COVID-19

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.

Request a quote

For a free initial meeting to discuss how we can help you contact us online or call us on T: 023 9248 4356T: 023 9248 4356

 

14 October - COVID hotline opens for reporting illegal claims for support

A new hotline has been set up by the government and Crimestoppers for reporting COVID-19 fraudsters who make illegal claims for support.

It is estimated that business defaults and fraud could result in potential losses of £15bn to £26bn from the COVID-19 Bounce Back Loan Scheme alone. Tell tales signs of fraud can include unusual buying activity by companies and individuals, as well as cold calling by those falsely claiming that they are from the government, offering money for schemes.

The hotline will not cover criminal activity related to the furlough, universal credit or 'eat out to help out' scheme.

The COVID hotline is on 0800 587 5030 and is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

12 October - More generous Local Restrictions Support Grants

Cash grants for businesses in England that are required to close in local lockdowns have been increased. The new grants will be linked to rateable values, with up to £3,000 per month payable every two weeks, compared to the up to £1,500 every three weeks which was available previously.

Under the new scheme properties with a rateable value of:

  • £15,000 or under will receive grants of £667 per two weeks of closure (£1,334 per month)
  • Over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive grants of £1,000 per two weeks of closure (£2,000 per month)
  • 51,000 or over will receive grants of £1500 per two weeks of closure (£3,000 per month)

9 October - Expansion of Job Support Scheme (JSS)

The expanded JSS will offer grants to support businesses who premises have been legally required to close as a direct result of coronavirus restrictions. 

The government will pay two thirds (67%) of employee’s usual wages, up to a maximum of £2,100 per month. Employers will not be required to contribute towards wages but do need to cover National Insurance contributions and pension contributions..

The scheme will begin on 1 November be available for six months, with a review point in January.

Businesses can apply for the JSS, including the new expansion, even if they haven’t previously used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Payments will be made in arrears via a HMRC claims service that will be available from early December. 

5 October - Self Assessment 'time to pay' threshold raised

In a further move to reduce financial stress HMRC has made it easier for self assessment taxpayers to pay the tax they owe on a monthly basis. From 1 October, the limit for time to pay, the online payment plan service used to set up instalment arrangements for paying tax liabilities, is increased to £30,000, up from £10,000.

The increase follows the Chancellor's announcement on 24 September that self assessment taxpayers could pay their deferred payment on account bill from July 2020, any outstanding tax owed for 2019/20 and their first payment on account bill for this current tax year in monthly instalments, rather than as two payments in January and July.

Those with self assessment tax payments over £30,000, or who need longer than 12 months to pay in full, may still be able to set up a time to pay arrangement by calling the self assessment payment helpline on 0300 200 3822.

2 October - Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Third and Fourth Rounds

The Government announced that the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be extended with a further third and fourth round of grants.

The starting point for qualifying for further SEISS are the same conditions which had to be met for the earlier first and second round of grants. You do not have to have made a claim under either of these earlier rounds to be eligible but two new conditions will have to be met in the relevant qualifying period for the third and fourth grants. These are:

  • Claimants are actively trading and intend to continue to trade
  • The trade is impacted by reduced demand due to the pandemic

The third round of grants will cover the period from the start of November 2020 until the end of January 2021 and be worth:

  • Up to 20% of average month trading profits
  • For a period of three months
  • Capped at an overall maximum of £1,875

The fourth round will cover the period from the start of February 2021 until the end of April 2021. Details of the funding support available have not yet been announced.

24 September - Chancellor's Winter Economy Plan

The Winter Economy Plan contained a number of measures to support businesses as the pandemic continues. They include

  • The Jobs Support Scheme starts on 1 November and will replace the furlough scheme when it ends on 31 October. Under the scheme workers get up to 77% of their normal salaries for six months. Employees will have to be working for at least a third of their normal hours to qualify. The government and the employer will then cover part of their salary for the remaining hours not worked. The government will cover a third of this sum, capped at £697.92 per month, while firms cover a further third. The Jobs Support Scheme will sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus. HMRC's factsheet gives more details.
  • An extension to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grant (SEISS). A third grant will cover three months' worth of profits for the period from November to the end of January 2021. This will be worth 20% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £1,875.
  • More time will be given to businesses to repay money they have borrowed through the government's coronavirus loan schemes.
  • A VAT cut for hospitality and tourism companies will also be extended until March. The cut from 20% to 5% VAT - which came into force on 15 July - had been due to expire on 12 January next year.

For more information about the announcements, please see our special report.

23 September - Additional Measures Announced

From Wednesday 23 September office workers who are able to work from home should do so and the requirement for customers to wear face coverings will be extended to all users of taxis and private hire vehicles.

From Thursday 24 September measures include the following:

  • pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, except for takeaways
  • hospitality venues must close at 10pm (which means closing, not last orders). The same will apply to takeaways, although deliveries can continue
  • the requirement to wear face coverings will be extended to include retail staff and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink
  • covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations in retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors
From Monday 28 September a maximum of 15 people may attend weddings, while 30 may attend funerals. Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not be reopened from 1 October.

These new measures will be enforced by tighter penalties

22 September - Self Isolation Payments for Lower Income Employees

The government has announced a legal requirement, effective from 28 September, for people to self isolate when instructed by NHS Test and Trace. Those on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result will be supported by a payment of £500. The scheme is expected to be in place by 12 October but those who start to self isolate from 28 September will receive backdated payments when the scheme is set up in their local authority.

New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000 – bringing this in line with the penalty for breaking quarantine after international travel. However, the government has said the fines could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the most egregious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating such as business owners who threaten self isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work. See government press release for more details. 

21 September - Tax Implications of Working From Home During COVID-19

The government is being forced to rethink its call to businesses to return to the office as coronavirus cases start to rise again. Here we summarise the main tax implications of working from home for employers and employees.

For employers - Providing there are arrangements to work from home between the employee and employer and the employee must work at home regularly under those arrangements, employers can make payments exempt from tax for the additional costs of heating and lighting the work area, the metered cost of increased water use, increased charge for internet access, home contents insurance or business telephone calls. 

HMRC will permit payments exempt of tax of: 
- up to £6 per work (or £26 per month) without the employer having to justify the amount paid or
- the actual additional costs incurred by the employee

For employees -The conditions typically apply to arrangements where the employee works from home due to convenience rather than as a requirement of the job. However where an employer requires their employees to work from home due to COVID-19 this may mean that the employee can claim a deduction for appropriate working from home costs. These are: the additional unit costs of gas and electricity consumed while a room is being used for work; - the metered cost of water used in the performance of duties; the unit costs of business telephone calls (including dial up internet access).

Where costs are difficult to quantify, HMRC will instead accept a deduction of £6 per week or £26 per month (excluding the cost of business telephone calls). If the employee wishes to deduct more than this, they must keep records to show how their figure has been calculated. Employees can claim a deduction for these expenses in a self assessment tax return or if claiming for less than £2,500 of expenses in a single tax year online at gov.uk.

10 September - Grants for Businesses Affected by Local Lockdowns

Businesses in England required to close due to local lockdowns or targeted restrictions will now be able to receive grants worth up to £1,500 per property every three weeks, in addition to any other Covid-19 related government support they may be receiving. As with other Covid business grants, local grants to closed businesses will be treated as taxable income.

  • Businesses occupying premises with a rateable value less than £51,000 or occupying a property or part of a property subject to an annual rent or mortgage payment of less than £51,000, will receive £1000.
  • Businesses occupying premises with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or above or occupying a property or part of a property subject to an annual rent or mortgage payment of exactly £51,000 or above, will receive £1500.

2 September - £2bn 'Kickstart' Scheme to Address Post-COVID Youth Unemployment

Under the scheme, employers can offer youngsters aged 16-24 who are claiming universal credit a six-month work placement. The government will fully fund each Kickstart job, paying 100% of the age-relevant national minimum wage, National Insurance and statutory automatic enrolment minimum pension contributions for 25 hours a week. Employers will be able to top up this wage, while the government will also pay employers £1500 per job placement to cover support and training and to help pay for uniforms and other set up costs.

Applications must be for a minimum of 30 job placements. Businesses which are only able to offer one or two job placements can partner with other organisations, such as similar employers, local authorities, trade bodies or registered charities, to reach the minimum number. The intermediary applying on behalf of a group of employers is eligible for £300 of funding to support with the associated administrative costs of bringing together these employers. Government information about the scheme can be found here

1 September - Small Business Recovery Grants

Cash grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 will be available to small businesses to help cover the cost of essential services during the post-lockdown recovery period. The money can be used to obtain legal, HR and IT assistance, as well as accountancy services. It can also be used to pay for the installation of new technologies to improve the agility of small firms to enable them to diversify.

Business owners should apply for these grants via their local growth hubs in their respective Local Enterprise Partnership region. For businesses in the Portsmouth and surrounding area we have included the link below to the Solent LEP for you to register your interest in the funding and hear when it becomes available. 
solentlep.org.uk/small-business-recovery-grants

13 August - Summary of Guidelines for Staying Safe During the Pandemic

The government has updated its guidelines and rules for keeping safe and helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus. We found this new government summary useful - hope you do too.

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.

7 August - Further Extension of Tax-Free Childcare

The government has further extended the Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) scheme to 31 October 2020 for parents who may have fallen below the minimum income requirement as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our article, ‘Tax-Free Childcare’ provides information on the scheme.

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 - HMRC Publishes Guidance on Claiming Job Retention Bonus

The government has published guidance on the new bonus for employers to hire apprentices from August 2020 to January 2021.Businesses who hire apprentices will receive £2,000 for each apprentice aged between 16 and 24 and £1,500 for each apprentice aged 25 and over. These payments are in addition to the existing £1,000 incentive the government already provides for new 16 to 18 year old apprentices. Find guidance on apprenticeship funding here

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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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).

 

For government announcements made during the period March to May 2020 please see our earlier COVID-19 page.

Latest news...

14/10/2020

Loan scheme could result in £26bn loss

The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned the government that it faces a potential loss of 15 billion pounds to 26 billion pounds as a result of criminals taking advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19)

READ MORE

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to keep in touch to receive our latest news and industry updates.

Yes, I would like to receive email updates providing me with the latest finance news, advice guides and details of future events.



REF: MC/NL/1.2