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 27th July 2020 AT 09:04.

 

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.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

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.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Job Retention Scheme for Employees.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

 

 

Self-employment Income Support Scheme ("SEISS")

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 first SEISS grant is 13 July 2020.

“Adversely affected”

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.

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:

https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference

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:-

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-hmrc-works-out-total-income-and-trading-profits-for-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme

 

 

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.

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:

https://www.scott-wilkinson.com/blog/new-business-bounce-back-loan-scheme/

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. 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.

https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

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.

 

 

Grants

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: 

https://www.scott-wilkinson.com/blog/lancaster-city-council-business-grant-advance/

South Lakeland District Council:

https://selfservice.southlakeland.gov.uk/renderform.aspx?t=93&k=0C44CDB3AE6713461719E20CC39A2EA7CF2010AA&refresh=1

Wyre Borough Council:

https://www.wyre.gov.uk/coronabusinessgrant

Blackpool Council:

https://www.blackpool.gov.uk/Business/Business-rates/COVID-19-update/Latest-Information.aspx

Craven District Council:

https://www.cravendc.gov.uk/business/business-rates/business-rates-government-grants/?fbclid=IwAR3VJ_qHuEmtxfDGpn_emKREKduww6MaHCuhn9awXf6mo0o-X4P23I1Y7q4

 

 

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. 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.

https://www.gov.uk/pay-tax-direct-debit

 

 

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:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-more-time-to-file-your-companys-accounts

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:

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

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