COVID-19: Always up to date guidance for small businesses and the self-employed


Last Updated 1st April 2020 circa 23:30

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Next Planned Update: 2nd April 2020 circa 14:00



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The priority is clear: The health of the nation is paramount.

The Prime Minister’s address on the evening of 23rd March 2020 has made it clear, the priority is on health.

Follow the ‘lockdown’ guidance. Business comes second to your health and the health of the nation.

But for now:

 


 

Confused?

As we said in our last podcast, the chancellor has put in place some extraordinary measures to support small businesses and the self-employed amid measures to control the spread of COVID-19. But what EXACTLY can you do if you are a limited company owner/director, self-employed, or on a zero-hours contract!?

Many are not clear if the currently announced measures include them or not, and most agree what has so far been announced does not yet go far enough.

If you’re confused by the guidance so far, you’re far from alone.

We are constantly monitoring the official advice and will be releasing podcasts that explain how we think you can benefit. Currently:

Podcast 8 looked at the options for SSP for those who were self-isolating due to suffering from those two specific symptoms or following doctor’s advice after contact with someone who had been infected

Podcast 9 looks at all we now understand from this document, as of March 25th AM

Podcast 10 looks at the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme and the Self-Employed income Support scheme, and also suggests which is applicable if you are a limited company owner/director

All this advice is intended for small business owners and the self-employed (through a limited company or as a sole trader) and is being updated as details emerge. It should go without saying: it doesn’t constitute medical advice! Refer to the proper authorities for that.

 

Firstly: Beware scams

‘Good will payments’

Beware: “HMRC is aware of COVID-19-Corona Virus SMS scams telling customers they can claim a ‘goodwill payment’.” – see here for latest official details: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phishing-and-bogus-emails-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples/phishing-emails-and-bogus-contact-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples

Don’t fall for a scam. Refer to the official gov.uk website, and NOT via any link you are sent in an unsolicited message or email, but by TYPING gov.uk into your browser and searching for the information you need using the search box there. If you can’t corroborate an unsolicited text or email you’ve received with information you can find yourself on gov.uk, it’s probably a scam. Just delete the email or message.

‘£250 fine’

Another new one: “HMRC is aware of a SMS scam which states you will be fined £250 for leaving the house more than once. The message asks recipients to call an 0800 telephone number to appeal.” – you should neither reply, nor call the number. Even though the link in the SMS is to gov.uk/coronavirus, a legitimate resource (which is particularly troubling as it will lend confidence to the legitimacy of the SMS to those who follow the link) the SMS itself IS a scam. It is also listed on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phishing-and-bogus-emails-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples/phishing-emails-and-bogus-contact-hm-revenue-and-customs-examples

 

Regarding the Sick or Self-Isolating

If you are sick or self-isolating due to doctor’s advice or because you or someone else in your household has recently displayed either of the two identified symptoms:

If you are on PAYE and have been regularly drawing a salary of more than the Lower Earnings Limit (£118 per week or £512 per month), claim SSP from day 1 through your payroll system/provider. No doctors note is required, simply keep a record. That’s £94.25 per week for up to two weeks drawn from your company that the government will later reimburse – the mechanism for this is not yet in place, but it will no doubt be based on the SSP being noted on a proper payroll system linked electronically to HMRC via the so-called Real Time Information system. If you outsource your payroll, they can handle it. If you do it yourself, refer to your payroll software provider.

If you do not pay yourself via PAYE, like many limited company owners who pay themselves only dividends and the self-employed who calculate submit accounts and pay tax annually, Employment and Support Allowance is your first option for sick pay and is subject to pretty much the same restrictions above. Find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

Note: I do not anticipate that staying at home more generally due to the current ‘lockdown’ will count for the purpose of claiming sick pay, either through ESA or SSP.

If you are an employer, and some of your employees are off sick or self-isolating because they or someone else in their household has recently displayed either of the two identified symptoms:

For PAYE employees, pay SSP from day 1 with no fit note required. The government will later reimburse you if you had fewer than 250 employees on 28th February 2020, for up to two weeks per employee (see above, same advice)

For self-employed and limited company contractors – I am sure they know they are not entitled to sick pay from you, but you can direct them to ESA, as above. (You could also direct them here, as this page is intended for such folks!)

 

That’s it for sick pay. Since neither of these are particularly satisfactory on their own, all affected should also consider Universal Credit, further below.

 

Regarding paying your employees

Support for paying your PAYE employees

If they are working, pay them normally if you can. If there is no work for them to do, ‘furlough’ them (a status for workers on the payroll but sent home without work to do) rather than lay them off and HMRC will pay up to 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 per month. However, “HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.” so there’s no direct method to enact this now.

It is not clear if this approach works for workers who work PAYE but via an umbrella company with you, though I imagine it should – the guidance should make this clear. It will probably be your responsibility as the client to inform the umbrella company that process their payroll that they are ‘furloughed’ – your contract with the umbrella company may make this problematic. But, to be blunt, the umbrella company will probably prefer business continuity 3 months from now over losing a client and their workers from their books entirely, so I would expect them to facilitate this unless the guidance actively prohibits it.

As soon as the ‘online portal’ becomes available, we will let you know. Though I expect it will make major news anyway as it was announced during the Prime Minister’s daily briefing last week and we’re all waiting for it!

An HMRC document, produced for the point of view of your PAYE employees, has been made available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

An HMRC document, produced for the employers point of view, has been made available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Support for paying your self-employed workers

During the daily briefing on the evening of 26th March, the Chancellor announced a package of support for the self-employed stating that a grant will become available worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the previous 3 years up to £2,500 per month, for at least 3 months. They will be able to claim this and continue to do business, even if you yourself have limited or no work for them.

It is open to anyone with trading profits up to £50k for whom they make the majority of their income from self-employment, and who are already in self-employment, with a 2018-19 tax return filed.

Though it is only promised to become available from the beginning of June, it can be backdated to March and will be paid in a single lump sum.

It will be applied for via a simple online form and money will go straight into their bank accounts.

Additionally, the chancellor has decided to allow anyone who missed the 31st January filing deadline a further 4 weeks from today (26th March 2020) to submit their tax return.

HMRC guidance on the scheme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

For those who need cash flow sooner than this becomes available, support remains available from the other schemes here such as the Coronavirus Business Continuity Loan, deferred income tax payment, and the welfare system such as Universal Credit. For now, refer them to these schemes.

Support for paying limited company contractors

It has become clear that HMRC intends to allow the ‘furlough’ status to apply to limited company owner/directors who pay themselves a salary via PAYE.

The concluding paragraph of guidance on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme directs limited company directors to this scheme, specifically. Also, Ben Kerry (Head of Labour Markets, HMT) explicitly stated this during a CBI webinar (https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/daily-coronavirus-webinar-job-retention-scheme-27-03-2020/ – time stamp 27:20), saying, regarding limited company directors

“.. that does not disqualify them from being furloughed, so long as they are on PAYE payroll. I understand that they will have some statutory duties and obligations, such as filling out their accounts, and they will still be allowed to undertake those statutory duties while they’re being furloughed, so that would not count as ‘doing work’.”

“One of the key conditions for the furlough scheme is that the employee is not allowed to work for the employer, but if you are the owner/manager and you do have statutory duties, then you can continue to undertake those duties while being on furlough.”

So, unlike the self-employed, they cannot continue to work as normal, and must be ‘furloughed’.

This is partly reassuring, as it has not at all been clear until now that limited company contractors may be able to strictly speaking ‘furlough’ themselves as the limited company director, but it does make it clear that there will be no ‘80% offer’ to limited company contractors who pay themselves via dividends only.

For now, refer to the two current HMRC documents, though they are respectively aimed toward PAYE employees and their employers, and not specifically limited company owner/directors:

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

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

If your limited company contractors are explicitly excluded given the rules for this scheme, Universal Credit and the other help noted toward the bottom of this page may be all that is available.

 

Regarding paying yourself, the business owner

As a sole-trader

During the daily briefing on the evening of 26th March, the Chancellor announced a package of support for the self-employed stating that a grant will become available worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the previous 3 years up to £2,500 per month, for at least 3 months. They will be able to claim this and continue to do business.

It is open to anyone with trading profits up to £50k for whom they make the majority of their income from self-employment, and who are already in self-employment, with a 2018-19 tax return filed.

Though it is only promised to become available from the beginning of June, it can be backdated to March and will be paid in a single lump sum.

It will be applied for via a simple online form and money will go straight into their bank accounts.

Additionally, the chancellor has decided to allow anyone who missed the 31st January filing deadline a further 4 weeks from today (26th March 2020) to submit their tax return.

HMRC guidance on the scheme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

For those who need cash flow sooner than this becomes available, support remains available from the other schemes here such as the Coronavirus Business Continuity Loan, deferred income tax payment, and the welfare system such as Universal Credit.

However, the Chancellor, consistent with the concept of never letting a crisis go to waste (so loved by politicians), used the opportunity to promote the concept that this makes it “harder to justify inconsistent contributions” of the self-employed saying “we must all pay in equally in future”. It would appear that the government intends to conflate its responsibility toward the safety and security of all its citizens, and how it gathers contributions from society as a whole, with the differing in-work risks and protections available to the self-employed vs employed workers.

As a limited company owner/director

The Self-employed Income Support scheme will NOT be applicable to a limited company owner/director. The concluding paragraph of the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support scheme guidance document states:

“If you’re a director of your own company and paid through PAYE you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.”

This means that, as a limited company owner/director, you may only claim 80% of your salary through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. Your dividends will not contribute toward this calculation. Also, you will not be able to continue to work while ‘furloughed’ under this scheme, except for your statutory duties.

The current guidance documents for the job retention scheme still take the perspectives of either an employee or an employer, and not a limited company owner/director (who essentially is both employer and employee), however the point of view of a limited company owner/director was explicitly addressed by Ben Kerry (Head of Labour Markets, HMT) during a CBI webinar (https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/daily-coronavirus-webinar-job-retention-scheme-27-03-2020/ – time stamp 27:20):

“.. that does not disqualify them from being furloughed, so long as they are on PAYE payroll. I understand that they will have some statutory duties and obligations, such as filling out their accounts, and they will still be allowed to undertake those statutory duties while they’re being furloughed, so that would not count as ‘doing work’.”

“One of the key conditions for the furlough scheme is that the employee is not allowed to work for the employer, but if you are the owner/manager and you do have statutory duties, then you can continue to undertake those duties while being on furlough.”

So it is important to note that, unlike the self-employed, you cannot continue to work as normal. When asked if you can you do “even a few minutes work from home” for example, Ben stated:

“[the policy is] designed for individuals who would otherwise have been made redundant. One of the key criteria to this is they cannot be working for their employer while they’re on furlough […] Unless they have statutory duties, they shouldn’t be working for their employer.”

 

If it appears you will not be covered sufficiently by either schemes, turn to Universal Credit and the other help noted toward the bottom of this page.

 

Grants and Business Rate Relief

Can you get a grant?

If you occupy a property, are a retail, hospitality or leisure business and you pay business rates, or if you’re a small business in any sector that occupies a property and would pay business rates if it weren’t for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief, your local authority (e.g. your local council) will write to you. See the main document for more info.

Can you get a Business Rates Holiday?

If you are a retail, hospitality, leisure or nursery business. No action required, the council tax bill will apply this (a bill may need to be reissued but that will be taken care of). Again, see the main document for more info.

Otherwise?

Nothing for now.

 

Can you get a loan?

Registered for VAT?

A loan of a sort: a holiday from your VAT bill (20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020) which will not be due until the end of the 2020/21 tax year.

Explicit guidance has been added to state that: if you are VAT registered and want to defer your next VAT payment for the bill that would have been due between 20th March and 30th June 2020, you should cancel your direct debit.

“Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.”

Though this specific statement has since been removed, the advice remains in the official HMRC guidance document. This will incur no penalties or interest for late payment provided you “pay the VAT due on or before 31 March 2021.” – though you should probably ensure you allow for the different dates used for quarterly returns and make the full payment on whichever date your quarterly bill would be paid between January and March 31st 2021.

An official HMRC document on this has now been produced, available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19

Owe the Taxman?

“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.”

Again, a loan of a sort: the possibility of deferring payment on any self-assessment payments you are already late with. For this, call: 0800 024 1222

Paying Self-Assessment Contributions in Advance?

And another loan of a sort: “Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021.” – if this applies to you.

Cannot pay your commercial rent?

The government has now said that “Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.” for missed payments until 30th June, with the option for the government to extend this if needed. It’s another ‘loan in effect’ as it is not a holiday and you will still be liable for the rent.

Have one or more existing loans?

Contact your lender(s) and arrange a payment holiday if at all possible, thereby effectively getting a ‘loan’ at the amount of your existing repayments in the short term, with no new liabilities to add to your balance sheet.

Not enough?

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans are available up to £5m for 6 years, with no interest payments due for the first 12 months.

The fact that the government is providing the lenders with a guarantee worth 80% of the value is neither here nor there, you’ll have to pay this loan back and with interest.

Think hard about this.

How was your business performing before the coronavirus outbreak? How is it likely to perform afterwards, when the face of the country has changed? Will the government jump in to deliver on their guarantee if you struggle with repayments three years from now, or will businesses have to have gone bankrupt in order for the government to deliver on their guarantee to lenders? I suspect the latter, so this business loan is all on you and your business.

Is it a good idea to plug the hole for who-knows-how-long with a loan? Is it possible to temporarily suspend or cut-down your business activities rather than struggle on through? It’s your choice. Just, please, do not carry on with your business as if nothing is happening.

(In fact, it’s an important note that you may even benefit from the new places money is flowing, if one of your business areas is suddenly valuable – do consider this if you haven’t already. You can make money in a crisis without ‘profiteering’, just by doing something valuable that people or businesses want to pay for right now. Just look at the online video-conferencing marketplace, for example.)

Essentially, by taking out a loan to carry on through this, your business is absorbing some of the economic hurt of coronavirus by reducing your future earnings. Perhaps, if your revenue has been fundamentally reduced, then it is worth seriously considering suspending your business activities, furloughing your workers and signing yourself up for Universal Credit to come back in however many months time. You shouldn’t need to go bankrupt or close down completely to do this, but those options are of course always available.

 

Regarding everybody with reduced earnings

Universal Credit

This benefit is calculated using your actual income. This is true even if you have been in business for more than a year. (There was a restriction called the Minimum Income Floor that would have based your income calculation on the National Minimum Wage at a minimum, after 12-months. This restriction is currently removed.)

Guidance can be found at https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Also, Turn2Us offers a great benefits calculator, so consider running your anticipated earnings through that.

The basic element of this (and of Working Tax Credits if you’re still on the older system) has gone up by £20 per week from 6th April along with the usual annual minor rise, which all claimants receive.

Also, “From April, Local Housing Allowance rates will be increased to the 30th percentile of market rents. This will apply to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants, and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.” but I find this highly misleading as many local authorities already used the 30th percentile of market rents.

If you are already on Housing Benefit or getting the equivalent via Universal Credit, you can check the current LHA rates to see if 30% would represent a rise in the amount, here: https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/

Help with your home mortgage?

Mortgage holidays are available for up to 3 months – ask your lender. A great reference can be found at monesysavingexpert.com including a summary of what’s on offer from which provider, as far as they know. Ans as they note: “You will still be charged interest – but it’s added to the total cost and you get short-term respite.”

Help with your private rent?

Landlords who have a buy-to-let mortgage can also benefit from a 3 month mortgage holiday, so contact your landlord if you need a rent holiday and hopefully than can pass this on. They cannot legally evict you for 3 months even if they are unable or unwilling to help with that, according to the Prime Minister’s last guidance. However, details are light.

 

Miscellaneous Items

BIDs ballots delayed

In case it affects you, Business Improvement District ballots are being delayed, to allow local authorities to concentrate on more pressing matters.

You’re probably not insured against this

The guidance has been updated to reflect that the government has added COVID-19 to the list of ‘notifiable diseases’ (a technical category used by insurers and may be referenced in your insurance policy documentation) change the phrasing in a way to make it more clear that most are unlikely to be insured: “those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease should be able to make a claim” and that “The effect of the government adding COVID-19 to its list of notifiable diseases is to ensure that businesses with unspecified notifiable disease cover are able to make a claim – subject to the terms and conditions in their policy”

As always, check your specific policy. And if you can’t understand it, since insurance legalese is notoriously complex to comprehend, call your insurer.

If you’re in the events industry, you might also like to note that “event cancellation policies that include unspecified notifiable disease extensions should be able to make a claim for the necessary and unavoidable cancellation, abandonment, curtailment, postponement and disruption of their event for reasons beyond the control of organisers and participants (subject to the other terms and exclusions of their policy)”

‘Wrongful trading’ rules suspended

According to a recent daily briefing, and the associated HMRC press release at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulations-temporarily-suspended-to-fast-track-supplies-of-ppe-to-nhs-staff-and-protect-companies-hit-by-covid-19:

“The government will also temporarily suspend the wrongful trading provisions to give company directors greater confidence to use their best endeavours to continue to trade during this pandemic emergency, without the threat of personal liability should the company ultimately fall into insolvency.”

This will be “retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months” but the press release also notes:

“Existing laws for fraudulent trading and the threat of director disqualification will continue to act as an effective deterrent against director misconduct.”

 

Is there any way you can help?

If your business can help with things like:

– medical testing equipment
– medical equipment design
– protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
– hotel rooms
– transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
– manufacturing equipment
– warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
– expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement, engineering or communications
– social care or childcare

You can let the government know here

 

That’s it for now.

Updates will follow as they come to light.

 


 

References:

The most up to date guidance and support document for small businesses and employers, direct from gov.uk, can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

But that document leaves a lot of questions unanswered, which is why we will continue to monitor this and other sources as the help available expands and details on existing schemes emerge.

Also, the Business Support FAQ has been updated re coronavirus at https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/faqs/, but it offers little new information as yet. We will watch this document, also.

A specific, better laid out site at https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/ has now been launched – no new information there for now, but it easier to navigate and we’ll continue to monitor it.

HMRC official guidance outlining the specific support they are offering has also been launched, including:

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

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

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

Evidence in support of limited company directors claiming under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for their PAYE earnings, a CBI webinar in which Ben Kerry, Head of Labour Markets, HMT, speaks – https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/daily-coronavirus-webinar-job-retention-scheme-27-03-2020/ (time stamp 27:20)

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19

And the announcement of a tax helpline to support businesses affected by coronavirus – 0800 024 1222 – details on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

If you think you can help during this national time of need, see this page: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-support-from-business

The HMRC press release that notes the intention for ‘wrongful trading’ rules to be suspended, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulations-temporarily-suspended-to-fast-track-supplies-of-ppe-to-nhs-staff-and-protect-companies-hit-by-covid-19:

 


 

How has the advice changed?

Material changes to ‘COVID-19 Support For Businesses’ and other gov.uk advice and guidance documents:

31st March

– We found and referenced the press release from 28th March detailing how ‘Wrongful trading’ rules are intended to be suspended for limited company directors to allow them to trade through this with confidence they will not become personally liable for their company’s debts

28th-30th March 2020

– Business Support FAQs were updated to include a reminder that the planned ‘off-payroll’ (IR35) changes are not going ahead for the tax year 2020-21

– Minor changes to wording of HMRC guidance documents that improve clarity

– Ben Kerry (Head of Labour Markets, HMT) spoke during a webinar held by the CBI, clarifying the applicability of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to limited company owner/directors – see timestamp 27:20 of the following recording: https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/daily-coronavirus-webinar-job-retention-scheme-27-03-2020/

– Business Support FAQs overhauled the section ‘I employ people on zero hours contracts / gig economy workers. Can they access support?’ – previously this section directed the reader only to SSP and ESA – it now points toward the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme

– Business Support FAQs overhauled the section ‘What if I am self-employed?’ – previously this section directed the reader to Universal Credit, Rent deferral, Mortgage deferral, Tax Bill deferral, Business VAT deferral, IR35 deferral and (in a previous instance) Energy Bill deferral – it now points toward the Self-employed Income Support scheme

– The ‘COVID-19: support for businessses’ document was amended to better explain the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, brought clarity that it is ‘Self-Assessment payments on account’ that may be deferred, and no ‘Income Tax’ more generally, specifying 31st January 2021 as last payment date beyond which those payments would be once again regarded as late. Also, the Time To Pay service telephone number was amended from 0800 0159 559 to 0800 024 1222 (the old number was thus removed from this page)

27th March 2020

– New HMRC guidance documents launched, referenced above

– A new scam is noted regarding a ‘£250 fine’

– The Self-employed Income Support scheme seems to be inapplicable to limited company owner/directors, due to the concluding paragraph of the guidance document

– Business Support FAQs were updated to include a link to a resource to tell the government if you think your business can help: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-support-from-business

26th March 2020

– The general banner explaining the need to ‘stay at home’ was reworded, to little effect

– The main links at the top of the businesssupport.gov.uk website were updated to become more specifically focused on coronavirus – in particular we have started to watch the general page: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/ which appears to be a hub for detail on the available support

– The businesssupport.gov.uk FAQ page removed a list item suggesting that Energy Bill deferral would be available to the Self Employed. If it was not there in error in the first place, this might seem to indicate that the energy sector is unwilling to provide the support that the government had hoped it would be able to offer – since we had heard nothing about such support through any other channels, it may be simply have been an error.

– A resource at https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/self-employment-income-support-scheme/ was added to outline the new support available for the self-employed

– A more useful HMRC guidance document for Coronavirus Self Employment Income Support scheme was introduced, and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme (links to the businesssupport.gov.uk website, mentioned above, have now been replaced with this more authoritative reference throughout this page)

25th March 2020

– Commercial insurance section expanded with an event coverage section added, making it more clear that you probably are NOT covered, as ‘pandemic’ or ‘notifiable disease’ cover is not common.

– A link stating “Check the business support website for answers to frequently asked questions” was added, but the FAQ offers little new information as yet.

– The specific statement: “Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.” has been removed. Since the advice has not been formally retracted, it is just no longer being given, my personal recommendation would be to continue to cancel the direct debit if you need to. It has been amended to clarify that no late penalties or interest will be applied “if you defer payment until January 2021”, presumably to ensure it is not misinterpreted as inferring you would never attract penalties or late interest if you were to withhold payment indefinitely.

– A banner across the top of the site giving a general ‘stay at home’ message was added

24th March 2020

– Specific links to the guidance for local authorities were added for the rates holidays schemes, presumably because many were unaware of the guidance and were referring to this same document themselves

– Explicit guidance has been added to state that if you are VAT registered and want to defer your next VAT payment for the bill that would have been due between 20th March and 30th June 2020, you should cancel your direct debit – no late penalties or interest will be payable.

– Sections added to inform us that commercial renters are being protected from eviction and that BID ballots are being delayed

23rd March 2020

– Minor typos and clarity over the £15,000 vs £15,001 limit on rateable value for grants regarding property

– The section entitled “Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses” has had it made clear that these rates are related to property. This is a welcome change as businesses without property were unsure if they could benefit from these grants – they can’t.

– The section “Support for nursery businesses that pay business rates” was added

– The section entitled “Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme” was updated to make it clear that the scheme is now available through 40 commercial lenders, “including all the major banks.” with a list added, available here: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/accredited-lenders/

– Also, the following was added: “If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow”

– Under the section “Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility” a note was added that, rather than all UK businesses being eligible, there was a backtrack and now “All non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.” – presumably leaving some large financial institutions out in the cold.

– Also, specific links were added for businesses based in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as “some elements of business support are devolved”

 


 

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Posted in COVID-19.