CORONOVIRUS LATEST ADVICE

This page has been designed to provide up-to-date information, guidance and advice with regards to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you need medical help, please use the 111 online coronavirus service.

Please click here for the Government's stay at home advice and here for more general information.

Please click here for the latest advice for those seeking to travel back to the UK. 

  • A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. Those concerned about tax should ring HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.  
  • Other queries can be directed to the Business Support Helpline 0300 456 3565.  
  • The Universal Credit website provides more details on claiming benefits and sick pay entitlement during Coronavirus https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/  
  • A number of private lenders are making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest.  
  • Key workers are able to go to work whilst schools will continue to care for their children if no one at home its able to look after them. You can find out whether you are likely to be eligible here.

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. You can find up to the minute information here but a summary is below.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including: 

  • *NEW* Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
  • The Government is acting so that, if the worst happens, there is a stronger safety net to fall back on by increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months – that’s nearly £7 billion of extra support.
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • Support for self-employed by enabling Universal Credit eligibility and deferral of HMRC self-assessment payments until January 2021
  • 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 with interest free borrowing for 6 months. *NEW* interest free borrowing extended to 12 month.
  • 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 
  • deferring the next three months of VAT until the end of the financial year – an injection of over £30 billion of cash to businesses to help businesses pay people and keep them in work.

2 April 2020

 

Full details for employers and employees on furloughing and the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme can be found here...

Employers: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Employees: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Further details of the scheme have been published which means that: 

  • You'll be permitted to volunteer without risking pay
  • If you have been made redundant or voluntarily left a job after the 28 February, you can be reemployed and then furloughed 
  • The Government will cover employer National Insurance and pension contributions of furloughed workers on top of the 80% of salary

More details on the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support scheme can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme 

26 March 2020

*NEW* Self-Employment Income Support Scheme:

  • The scheme provides a cash grant worth 80% of average monthly trading profit over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 per month.
  • The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. More than half of income in these periods must come from self-employment.
  • To minimise fraud, only those who are already in self-employment and meet the above conditions will be eligible to apply. 
  • HMRC will identify eligible taxpayers and contact them directly with guidance on how to apply.
  • Individuals should not contact HMRC now. HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational.
  • Self employed people who are eligible for the grant will be able to apply directly to HMRC using a simple online form, with the cash being paid directly into people's bank account. 
  • The income support scheme will cover three months. 
  • Grants will be paid in a single lump sum instalment covering all 3 months, and will start to be paid at the beginning of June.
  • Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes.
  • Before grant payments are made, the self-employed will still be able to access other available government support for those affected by coronavirus including more generous universal credit and business continuity loans where they have a business bank account. 

Further details to come...

UPDATE 23 March 2020

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is now available.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) - for Businesses and Advisors - British Business Bank 

Application forms for the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility have now been made available here.

 

UPDATE 20 March 2020

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme:

  • Businesses need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify 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
  • They must also 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)

Support for businesses through deferring VAT 

Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme:

  • 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 to 2021 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.

Support for businesses through deferring Income Tax Payments

Eligibility: The self-employed.

How to access the scheme:

  • Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021.
  • This is an automatic offer with no applications required.
  • No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

Eligibility:

  • UK based business
  • small or medium-sized business employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020

How to access the scheme:

  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided in due course once the legalisation has passed.

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

Eligibility:

  • business based in England
  • business in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

How to access the scheme: 

  • No action required. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. 
  • Local authorities may have to reissue your bill automatically to exclude the business rate charge. They will do this as soon as possible.
  • You can estimate the business rate charge you will no longer have to pay this year using the business rates calculator.
  • Further guidance for local authorities is available in the expanded retail discount guidance.

Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

Eligibility:

  • business based in England
  • business in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

How to access the scheme: 

  • No action required. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.
  • Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.
  • Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs and grants should be directed to the relevant local authority. 

Grants for businesses that pay little or no business rates

Eligibility:

  • business based in England
  • small business that already receives SBBR and/or RRR
  • business that occupies property

How to access the scheme: 

  • You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant.
  • Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.
  • Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs and grants should be directed to the relevant local authority.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Eligibility: 

  • UK based business, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year
  • business that meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria

How to access the scheme: 

  • 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.
  • You should talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them. This will help 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.
  • The scheme will be available from early next week commencing 23 March.

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

Eligibility: All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme:

  • The scheme will be available early in week beginning 23 March 2020.
  • Information on how to access the scheme will be provided shortly.
  • More information is available from the Bank of England.

Time to Pay service

Eligibility:

  • business pays tax to the UK government
  • business with outstanding tax liabilities

How to access the scheme: 

  • If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.
  • If you’re worried about a future payment, please call us nearer the time.

PREVIOUS INFORMATION

Support for businesses through the 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.

  • All UK businesses are eligible.
  • 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. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.
  • If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (see below).

Support for the self-employed:

  • The minimum income floor for the self-employed will be suspended which means self-employed people will be able to claim Universal Credit to the equivalent value of Statutory Sick Pay.
  • Ability to defer self-assessment payments to HMRC until January 2021.

Support for businesses paying sick pay:  

The government intends to bring 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 
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay 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 

Support for businesses that pay business rates:  

  • The government will introduce a business rates retail holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. 
  • Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible. 
  • A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. 
  • Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority.  
  • Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday has been published and can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-rates-retail-discount-guidance  
  • It outlines that the government will reimburse local authorities that use their discretionary relief powers to grant relief. It will be for individual local billing authorities to adopt a local scheme and determine in each individual case when, having regard to this guidance, to grant relief.  

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates: 

  • The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. 
  • If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply. 
  • Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly. 

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: 

  • A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week 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 6 months of interest payments.  
  • Further details, including on the lenders providing access to this scheme will be announced in the coming days, and the scheme will be available from early week commencing 23 March 2020.  

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

  • To support larger firms, the Bank of England has announced a new lending facility to provide a quick and cost effective way to raise working capital via the purchase of short-term debt.  
  • This will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, enabling them to continue financing their short-term liabilities. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.  
  • Further details, including on how to access this funding will follow in the coming days, and the scheme will be available from the week commencing 23 March. 

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. 
  • Those concerned about being able to pay tax due to COVID-19 should call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559. 

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. 
  • 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.  

Supporting the self-employed:  

Current government guidance to those not eligible for statutory sick pay (of which some gig workers and those on zero hour contracts will be) is to apply for Universal Credit.