employers will then be responsible for paying ER NICs and ER pension contributions. For many smaller employers, the Employment Allowance will typically cover the ER NICs and so they will be less impacted by the change.
In September, the Government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours that the employee does not work. Employers will pay ER NICs, ER pension contributions and at least 10% of wages to make up the 80% total.
In October, the Government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours that the employee does not work. Employers will pay ER NICs, ER pension contributions and at least 20% of wages to make up the 80% total.
The above caps on the furlough grants also need to be adjusted so that they are proportional to the hours not worked.
Employees that have been placed on furlough will continue to accrue statutory holiday entitlement.
For further details about the changes to the scheme which apply from 1 July 2020 see our blog at https://www.scott-wilkinson.com/blog/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-version-2/
For further detail please find a downloadable PDF 'Complete Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme' guide at the bottom of this page.
Before making a claim we strongly recommend that your review HM Revenue & Customs’ comprehensive guidance below. It also includes both a number of useful examples and an online calculator.
Job Retention Scheme for Employers.
Job Retention Scheme for Employees.
Self-employment Income Support Scheme ("SEISS")
For details of the recently announced SEISS extension see the 'Latest Support' tab.
If you are a self-employed individual or a member of a trading partnership and your business has been adversely affected by Coronavirus you may be eligible to receive a grant based on your previous trading profits. Between March 2020 and 13 July 2020 you can apply to receive a taxable grant worth 80% of your average monthly profits up to a maximum of £7,500.
From August 2020 you can apply to receive a second and final grant equal to 70% of your average monthly profits up to a maximum of £6,570.
The grants are independent and so where you did not claim the first grant you may still be able to claim the second grant and vice versa.
The deadline for claiming the second SEISS grant is 19 October 2020.
The eligibility conditions for the first and second grant are the same with one exception. To be able to claim the first grant, the business has to have been “adversely affected” by Coronavirus on or before 13 July 2020. Whereas to claim the second grant the business has to have been “adversely affected” on or after 14 July 2020.
HM Revenue & Customs’ guidance gives the following examples of when a business might be adversely affected:
- The business owner is unable to work because they are shielding, self-isolating, on sick leave because of coronavirus or have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus.
- The business has had to scale down or temporarily stop trading because the supply chain has been interrupted, there are fewer or no customers or clients, or staff are unable to come in to work.
Another example might include additional costs being incurred to enable the business to comply with physical distancing requirements.
CLICK HERE for HMRC's Guidance on being adversely affected.
Other eligibility conditions
The scheme requires you have a trading profit of either:
- less than £50,000 in the 2018-19 tax year and this trading profit is more than half of your total taxable income in that year; or
- an average trading profit in tax years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits are more than half of your average total taxable income in the same period. If you only started trading between 2016 and 2019 then HMRC will only use those years for which you have filed a return.
Additionally the following conditions must be met:-
- you are trading when you apply, or would be except for Coronavirus
- you intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
- you have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to Coronavirus
- you have submitted a tax return for the tax year 2018-19 by 23 April 2020.
HMRC will use the existing information they hold to check if you are eligible. You can also check if you are eligible by using HMRC’s Eligibility Checker:
When checking if you are eligible you will need your National Insurance (NI) number and Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number. Once you follow the link and enter your NI number and UTR, HMRC will confirm whether it believes you are eligible to make a claim. At this point a link will guide you to the Government Gateway login.
If you do not have a Government Gateway Account then you will need to follow the link and set one up. It is important that you follow the link provided on the page to avoid setting up a Gateway Account for the wrong service.
Please note that as Agents we will not be able to make the claim on your behalf. This is due to the way the system has been set up by HMRC. However, we will be able to offer advice on eligibility and provide further instructions on how you can make your claim if requested.
For our detailed guidance on the first grant scheme, you should visit: https://www.scott-wilkinson.com/blog/self-employment-income-support-scheme-seiss/
Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are both operating a PAYE scheme and able to be furloughed.
For further SEISS guidance from HMRC you should visit:-
Business Bounce Back Loan Scheme
The Business Bounce Back Loan for small and medium-sized businesses is a 100% Government backed loan for amounts between £2,000 and £50,000 and up to 25% of turnover. There won’t be any interest or fees to pay for the first 12 months and then after this, a rate of 2.5% a year will be charged for the remaining period of the loan, although to avoid any fees you can repay early. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months and Loan terms will be available up to 6 years (now with the option to repay over 10 years under the recently announced 'Pay as You Grow' scheme).
You can apply for a loan if your business:
- is based in the UK
- was established before 1 March 2020
- has been adversely affected by coronavirus
If your business was classed as a business in difficulty on 31 December 2019 you’ll need to confirm that you’re complying with additional state aid restrictions. Check the business in difficulty criteria and state aid regulations here: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-schemes/bounce-back-loans/faqs-for-small-businesses/#f22
If you’re already claiming funding under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) then you will not be able to apply for the Business Bounce Back Loan scheme. However, if the loan you have received is £50,000 or under and you would like to transfer it to the Bounce Back Loan scheme then you will be able to arrange this with your lender.
This new scheme launched on 4 May 2020.
For further details follow the link to our blog on the subject:
There are 11 lenders participating in this scheme, you can find a lender here: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-schemes/bounce-back-loans/for-businesses-and-advisors/
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders and backed by the British Business Bank, to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. This will be available to businesses based in the UK with a turnover of no more than £45 million per annum.
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 and for up to 6 years (now with the option to repay over 10 years after 'The Winter Economy Plan' announcement). The Government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees.
Read our blog for more detail about the CBILS: https://www.scott-wilkinson.com/blog/cbils-made-more-accessible-to-small-businesses/
To apply you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers as soon as possible. All major banks are offering this scheme and if you currently have an existing loan with monthly repayments you can ask for a repayment holiday in order to help with cash flow.
Note Fishery, aquaculture and agricultural businesses may not qualify for the full interest and fee payment.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. Instead, those who have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate, will be able to obtain an “isolation note” by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form, rather than visiting a doctor. This scheme is set to launch on 26 May 2020. See HMRC's website for full guidance on eligibility and claiming: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19
Business Rates Holiday
If you are a UK business and your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector, which includes properties being used:
- as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
- for assembly and leisure
- as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation
Then no business rates are payable for the 2020-2021 tax year. This will therefore apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible. You do not need to take any action as the relief is automatic. This has also been extended to include estate agents, lettings agencies and bingo halls.
There are two types of grant available the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) and the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF). Both of these grants will be taxable.
For the RHLGF a grant up to £25,000 per property will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of
- under £15,000, they will receive a grant of £10,000.
- between £15,000 and £51,000, they will receive a grant of £25,000.
Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs and grants should be directed to the relevant local authority.
Lancaster City Council are now paying the Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses grant, to apply please follow this link: https://www.lancaster.gov.uk/forms/ShowForm.asp?fm_fid=262
The SBGF is available for other types of businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief. A one-off grant of £10,000 will be provided to help meet their ongoing business costs. Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by the government in early April. You should contact your local authority for further guidance.
Lancaster City Council has opened applications for businesses to apply for this grant and also receive an advance. See the link to our blog on how you can access this:
South Lakeland District Council:
Wyre Borough Council:
Craven District Council:
Time to Pay
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 have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, you should call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.
Deferring VAT Payments
For businesses that are VAT registered you will now be able to defer any payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. This is an automatic offer and you do not have to agree this with HMRC. Those that do defer will be given until 31 March 2021 to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during this period (payments due can be spread over 11 equal instalments over 2021-22, see 'Latest Support' tab for more details). VAT refunds and rebates will be paid by the government as normal.
Although no payments will be due between these dates it is important to note that VAT returns are still to be submitted by the usual statutory deadline.
If you make your VAT payments via Direct Debit and you are unable to pay then you will need to cancel the direct debit with your bank. You should do so in sufficient time to make sure HMRC do not automatically take the payment. When the deferral period ends on the 30 June 2020 then for VAT payments due after this date that you wish to pay via Direct Debit, you will have to reinstate the Direct Debit to HM Revenue & Customs. You can do this via the link below.
Companies House filing extensions
As of the 25 March 2020 companies will be able to apply to companies house for a 3 month filing extension. This is a joint initiative between the Government and Companies House which hopes to enable businesses to prioritise managing the impact of the coronavirus. If it becomes apparent that accounts will not be filed on time due to your company being affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19), you may make an application to extend the period allowed for filing. Prior to this announcement, applications would be reviewed on a case by case basis however now if you cite Covid-19 as your reason for an extension this will automatically be approved. If you do not apply for an extension and your accounts have been filed late, an automatic penalty will be imposed. You can apply here:
For the latest package of government support announced on 24 September 2020, please see the 'Latest Support' tab.
Universal Credit for self-employed
If you are self-employed and not claiming tax credits then you may able to claim Universal Credit, provided you meet certain criteria. These include:-
- you’re on a low income or out of work
- you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
- you’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)
- you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
- you live in the UK
Under the Universal Credit rules the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) assumes that those who are self-employed work 35 hours per week and earn the minimum wage. However, from 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be relaxed for all claimants for the duration of the outbreak. In addition, the requirement to attend the JobCentre in person is suspended.
The Chancellor has said that he is increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance (and separately the basic element of Working Tax Credit) by £20 per week. This means that for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.
For further details about Universal credit and making a claim see:
Sick pay for self-employed workers
Self-employed workers do not have access to statutory sick pay (SSP), but the government has said that if you are ill, or you have been advised to self-isolate, you will be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You may also still be able to claim Universal Credit.
To be eligible you need to have paid NI contributions in the last 2 to 3 years through an employment or a self-employment.
If you are eligible for new style ESA and have coronavirus or are advised to stay at home then the benefit will now be payable from day one of sickness rather than day eight.
The weekly payment for ESA is typically £73.10 or £57.90 for people under the age of 25.
For further details about new style ESA and making a claim see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for employees
Employees who have COVID-19 or are told to self-isolate will be eligible for statutory sick pay from their employer. The employee will not need to provide a GP fit note. Instead, they will be able to obtain an “isolation note” by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form, rather than visiting a doctor.
Deferring Income Tax Payments
For Income Tax Self Assessment payments, the second payment on account due on 31 July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021 for those that are self employed. This is an automatic offer with no applications required and no interest or late payment fees will be charged during the deferral period. HMRC have confirmed this also applies to those that are not self employed but make income tax POA such as landlords etc. Any Self Assessment bills due by 31 January 2021 can now be paid over 12 months using HMRC's Time to Pay service, interest free. See the 'Latest Support' tab for more details.
Mortgage and Rent Holiday
Mortgage borrowers can apply for a three month payment holiday from their lender. Both residential and buy-to-let mortgages are eligible for the holiday. It is important to remember that borrowers still owe the amounts that they don't pay as a result of the payment holiday. Interest will continue to be charged on the amount they owe. It is likely that the lender will then spread your outstanding payments and interest over the remaining term of your mortgage so you will see an increase in your monthly repayments when the 3 month holiday is over. Each lender will be different so the best thing to do if you wish to apply for this is to contact your lender.
Tenants can apply for a three-month payment holiday from their landlord. No one can be evicted from their home or have their home repossessed over the next three months.
- HMRC have deferred the deadline for MTD 'digital links' until 1 April 2021, read more on our blog.
- HMRC have now updated their Coronavirus hotline number. The new number to call is 0800 024 1222 which will replace the original 0300 hotline number. This new hotline will be open 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday only.
- As of 1 April 2020 the spending limit for contactless card payments will be increased from £30 to £45 in a bid to reduce the use of paper money during the current pandemic.
- The Bank of England has cut interest rates again in an emergency move as it tries to support the UK economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. It is the second cut in interest rates in just over a week, bringing them down to 0.1% from 0.25%. Interest rates are now at their lowest level in history.
- The Bank said it would also increase its holdings of UK government and corporate bonds by £200bn effectively pumping more money into the economy.
Gov - Guidance for employers and businesses on Covid-19:
Gov - Covid-19 what you need to do:
Gov - Covid-19 Support for businesses:
Gov - Covid-19 Guidance for employees:
Gov - Guidance on Non-essential businesses and premises:
Gov - Guidance for the Charity Sector: