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Update on Information on COVID-19 Support for Businesses as at 30 March 2020

The Chancellor has set out a package of measures to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses to ensure the impact of COVID-19 is minimised. The legislation is new and is developing fast so there may be changes to the details as time progresses.
We are here to assist you in establishing which of these support packages are right for you and your businesses. If you think that they are applicable to you but need help please contact your ansteybond team to discuss further.

These are the measures they have announced:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:
Under this 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 the crisis.
All UK businesses are eligible and in order to access the scheme you will need to:

  • Designate affected employees as “furloughed workers” and notify your employees of this change. Please note changing the status of an employee 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 earning through a new online portal (not yet operative)

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage cost, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The scheme is available for at least 3 months from 1st March 2020.
Please check our updated Job Retention Scheme guidance as of 29 March 2020 for detailed information on this scheme.

Support for business who are paying sick pay to employees:
Small and medium sized business and employers are able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria is:

  • The refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work due to COVID-19
  • 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.
  • 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

All UK business are eligible as long as your business is a small or medium-sized and employs fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.
The scheme is currently being developed and further details will be available in due course.

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 £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 as of 11 March
  • You are a business that occupies a property

If you are eligible, your local authority will write to you. Any enquiries should be directed to the relevant local authority.

Support for business through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme:
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch early next week to support businesses, 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 and for up to 6 years. Business 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:

  1. Your business is UK based, with a turnover of no more than £45 million per year
  2. Your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria, which can be found here

The scheme is now opened for applications. There are 40 accredited provides in all. If you would like to take advantage of this scheme, you should contact your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them. This will allow your finance provider to act quickly once the Scheme has launched. If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility:
Under this new facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies.
All non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.

Deferring VAT payments and Income tax payments:

HMRC will support business by deferring the VAT payments for 3 months. The deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.
All UK business are eligible. This is automatic offer with no application required. Business will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Tax payers will be given until the end of the tax year 2020/2021 (5 April 2021) to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period.
If you normally pay by Direct Debit you should contact your bank to cancel your Direct Debit as you can.
VAT payments due following the end of the deferral period will have to be paid as normal. Further guidance on how to repay the VAT you have deferred is not yet available.
Please note VAT reclaims and refunds will be paid by HMRC as normal.

Income tax:
Payments in respect of self-assessment due on 31 July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021.
You are eligible if are due to pay your second-self assessment payment on account on 31 July. You do not need to be self-employed to be eligible for the deferment. This is an automatic offer with no applications required and no penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.
The deferment is optional. If you are still able to pay your second payment on account on 31 July you should do so.

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. These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline from 11 March 2020 for advice and 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.
Businesses and self-employed are eligible if you pay tax to the UK government and have outstanding tax liabilities.

For those business who are unable to pay due to COVID-19, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:

  • Why COVID-19 has caused the business to have Cashflow issues.
  • Agreeing an instalment arrangement (although they will expect a contribution towards the debt immediately).
  • Suspending debt collection proceedings.
  • Cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.

When contacting HMRC, you should expect questions about:

  • The business or self-employed income and expenditure
  • Personal and business assets, like savings and investments and potentially those or your relatives, where it is an owner managed business
  • The plans you have in place to repay the taxes in due course

It is up to HMRC’s discretion to decide whether you should be able to pay when taxes are due or whether they will agree a payment plan. They may also ask more in-depth questions if your business has been given more time to pay before.

Support for self-employed through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) who have lost income due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
This scheme will allow self-employed to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. Please refer to our detailed guidance on COVID-19 Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19.
However, 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 (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy).
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.
Protection from eviction for commercial tenants
Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.
These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June. There is the option for the government to extend this period if needed.
All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible. The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent. No action is required.
This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.

Companies House to allow Coronavirus-related filing extensions:
Businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can now apply to Companies House to request an extension to file their accounts, reports and confirmation statements. 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 only 15 minutes to complete. The online system can be found here.
Companies that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, may not be eligible for an extension.

We are ourselves issuing regular updates via our website and e-mail cannons. If you are not receiving these and would like to be added to the list please e-mail [email protected] with the subject “Add me to your COVID-19 e-mails”.

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