Coronavirus: the latest help for businesses

The UK government’s reaction to the Coronavirus Pandemic and its financial support for businesses has ramped up considerably in recent weeks. Whilst the headlines may seem clear cut, there have been delays with accessing certain schemes which businesses need to consider in their planning.

What support is available?

Financial help, which includes the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, is currently available in the following areas:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – HMRC will reimburse UK employers 80% of wage costs (up to a cap of £2500 per month) for employees’ who would be laid off otherwise. The scheme will cover the cost of wages (backdated to 1 March 2020) and will run until the end of June 2020, subject to government review. Employers should submit their applications through the online claims portal, which went live on 20 April 2020. Whilst the Chancellor says there is no limit on what the scheme might cost, it may not be sufficient to avoid redundancies for some firms. Please see our detailed factsheet.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships), who have lost income due to the Coronavirus pandemic, may qualify to claim a taxable grant from HMRC worth 80% of the relevant trading profits figure, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months. HMRC will invite eligible self-employed individuals to apply based on those who have filed a 2018/19 filed tax return and who meet certain criteria. To find out if you qualify, please see our detailed factsheet.

Deferring VAT and Income Tax - no UK business will have to make a VAT payment between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. This is more welcome news and appears to be an automatic option with no application required. For ALL Self-Assessment Tax Payers, 31 July 2020 Self-Assessment Tax Payments will be deferred automatically and added to the payment due on 31 January 2021. No applications are needed and no penalties or interest will be added if you defer your payment made on account. Please see our detailed factsheet.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) - the government has agreed to pay for the first 2 weeks of SSP. Our Institute, ICAEW, understands that developing a mechanism to enable businesses to recover Coronavirus related SSP is some time away. In the interim, if funding this will be difficult you should try to at least contact HMRC to let them know. Please click here for our detailed factsheet.

Business Interruption Loans - government backed loans of up to £5m per business and up to £25m for businesses with revenues between £45m-£500m are available through the British Business Bank. Two further schemes - the Future Fund for high growth firms and Innovate UK for SMEs focussed on R&D - were announced by the Chancellor on 20 April 2020. Although government-backed loan schemes have been extended recently, we suggest speaking to your bank or existing finance provider in the first instance to ensure the greatest chance of success. Please click here for our detailed factsheet.

Business Rates Relief – A business rates holiday (100% retail discount) is available for all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. Businesses that have claimed business rate relief in the past are already in the system and no further action is needed as the adjustments will be made automatically. There are some grey areas for certain sectors and what qualifies as “retail”, so if you think you may qualify, but have never made a claim, we would advise you to contact your local authority. Please click here for our detailed factsheet.

Grants - additional funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 are available to small businesses through the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Funt (RHLGF). If your business qualifies, you should not need to do anything and your local authority should have written to you, however, you should contact your council urgently if you are eligible and haven't heard from them. Please click here for our detailed factsheet.

HMRC Time to Pay - the government have set up a helpline - 0800 024 1222 (open 8am-4pm, Monday-Friday) - for businesses and individuals to negotiate more time to pay. We would expect HMRC to be flexible during the height of the crisis but despite being manned by approximately 2000 advisors, we are currently finding that the HMRC helpline is often jammed, with some clients reporting that they’ve waited for more than an hour without getting through. If you are experiencing similar problems, we suggest that you write a letter to the relevant HMRC department, depending on what tax is due. Please see our detailed factsheet.

Facing challenging times together

We stand ready to help and will keep you abreast of changes as further details are released by the government. For further business tips, please see our latest guidance here: http://www.richardsonswift.co.uk/news-and-comment/coronavirus-our-top-tips-for-businesses.

If you would like advice on any of the issues raised, or for help with services like bookkeeping, cash flow management or payroll during the Coronavirus pandemic, please call us on 01225 325580 or email info@richardsonswift.co.uk.

Please note that this is only a summary of the main issues and should not be construed as advice. Every effort has been made to ensure factual accuracy at the time of publication (22 April 2020), however, the government response to the Coronavirus situation is changing 24-7, so it should not be relied upon completely.