Government Support for Businesses and the Self-Employed
The Chancellor announced further financial measures in a bid to secure the finances of business of all sizes as well as for self-employed individuals.
For much of this we await the finer detail but the following are the key issues that we believe are now relevant to our business and self-employed/individual clients.
Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Loans to be made available of up to £5M to businesses. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan and will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.
All the major banks will offer the Scheme once it has launched and our advice is for you to talk to your Bank or finance provider as soon as possible. The scheme will be available from early next week commencing 23 March.
Government Grants for Employee Salaries
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, with effect from 1 March all UK employers will be able access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salaries for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during the crisis.
Employers will need to designate affected employees as “furloughed workers” and submit information to HMRC through a new online portal. HMRC will reimburse 80% of the furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per employee per month. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement.
HMRC have announced that all UK businesses are eligible. However, it is not yet clear what conditions will need to be met for employees to qualify for the grant. It is also yet to be made clear whether this will apply to Directors of owner managed businesses.
Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
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. You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.
Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
The government will introduce a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020/21 tax year. There is no action required. It will apply to your next bill in April 2020 and local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge which they will do as soon as possible.
Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates
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 (SBBR), 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.
You are eligible if:
You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.
VAT payments will be deferred. This means no business will pay any VAT from now until the end of June and you will have until the end of the 2020/21 tax year to repay these bills. All UK businesses are eligible and this is an automatic offer with no applications required.
The Government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that the advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to enable a claim as long as all other terms and conditions are met. Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should therefore be covered.
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.
HMRC Time to Pay Service
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.
You will need to call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on: 0800 0159 559. Clients who have used this service already have been granted 3 month payment holidays.
Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance
Should you fall ill self-employed individuals are able to claim employment and support allowance (ESA) and/or Universal Credit. The weekly payment for ESA is typically £73.10 or £57.90 for people under the age of 25. Payments for Universal Credit have been increased so that the self-employed receive the same amount as someone on statutory sick pay (£94.25 a week).
Universal Credit may also be available if you are on a low income or out of work. You can receive a standard allowance plus extra if you have children or if you need help paying the rent. However this is a means tested benefit and many home owners will not qualify for this reason. It is also based on total household income. Applications are made online.
Self-Assessment Tax Payments
If you are due to make a tax payment in July 2020, this will be deferred and payable in January 2021 as part of your annual tax liability without any late payment interest charges. No application is required and you will be free to make a voluntary payment in July if you prefer.
Below is the latest feedback on applying for a mortgage holiday. We have already heard from many clients who have dealt with this successfully but it does appear to vary from lender to lender.
UK Finance, the trade body for Britain’s major banks, said: “Customers will need to apply for a holiday. Acceptance isn’t guaranteed but applications will be fast-tracked. Firms will help customers the best way for the individual, but an automatic payment holiday may not always be the most suitable approach and may not be required by all customers”.
Banks have said they are obligated under Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) rules to collect full arrears following any forbearance. Therefore accounts will still accrue interest, which will be recovered later, and the capital sum of the mortgage will be unchanged.
Homeowner’s credit score ratings won’t be affected. This marks a change in policy as consumers who had approached their banks about mortgage holidays before this week had been told their credit reports would suffer.
Lenders have now extended the scheme to buy-to-let landlords, and starting today no homes or buy-to-let properties will be repossessed for three months.
Please see below links to HMRC publications on all the measures that have been announced and covered in previous e-mail correspondence.
Although we are now working remotely, all of our systems are up and running as normal and we are available to discuss any of this in more detail if you require. Please call the switchboard on 0207 636 3702 if you require help during usual working hours or reply to this message and one of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.