As the UK prepares for the wider spread of Coronavirus, there is much uncertainty around the impact on small and medium-sized businesses. We are reviewing government updates so that we can bring you the latest support and guidance.
Last updated: 26 March 2020
What government support is available?
- HMRC’s dedicated helpline – 0800 024 1222 (note new number)
The helpline has been set-up to help support businesses and the self-employed that have concerns around their tax affairs due to COVID-19. If you are unable to pay due to Coronavirus, you may be eligible to receive support with your tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. To find out how to defer payments using this scheme, please click here. You can discuss your specific circumstances to explore agreeing an installment arrangement; suspending debt collection proceedings; and cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.
The line is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm.
- Statutory sick pay and the self-employed
For businesses with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020), the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. This will provide 2 million businesses with up to £2 billion to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave. Coronavirus statutory sick pay is expected to be in the form of a refund. The Treasury says that it is “working with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism as soon as possible for employers reclaiming statutory sick pay”.
For the self-employed not eligible for SSP, contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by Coronavirus or self-isolating in line with advice from day one of sickness, rather than day eight.
For more information about Coronavirus government statutory sick pay, go to the Department for Work & Pensions website here.
- Business rates retail discount
The government is temporarily increasing the business rates retail discount in England to 100% for 2020-21 for properties below £51,000 rateable value. Nearly half of all business properties will not pay a penny of business rates. This will also be implemented through your local council. If you already receive the current business rates retail discount, you will receive notification of the changes in due course. If you currently don’t receive any relief, you can check with your Local Authority for your eligibility. You can find your local authority here.
- Additional 3 months to file accounts
As of 25 March 2020, businesses are able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts. The application takes 15 minutes to complete online. To apply, visit: companieshouse.gov.uk/extensions
- Ban on eviction for commercial tenants
Also announced on 25 March 2020, protective measures are now in place for commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of Coronavirus. The measures will prevent businesses from being evicted for missed rental payments in the next three months.These measures are included in the emergency Coronavirus Bill which is currently going through Parliament.
- Additional support for self-employed
Self-employed individuals with trading profits of up to £50,000 will be eligible for taxable grants worth 80% of their average profits. The average will be taken over the last 3 years unless accounts are not available for that period, in which case the individual will be assessed on what information is available. Note: you must have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19 to be eligible. The grant will cover up to £2,500 a month and will be available for 3 months. For more information and full details on eligibility, visit gov.uk.
- For details of announcements made on Friday 20 March, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, please click here
Further guidance for businesses can be found at gov.co.uk
What can you do in the short-term?
- Contact all credit suppliers to enquire about relaxing payments. Banks are increasing credit lines and overdrafts and in some cases they may even offer repayment holidays.
- A number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group (to support small businesses up to £25m turnover) and £5 billion from NatWest.
- Contact your suppliers to discuss options around payments and pricing. Some may not be able to help, but it’s worth asking the question.
- Find out if you are eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Businesses with turnover of less than £45 million can apply for a loan of up to £5 million (previously £1.2m), the first 12 months (previously 6 months) of which can be accessed interest free as Government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments. CBILS temporarily replaces the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme and will be provided by the British Business Bank through accredited lenders. The scheme opened for applications on 23 March 2020. To apply and check your eligibility visit this website and follow the information provided.
- Find out if you are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief. Cash grants of up to £10,000 (previously £3,000) are being made available to 700,000 of the smallest businesses, to be delivered by Local Authorities. Small businesses that pay little or no business rates and are eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief will be contacted by their local authority – they do not need to apply. The funding will be provided to local authorities in early April. In addition, £25,000 grants are to be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000. Further information is currently being rolled out by local councils.
- Check the terms and conditions of your insurance policy. If you have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure then your business 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.
How can we support you?
If you have specific questions related to your specific circumstance, please contact your relationship principal or call us on our usual number 0161 905 1616.