COVID-19 Business Support Update - 20 March 2020
21/03/2020

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

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

Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme - You will need to:

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

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

Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments

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

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

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

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

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

The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

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

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

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

Support for businesses that pay business rates

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of up to £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

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

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

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

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

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

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All UK businesses are eligible.

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

Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

You are eligible if your business pays tax to the UK government and has outstanding tax liabilities.

Insurance

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

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.


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Unit 32, Llys Edmund Prys, St Asaph Business Park
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Denbighshire
LL17 0JA
Phone: 01745 538000
Fax: 01745 538111

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LL52 0BS
Phone: 01766 522316
Email: enquiries@haroldsmith.co.uk

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