Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Employers have been rightly worried about the cost of funding SSP for employees that are self-isolating or suffering from the COVID-19 virus. Especially as SSP is now due on day one of absences.

The Chancellor has now confirmed that he will create a means for employers to recover any SSP paid for the first 14 days of sick leave.

Additionally, employees who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.

Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week (increasing to £120 from 6 April 2020), can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

Business rates changes

In England

The government will increase the Business Rates retail discount to 100% for one year, expand it to the leisure and hospitality sectors and increase the rates discount for qualifying pubs to £5,000. Taken together with existing small business rate relief (which provides full relief for businesses using a single property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less), an estimated 900,000 properties, or 45% of all properties in England, will receive 100% business rates relief in 2020-21:

  • Businesses that received the retail discount in 2019-20 will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.
  • Those businesses eligible for the newly expanded retail discount and/or the new pubs discount may need to apply to their local authority to receive the discount.
  • Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority.

The government is also providing an additional £2.2 billion funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £3,000 to around 700,000 business currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. For a property with a rateable value of £12,000, this is one quarter of their rateable value, or comparable to 3 months of rent.

Regional variations in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland may need to be considered. To find out what your position will be contact your local rating authority or council.

Protecting cash flow – tax payments

It is unlikely that our businesses will be unaffected by the inevitable slow-down in economic activity as the Coronavirus outbreak starts to bite.

Maintaining a strict control over your personal and business cash-flow is going to be a key decider in surviving this process.

A major expenditure item is taxation whether that be VAT, PAYE/NIC, self-assessed liabilities or Corporation Tax.

We suggest that all businesses rework their cash-flow forecasts based on the revised trading outlook post COVID-19. Be realistic and tend towards less optimistic scenarios. If the outcome requires support from your bank you may be eligible for a government backed Business Interruption Loan – the government will guarantee 80% of the loan – make your application now based on your revised cash-flow.

And finally, all businesses and self-employed people 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 can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline for advice and support. To ensure ongoing support, HMRC has made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms and individuals when needed. For Time to Pay support if you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

And please call us if you need help reworking your cash-flow forecasts, negotiating loans with your bank or presenting tax payment deferment schemes to HMRC.

Changes to Entrepreneurs Relief

Prior to 11 March 2020, business owners could sell multiple, qualifying businesses during their lifetime, and as long as the total chargeable gains did not exceed £10m, a reduced rate of Capital Gains Tax of just 10% would apply.

Since budget day, 11 March 2020, this lifetime allowance has been reduced to £1m.

Business owners who are contemplating a sale of their business after the March date may need to rethink their disposal strategies as this change could potentially double the amount of CGT payable on their sale.

Please contact us for more information on this topic.

Tax Diary April/May 2020

1 April 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 30 June 2019.

19 April 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 April 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 April 2020).

19 April 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 April 2020.

19 April 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 April 2020 is payable by today.

30 April 2020 – 2018-19 tax returns filed after this date will be subject to an additional £10 per day late filing penalty.

`1 May 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 30 July 2019.

19 May 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 May 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 May 2020).

19 May 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 May 2020.

19 May 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 May 2020 is payable by today.

31 May 2020 – Ensure all employees have been given their P60s for the 2019-20 tax year.

 

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

The long-awaited statement from the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak regarding COVID-19 support for the self-employed has been announced. The Chancellor said that the scheme will benefit some 95% of people whose main income source is derived from self-employment.

A list of the scheme features as announced, and published, are as follows:

  • Those that qualify will receive a cash grant from HMRC based on 80% of profits, up to £2,500 per month,
  • The initial grant will be for the three months, from 1 March through to the end of May 2020, but could be extended for a longer period.

To be eligible, the following conditions will be taken into account:

  • Applicants must be self-employed or a member of a trading partnership,
  • Have lost trading profits due to COVID-19,
  • Have filed a tax return for 2018-19. Late filers will have four weeks from 26 March 2020 to do so,
  • Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID-19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21,
  • Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of total income from self-employment. This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
    • Your trading profits and total income in 2018-19,
    • Your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.

There is no need to apply to HMRC as they will contact you if you are eligible. HMRC will use existing data to make this judgement. The initial three-month grant will be paid directly to a nominated bank account in a single lump sum. The grants are expected to be paid out at the beginning of June. The reason for this delay is likely down to three main factors: the 4 weeks additional filing time for late filers, the requirement to set up a complex new system at the same time as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to reduce the risk of fraud.

It is assumed that those self-employed who have experienced a significant drop in income due to COVID-19 disruption will need to apply for Universal Credits or Business Continuity Loans to tide them over until June. This will be a challenging time for those affected as the demand for help will place significant challenges on the institutions charged with providing this support.

CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME (CJRS) – update for director shareholders

There has been uncertainty as to the position of director/shareholders claiming under the CJRS as their income is usually taken from their company as a combination of a low salary and dividends. In the news story published following the Chancellor’s statement on 26 March (regarding the Self-employed scheme) is a telling paragraph. It says:

Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme (the Self-employed Scheme) but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes.

This infers that directors will only be eligible for the CJRS based on their salary alone, and only if there is a proven PAYE record.

Further details of the CJRS are due to be published imminently and will be added to our newsfeed as soon as they are available.

Support with paying your taxes

Further support to businesses and the self-employed, to delay the payment of various taxes was announced last week. They include:

VAT

Any VAT that falls due for payment in the period from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 can be deferred until the end of the 2020-21 tax year.

This is not a cancellation of any liability that falls due in this period, merely a deferral. Businesses will need to ensure that they have funds to settle any arrears on or before the end of March 2021 (5 April 2021).

Any refunds due from HMRC will be paid as usual.

 

Second payment on account due 31 July 2020

It has been confirmed that self-employed persons’ self-assessment, second payment on account for 2019-20, due 31 July 2020, can be deferred until 31 January 2021.

Tax payers should be aware that as with the VAT offer, this is a deferral, not a cancellation of tax due. Those who take advantage will need to pay their second payment on account and any balancing payment for 2019-20 and any first payment on account – if any is due – for 2020-21.

Please call if you need to clarify which VAT payments can be deferred and the likely longer term cash flow effects if you defer the self-assessment payment on account in July.

In both cases there is no need to apply to HMRC to defer payments.

80 percent of your staff wages paid by government?

As one of the additional measures to support businesses affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, Rishi Sunak announced last week that HMRC is to step in and pay up to 80% of furloughed staff wages up to a monthly maximum of £2,500 per employee.

Initially, this sounded as if HMRC was going to underwrite 80% of our salaries bill; let’s be clear, this is not what is on offer. What is on offer is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. (CJRS) The following notes cover the basic terms and conditions.

What does “furloughed” mean?

Our first observation is that the word furlough has no legal significance. After reading the GOV.UK notes it is clear that this refers to staff that are laid-off as they cannot work during the current disruption to trade.

Ordinarily, business owners would probably be faced with offering these staff redundancy.

A furloughed worker is not someone who has been directed to work from home.

Furloughed can be defined, therefore, as an employee that is retained on your payroll but is unable to undertake any productive work.

What is on offer?

As noted above, HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed employees’ wages costs up to a maximum of £2,500 a month – this is the level of the national median wage.

Employers can make up any differential at their discretion, this is not compulsory.

The aim is to provide a basic income such that, when matters return to normal, staff can be recalled, resuming their normal duties.

How do we claim?

HMRC are building an online portal where employers can disclose the details of furloughed employees and make a claim under the CJRS scheme.

This is not presently available and best guess is payment will not be forthcoming from HMRC until towards the end of April 2020.

Action to take now

This scheme is a welcome addition to the other supportive grants and reliefs announced by the Chancellor in the past two weeks.

Business owners that were considering redundancies or more drastic measures may be able to use CJRS to retain their staff until the worst of the COVID-19 disruption has passed.

A word of caution. The details about the way in which the scheme will operate are sketchy at the time this update was written. As more information becomes available you will be the first to know. In the meantime, please call if you need our support to work through your options.

COVID-19 BUSINESS SUPPORT UPDATE

On Friday, the Chancellor went significantly further than in the history of this great country, with a series of unprecedented announcements in the Government’s support of businesses, employees and individuals.

The range of measures for UK businesses is significant and now includes the following:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
  • insurance coverage

 

Readers who are anxious about their businesses in these fast-changing and uncertain times are advised to call so we can help you plan for the next few challenging months. This would include a review of the following reliefs and those that you will be eligible to claim.

Each of these items is now explained in more detail below.

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme – You will need to:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation.
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required).

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month per employee. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.

 

Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments

Government has announced that HMRC will allow you to defer Value Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months. The deferral period will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

Additionally, if you are self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

  1. VAT Deferral. All UK businesses registered for VAT are eligible. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.
  2. Income Tax. For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021. If you are self-employed you are eligible. This is an automatic offer with no applications required.

 

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

HMRC are bringing forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force
  • the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

You are eligible for the scheme if your business is UK based, small or medium-sized and employs fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.

A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided in due course once the legalisation has passed.

 

Support for businesses that pay business rates

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

The government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020-21 tax year.

Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019-20 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

You are eligible for the business rates holiday if: your business is based in England and your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector.

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied premises that are wholly or mainly 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.

There is no action that you need to take. The relief will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.

 

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.

For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000, they will receive a grant of £10,000.

For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000, they will receive a grant of £25,000.

 

You are eligible for the grant if: your business is based in England and your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector.

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied premises that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues;
  • for assembly and leisure;
  • as hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

There is no action you need to take. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.

 

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 up to £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

You are eligible if: your business is based in England; you are a small business and already receive SBBR and/or RRR and you are a business that occupies property.

You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs and grants should be directed to the relevant local authority.

 

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch early week beginning 23 March 2020, to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.

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.

Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

You are eligible for the scheme if: your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year and your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria.

 

The full rules of the Scheme and the list of accredited lenders is available on the British Business Bank website. All the major banks will offer the Scheme once it has launched. There are 40 accredited providers in all.

 

Support for larger firms – the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Under the new COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies.

This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities.

It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

All UK businesses are eligible.

The scheme will be available early in week beginning 23 March 2020. More information is available from the Bank of England.

 

Support for businesses paying tax: 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 are eligible if your business pays tax to the UK government and has outstanding tax liabilities.

 

Insurance

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim as long as all other terms and conditions are met.

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.

 

APPENDIX 1 – REGIONAL VARIATIONS SCOTLAND

The following guidance is reproduced from the mygov.scot website

 

Help with non-domestic rates in Scotland during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Last updated: 20 March 2020

To help owners of non-domestic properties, including businesses, deal with the impact of COVID-19, the Scottish Government has made changes to non-domestic rates (business rates) for 2020-21.

The Scottish Government has introduced extra rates reliefs (discounts). It has also introduced a one-off grant for some businesses.

These reliefs will be available to non-domestic properties from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.

It will be possible to apply for the grants from April 2020 and they will be available to 31 March 2021.

The non-domestic rates reliefs and grant funding measures announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in March 2020 apply only in England. They do not apply in Scotland.

 

Extra reliefs to help with COVID-19

All non-domestic properties in Scotland will get a 1.6% rates relief. This relief effectively reverses the change in poundage for 2020-21.

You do not need to apply for this relief, and it will be applied to your bill by your local council.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get 100% rates relief. To get this relief, a property has to be occupied.

The Scottish Government are working with Scotland's 32 Councils to make sure this relief is administered in the most effective way. You can check this page for updates, including information on any application process.

You can get these rates reliefs even if you already get another relief for your property.

Grants

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value between £18,000 and up to and including £51,000 will be able to apply for a one-off grant of £25,000.

A one-off grant of £10,000 will also be available to small businesses who get:

  • Small Business Bonus Scheme relief
  • Rural Relief

You can also get this grant if you applied for Nursery Relief or Disabled Relief but are eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

You can only apply for one grant – even if you own multiple properties.

 

Applying for a grant and getting paid

The Scottish Government are working with Scotland's 32 Councils and other stakeholders to agree a common approach to the application process.

This should help make sure there's an effective and timely processing of grants as soon as possible.

Deferring payment of non-domestic rates

If you're struggling to pay your non-domestic rates bill you should contact your local council

Types of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses who qualify

This list is not exhaustive. If you think you may be eligible for this relief, contact your local council.

State Aid

State aid rules still apply in the UK until the end of 2020.

The European Commission are consulting with Member States on a number of temporary State aid measures. These measures aim to help with the financial pressures businesses face as a result of COVID-19.

The Scottish Government will work with the UK Government to make sure these measures can be adopted to help Scottish Businesses where possible.

 

APPENDIX 2 – REGIONAL VARIATIONS WALES

The following guidance is reproduced from the businesswales.gov website

The Welsh Government has announced a package of support worth £1.4bn for small businesses to help them during the coronavirus outbreak.

Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive 100% business rates.

Expanding on this support a new package providing in 2020/21, retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales with one year business rates relief and a grant of £25,000 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000.

It also provides a £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

Businesses that qualify for this support will not need to do anything to apply for this scheme. This will be administered through the Business Rates system. You do not need to contact your Local Authority about this, you will receive information in due course.

The links below will take you to further information on specific subject areas:

  • Development Bank of Wales – Information of services available via the Development Bank of Wales
  • Government Support – Information on support provided via the Welsh Government, including Business Rate Relief and Business Grant Schemes
  • BEIS guidance to employers and businesses about COVID-19 – Link to information and guidance from the UK Government on areas such as Statutory Sick Pay, Advice for employees which have travelled to high risk areas and home working

To delay the spread of coronavirus, the government has instructed some businesses and venues including all pubs, bars and restaurants to close. Further information on which businesses need to close can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-further-measures-on-social-distancing

 

APPENDIX 3 – REGIONAL VARIATIONS NORTHERN IRELAND

The following guidance is reproduced from the GOV.UK website

General guidance for employers

The UK Government has published extensive guidance for employers, including details on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and what to do if someone is suspected or confirmed to have the virus.

UK Government support for businesses

The UK Government has set out a package of measures to protect public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. Businesses in Northern Ireland can access the following schemes and announcements:

  • Businesses will receive government grants worth up to 80% of wages to keep workers in jobs. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will pay up to £2,500 per worker each month, helping those who are self-isolating or caring for loved ones. This scheme will be open from Monday 23 March.
  • Support for businesses through the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which will provide loans of up to £5m, with no interest due for 12 months. This scheme will be open from Monday 23 March and will be delivered through the British Business Bank.
  • Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees
  • Support for businesses paying tax
  • VAT payments for the next quarter will be deferred, so no business will pay any VAT for the next three months.

Northern Ireland Executive support for businesses

Invest NI have provided practical advice for business online here

Businesses in Northern Ireland can access the following schemes:

  • COVID Small Business Grant – Small business grant of £10,000 to be issued immediately with a cost of £267m providing support to 27,000 businesses in NI. This is for all businesses with a NAV up to £15,000
  • Hospitality, Tourism and Retail Sectors Grant Scheme – An immediate grant of £25,000 will be provided to companies in these sectors with a rateable value up to £51,000.

 

Information on these schemes will be made available at NI Business Info.

Further to this, the Department of Finance has announced a £100m emergency rates package for businesses. All NI businesses will pay zero rates for the next three months (April, May, June). This automatically reduces rates by 25%, in addition to any existing rate reliefs. This applies to all businesses and does not need to be repaid.

Business support helplines

HMRC tax helpline

HMRC has set up a helpline for businesses and self-employed people who are concerned about paying their tax due to COVID-19. Call 0800 0159 559 for help and advice.

Invest NI helpline

Get help with your business online, or by calling the Invest NI Helpline. Telephone: 0800 181 4422

 

The Latest Measures to Support Businesses

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlined a raft of further measures to support the UK’s ailing businesses, those affected by the forbidding COVID-19 outbreak. The list that follows summarises his announcements in the order they were announced:

 

  • The Treasury are making available £330bn of loan guarantees. These guarantees will underpin government backed bank loans on attractive terms. The loans can be used to support businesses through financial difficulties during the COVID-19 crisis. Note they are loans. At some point interest will be charged and repayments will have to be made. The Chancellor confirmed that if this level of support was insufficient, further guarantees would be forthcoming.
  • Support for liquidity to larger firms will be provided by low-cost, easily accessible commercial paper. Support for smaller firms will be accessed via the Business Interruption Loan Scheme previously announced – the initial loan ceiling of £1.2m is to be increased to £5m and no interest due for the first six months. Both of these schemes are due to be up and running by the start of next week.
  • Further measures are to be introduced to support airlines. No details as yet.
  • Businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors who have made claims for business interruption from their insurers due to government interventions, may have had difficulties making a claim. Government have now intervened and the insurers have agreed to pay up in appropriate cases.
  • Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value below £51,000, will also receive – in addition to the 100% rates relief previously announced – a cash grant of up to £25,000 per business.
  • In the same sector, the 100% rates reduction will be applied to all business irrespective of rateable value.

To clarify, the previous two bullet points mean that all businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector – shops, pubs, theatres, music venues, restaurants etc – will have no rates to pay for 2020-21, and if the rateable value of their property is below £51,000, they may also be able to claim a cash grant of up to £25,000.

  • The £3,000 grants to smaller business, announced last week, are to be increased to £10,000.
  • Mortgage lenders have agreed with government that individuals disrupted by the Coronavirus can have at least a three-month holiday from making mortgage repayments.

The Chancellor also hinted that there would be further support for incomes and jobs. Perhaps an increase in statutory sick pay or increased access to State Benefits. Watch this space.

What is not clear is how we claim for the various loans and grants on offer. We offer the following suggestions although the actual processes finally agreed may differ from these:

  • Rates reductions should be made automatically and revised statement sent by local authorities in the coming weeks for 2020-21. Contact your local rating department to clarify that this is so.
  • It is not clear how qualifying businesses will claim the grants mentioned in the above list – those that range between £10,000 to £25,000 – could be applications need to be made to local authorities or another government department. We will confirm as soon as details are released.
  • We assume that you will need to apply to your bank for the guaranteed Business Interruption Loan. It is likely that your bank will need up-to-date figures to back up your application. Please call if you need help preparing these.
  • At the time this update was composed, the government had still not confirmed how employers can claim back the 14-day cost of Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees. Again, we will publish details as soon as they are released.

Although not part of the Chancellor’s presentation, Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Barclay, made a further announcement to parliament last night (17 March 2020). The government are postponing the roll-out of draconian IR35 measures to the private sector that would have affected the tax status of many incorporated contractors across the UK. This a welcome change as it will defer much disruption in this sector until the worst aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak have passed. The new rules are now slated to come into effect from 6 April 2021, a year later than planned.

Our best wishes to all who are directly affected by this unprecedented outbreak. And please get in touch if you need more information or support.