COVID-19 Hub

As part of our commitment to you and your business we are doing our utmost to

keep you updated on the government's latest announcements and advice for business. 

Please keep checking this page for information and resources to help you during these

difficult times.

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10 August Second Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Grants

The opening date for applications for the SEISS second grant is Monday 17 August 2020. The first grant covered a three month period to 13 July 2020. The second grant will cover the three months commencing 14 July 2020. If you could not claim for the first grant, you may qualify for the second if your circumstances have changed. Similarly if you claimed for the first grant that does not give you automatic rights to claim for the second. See our guidance for more information.

3 August Eat Out to Help Out Scheme Launches

Restaurants, cafes, pubs and other food service businesses can sign up to be fully reimbursed for the 50% discount of up to £10 per head they give to their customers.  The discount can be used unlimited times and will run from Mondays to Wednesdays throughout August. Find out more about the scheme, eligibility and how to register your business from our latest Eat Out to Help Out guidance

1 August Furloughed Workers to Receive Full Redundancy Payments

New legislation effective from 31 July has been introduced to ensure furloughed employees receive statutory redundancy pay based on their normal wages, rather than a reduced furlough rate (potentially 80% of their normal wage). Employees with more than two years' continuous service who are made redundant are usually entitled to a statutory redundancy payment that is based on length of service, age and pay, up to a statutory maximum. Whilst the majority of businesses have 'done the right thing' by their employees, there are a minority who have not, the government has said.

31 July Changes to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Previously businesses which were classed as ‘undertakings in difficulty’ were unable to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme due to EU rules. These are usually businesses with high levels of debt and accumulated losses.

However, from 30 July CBILS has been opened up to smaller businesses who are not insolvent or receiving rescue aid. Insufficient security is no longer a condition to access the scheme.

Loans of up to £5m will be made available to businesses which have fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £9m.

30 July SME Recovery Funding

Thousands of smaller businesses in England are set to benefit from £20 million of new government funding to help them recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government has announced.

Small and medium sized businesses will have access to grants of between £1,000 - £5,000 to help them access new technology and other equipment as well as professional, legal, financial or other advice to help them get back on track.

29 July Overclaimed COVID-19 Grants

Finance Act 2020 also gives HMRC the power to recover grant payments if a recipient is not entitled to them, as well as the ability to charge penalties.

The law states that the onus is on the taxpayer to notify HMRC if they have overclaimed COVID-19 grants. A taxpayer who has overclaimed a grant and not repaid it must notify HMRC by the latest of either:

•  90 days after the date they received the grant they were not entitled to
•  90 days after the date they received the grant that they were no longer entitled to keep because their circumstances changed
•  20 October 2020.

HMRC has published guidance on how to repay overclaimed COVID-19 grants

9 July 2020 Recovery Advice Scheme for Small Businesses

The government-backed Recovery Advice for Business Scheme gives small firms access to free, one-to-one advice with an expert adviser to help them through the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for long-term recovery.

Advice offered includes bespoke, specialist assistance from accountancy, legal and advertising experts, as well as marketing, recruitment and tech advice to help businesses adapt to difficult circumstances and bounce back as the UK economy recovers.

The Recovery Advice for Business Scheme runs until 31 December 2020. Further information on accessing the support can be found here.

8 July 2020 Economic Update - Summer Statement 2020 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered a summer statement yesterday, 8 July 2020, outlining his ambitions for a recovery from the economic harm done from COVID-19.

Headline measures announced:

  • Employers can claim a £1,000 jobs retention voucher for each employee they bring back from furlough and into a job 
  • A new kick start scheme will provide grants to incentivise the creation of new jobs for the under 25's
  • A stamp duty land tax holiday will raise the tax free threshold to £500,000 with the intention of stimulating the housing market
  • For food and non-alcoholic drinks, accommodation and attractions, VAT will be cut from 20% to 5% until January 2021
  • And to further stimulate the struggling hospitality industry, the Government will underwrite a dining-out discount throughout August 2020.

For more details about these measures please see our special report: Economic Update Summer 2020 

6 July 2020 Support Package for Arts, Heritage & Culture Sectors 

The Government announced yesterday, 5 July 2020, a £1.57 billion support package for the arts, heritage and culture sectors to help with the impact of COVID-19. UK theatres, galleries, museums and other cultural venues will be eligible, along with independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues.

The support package includes: 

  • £1.15 billion for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans. This will be made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million in grants.
  • £100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
  • £120 million capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisations including Arts Council England, Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Films Institute will help with the award decisions. 

Repayable finance will be issued on generous terms tailored for cultural institutions to ensure they are affordable. Further details will be set out when the scheme opens for applications in the coming weeks.

12 June 2020 - SEISS Deadline for First Grant Applications

The Government has said applications for the first SEISS grant must be made by Monday 13 July 2020.  

Eligibility for the second grant is the same as the first grant but a separate claim has to be made and those claiming will have to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by COVID-19 on or after 14 July 2020.
 
Businesses can claim for the second grant even if they did not claim the first grant as long as their circumstances have changed due to COVID-19 and all other criteria are met.

1 June 2020 - SEISS Second Grant Announced and CJRS Update

On Friday 29 May, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a “second and final grant” under the self-employed income support scheme, with applications to open in August.

The second grant will cover 70% of average monthly trading profits for three months, and will be capped at a total of £6,570.

Sunak also announced that the coronavirus job retention scheme will finish at the end of October. The scheme will also close to new entrants on 30 June, so it will only be available to those who were already using it.

From 1 July, employers will be able to agree any working arrangements with their previously furloughed employees, including part-time work. They will be responsible for paying employees’ wages while in work.

Support under the job retention scheme will then begin to taper off as follows:

  • August: The Government will pay 80% of employees’ wages up to £2,500, but employers will pay employer national insurance contributions (ER NICs) and pension contributions.
  • September: The Government will pay 70% of wages, up to £2,187.50. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions, plus 10% of staff wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500).
  • October: The Government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions, and 20% of wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500).

13 May 2020 - Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Opens 

The self-employed income support scheme opened for claims today. This offers self-employed people a taxable grant of 80% of their monthly trading profits, paid in a lump sum to cover three months, and capped at £7,500 in total.

Self-employed individuals must use this service to make the claim themselves – accountants cannot make a claim on a client’s behalf. However, you can advise them on whether or not they might be eligible, using HMRC’s online eligibility checker, and help them to find the details they need to apply.

12 May 2020 - Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Extension

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the coronavirus job retention scheme until the end of October.

He said there will be no further changes to the scheme until the end of July, but that from August it will offer “greater flexibility” to support the transition back to work, by allowing employers to bring furloughed members of staff back part-time.

It will also require employers to make a contribution to the cost of salaries.

The full details are expected to be released by the end of May, but Sunak stressed that while this scheme is open, workers will continue to receive the same level of support as they do now, at 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has also issued new guidance on how businesses can operate safely during the pandemic. The guides cover eight different types of work, with information on how social distancing can be implemented.

11 May 2020 - Plan for Easing Lockdown Announced

In an address to the nation on Sunday 10 May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a “conditional plan” for easing lockdown restrictions. He said a new five-level alert system will determine the rate at which restrictions are lifted.

The plan, which will depend on whether conditions for combating COVID-19 are met, includes the following steps:

  • From Wednesday 13 May, those who cannot work from home, such as workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors, are being encouraged to go to work but have been told to avoid using public transport. Those who are able to work from home should continue to do so.
  • From 1 June, shops and schools could be reopened in phases.
  • From 1 July, some hospitality businesses and other public places could reopen – but only “if the numbers support it”.

The Government has published a 60-page guidance document on its COVID-19 recovery strategy, which can be found here.

4 May 2020 - Additional Grant Scheme

On Saturday 2 May, the Government announced an additional grant scheme designed to plug a gap in provision of support for businesses operating from shared working spaces and not paying business rates.

The local authority discretionary grant fund is worth £617 million in total – a 5% increase on the £12.33 billion already pledged – and is expected to help market traders and those in co-working office spaces. Councils have been told to use their discretion in deciding which types of business might be eligible, based on local knowledge and need.

Grants are capped at £25,000 and apply only to firms with fewer than 50 employees trading on or before 11 March 2020.

Businesses claiming the new grant will be expected to demonstrate that they have ongoing fixed building-related costs and have suffered a fall in income due to COVID-19. Those already claiming via existing grant schemes or through the self-employment income support scheme will not be able to access this additional funding.

Working from Home during COVID-19 

For advice on homeworking, claiming expenses and HMRC's rules and weekly tax limits, see our latest guidance here

Spotting Phishing Emails

With the increase of home working has come the rise of cyber criminality. Latest figures from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, already show a loss of over £2 million just for COVID-19 related reports, and with cybercrime known for being under reported there is likely to be more.

Click on the following link for tips on how to spot a scam email https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7tbJVSInvo&feature=youtu.be

27 April 2020 - Bounce Back Loan Scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new micro-loan scheme called Bounce Back Loans, which offers loans of 25% of a business’s turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000, with the Government paying 100% of the interest for the first twelve months.

Sunak promised there will be “no forward-looking tests of business viability; no complex eligibility criteria; just a simple, quick, standard form for businesses to fill in”, and said the loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval for most firms.

The scheme is due to open from 9am on 4 May 2020.

Measures have also been put in place to protect high street businesses against aggressive debt recovery actions. These include a temporary ban on the use of statutory demands made between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, and on winding-up petitions presented from 27 April 2020 to 30 June 2020.

24 April 2020 -Business support finder

To find out what financial support is available to employers and the self employed affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the government has launched an online tool where you can check your eligibility for loans, tax relief and cash grants.

21 April 2020: Self-employment Income Support Scheme Update

HMRC has released further guidance on how to claim the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme. Please note the online service you will use to claim is not available yet. HMRC is aiming to contact claimants by mid May 2020 and will make payments by early June 2020.

20 April 2020: Job Retention Scheme Portal Now Open and Future Fund Announced for Startups

Today, 20 April 2020, the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) portal opened, receiving 67,000 applications for furlough payments in the first ten minutes. It can be accessed via the gov.uk website. For more information about the scheme and how to claim please see our guidance.

CJRS was extended last week, up to the end of June. The cut-off date was also changed so it covers people on payroll on or before 19 March, instead of 28 February as originally announced.

A new scheme to support startups, called the Future Fund, was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday, 19 April. The £1.25 billion fund is designed to help firms not eligible for funding through existing coronavirus support schemes. It will provide loans to UK-based companies, from £125,000 to £5 million, as long as they’ve found at least equal funding from private investors. Further detail is expected soon but applications are expected to open in May. Your business may be eligible if:

  • it is based in the UK
  • has appropriate funding from private investors and institutions
  • has previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment in the past 5 years.

Finally, in the past week councils have urged businesses notified of their eligibility for business support grants to complete their applications. Although at the time the grant schemes were announced businesses were told they would need to take no action, it is necessary to complete an application to receive this funding.

This video from Giles Mooney (tax commentator and provider of Morris Crocker's continued staff training) summarises the latest government measures as at 19 April 2020. 

8 April 2020: Support for Charities

Charities across the UK will receive a £750 million package of support to ensure they can continue their vital work during the coronavirus outbreak, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced today.

  • £750 million pot for frontline charities across the UK – including hospices and those supporting domestic abuse victims
  • £360 million direct from government departments and £370 million for smaller charities, including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund
  • government will match donations to the National Emergencies Trust as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraiser later this month – pledging a minimum of £20 million

Tens of thousands of charities providing vital services will benefit from direct cash grants to ensure they can meet increased demand as a result of the virus as well as continuing their day-to-day activities supporting those in need.

3 April 2020: Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The coronavirus business interruption loan scheme for struggling businesses has been revamped.

In addition to the previous offering, it will offer state-backed loans of up to £25 million for larger firms with turnover of between £45m and £500m.

UK Finance said more than 130,000 loan enquiries had been made since the scheme opened, but less than 1,000 had been approved by banks.

In response, the Government will underwrite 80% of these loans to nudge banks into speeding up the provision of these emergency funds.

Banks will also be banned from asking company owners to underwrite loans of up to £250,000 with their own assets, such as property or savings.

2 April 2020: Job Retention Scheme - Contingent Workers

The coronavirus job retention scheme now applies to off-payroll contractors working for public-sector organisations.

Furlough can be offered to all public-sector workers, including those paid under PAYE, through an umbrella or their own personal service company.

1 April 2020: Making Tax Digital Deferral

The second phase of Making Tax Digital for VAT, which introduces more complex technology and stringent rules, has been deferred for 12 months.

New rules around the way digital firms link their MTD software and how they upload their VAT returns will now kick in on 1 April 2021.

27 March 2020: Job Retention Scheme Update

Full guidance has now been published setting out how businesses can claim through the coronavirus job retention scheme. Some key details are as follows:

  • Only employers that created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 28 February 2020 are eligible.
  • The scheme covers full-time employees, part-time employees, employees on agency contracts and employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.
  • Employees made redundant after 28 February 2020 but rehired by their employer can be furloughed.
  • Employees hired after 28 February cannot be furloughed.
  • To make a claim, employers will need to provide:
  1. ePAYE reference number
  2. number of employees being furloughed
  3. the claim period
  4. amount claimed
  5. bank account number and sort code
  6. contact name and number.

26 March 2020: Support for Self-Employed People, at last

Having been under pressure for the past week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced measures to support self-employed people whose earnings have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Self-employed income support scheme (SEISS)

  • Those who are already self-employed and facing financial difficulties are asked to apply.
  • The scheme will cover up to 80% of average profits over the past three years, up to £2,500 per month, for at least three months.
  • Those with average trading profits of more than £50,000 are not eligible.
  • Eligibility is determined with reference to earnings in 2018/19 as reported on tax returns filed this year.

What next? Application will be to HMRC via an online platform, yet to launch. The grants probably won’t be available until June 2020, backdated to 1 March. In the meantime, self-employed people who can’t work are expected to claim universal credit, access to which was broadened in the Spring Budget.

Updates from Wednesday 25 March 2020

Further to the news below that Companies House would automatically be giving those who need it a two-month extension on filing their accounts, the Government has now confirmed an automatic three-month extension for businesses that need it:

As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the 3-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.

A new note has been added to the guidance on deferral of VAT payments reminding businesses that pay by direct debit to cancel if they want to defer payment:

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.

Updates from Tuesday 24 March 2020

Fuller detail of the retail, hospitality and leisure grant (RHLG) fund has been published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The guidance document, intended to help local authorities administer the scheme, is available on the Government website.

  • Payments will be made to the person listed in local authority’s records as the ratepayer for the business premises on 11 March 2020.
  • There is a strong warning against fraudulent claims with a promise of prosecution and clawback for any such payments.
  • Certain premises are excluded on the grounds of private use, such as private stables and beach huts. Car parks and parking spaces are also ineligible.
  • Businesses in liquidation or dissolved as of 11 March aren’t eligible either.

The Coronavirus Bill currently before Parliament now includes an amendment calling for support for the self-employed and freelancers in line with that being provided for employees under PAYE via the coronavirus job protection scheme. It was passed by the House of Commons last night and will now go to the House of Lords for scrutiny. 

Updates from Monday 23 March 2020

The Prime Minister addressed the nation at 20:30 announcing, to all intents and purposes, a total lockdown of the UK. Movements are to be restricted and non-essential shops are to close.

This means expected clarifications on how businesses can access support are likely to be delayed until later in the week.

As scheduled, however, the British Business Bank has published comprehensive details of how the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) can be accessed:

  • Eligibility: an SME must be UK-based with annual turnover of less than £45m and have a proposal which would be considered viable by the lender under normal circumstances.
  • Types of finance available: Term loans, overdrafts, asset finance, invoice finance.
  • How to apply: via one of the accredited lenders on this list. In the first instance, the British Business Bank is urging businesses to apply online and asking those who don’t need emergency finance to ‘consider the urgency of your need’. More detail is available here.

In other news, Companies House has confirmed that, in line with it’s existing rules, firms that were unable to file accounts on time can apply for a deadline extension, with an automatic two-month extension for those in isolation.

Summary of Government Support for Business (as of Friday 20 March 2020)

Between Spring Budget 2020 on 11 March and Friday 20 March the Government announced a series of measures designed to counter the threat posed to the UK economy by the outbreak of the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

On the evening of 20.03.2020 the Prime Minister announced further restrictions on the compulsory closure of bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Alongside these new measures, the Chancellor announced a further package of support for businesses facing the prospect of having to reduce staff numbers.

Coronavirus job retention scheme

  • Grants of up to £2,500 per employee where those employees are unable to work (are ‘furloughed’) because of coronavirus, covering 80% of salary costs.
  • Intended to run for three months in the first instance with the first payments expected in early April and the scheme fully up and running by the end of that month.
  • The grants will be paid via HMRC.
  • All UK employers will be eligible.

What next? At present, no information has been provided on how to apply. Though it is generally understood to mean ‘stood down but still employed’, there is as yet no official definition of ‘furloughed’. It is unclear whether employers will be expected to make up the remaining 20% of salary.

Extension of the Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBIL)

  • Maximum turnover for eligible businesses was previously set at £41 million per year; it has now been increased to £45m.
  • The interest-free period has been increased from six months to twelve.
  • The scheme is being managed by the British Business Bank but businesses will access them via one of 40 accredited lending providers, including most major banks.
  • The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5 million – higher than the £1.2m announced initially.

What next? Discuss business plans with existing lending providers. Loans will be available from Monday 23 March 2020.

Deferral of tax and VAT payments currently due

  • VAT payments from UK-based VAT registered businesses due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 won’t need to be paid to the usual deadlines, with payment deferred until the end of the tax year.
  • Self-assessment income tax payments for the self employed which were due on 31 July 2020 can now be deferred until 31 January 2021.

What next? Both deferral schemes apply automatically with no application required.

Access to welfare for the self-employed

  • The minimum income floor for access to universal credit has been suspended for self-employed people affected by the economic impact of Coronavirus.

 

Latest news...

10/08/2020

How VAT works with Eat Out Scheme

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has urged businesses to ensure that they understand the interaction between VAT and the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

READ MORE

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