Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the Government guidance in response to the Coronavirus outbreak updates on a daily basis, we want you to know that at Evolve Tax & Accountancy LLP we are committed to ensuring we can continue to support our clients. We have closed our offices but our partners and staff are working from home to provide continuity of service.

In accordance with Government guidelines, all face to face client meetings will be cancelled, but contact continues via email, mobiles and offering the option for virtual meetings when suitable. If you are at all concerned about your own finances or those of your business, please don't hesitate to contact your usual Partner/staff member.


As we hope you can appreciate, we are working in line with advice from the Government. Things are changing quickly and full guidance isn’t necessarily released when measures are announced. We will continue to provide up to date information as it is received.

Please find below our business advice briefing regarding the current Coronavirus situation and other useful websites

Published 24/03/2020
Updated 28/03/2020 - Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) & Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
Updated 24/04/2020 - Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
Updated 29/04/2020 - Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) & Bounce Back Loans
Updated 01/06/2020 - Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) & Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

 

 

Help for Business

 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

On Friday 20 March the Government announced a sweeping pledge to pay 80% of employees' wages if they are not working due to coronavirus. This is a temporary scheme in place for 4 months starting from 1 March 2020. This scheme is open to employers of all types – companies, sole traders with employees, charities etc. the Government has pledged it will cover 80% of the wages of 'retained' employees – i.e., those who would otherwise have been laid off due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The amount paid will be capped at a maximum of £2,500 per month per employee based on their regular salary and the money will be issued through grants, these are grants not loans so will not need to be repaid.

On Friday 29 May the Chancellor announced three changes to the job retention scheme:

  1. From 1‌‌ July 2020, the scheme will be made more flexible to enable employers to bring previously furloughed employees back part time and still receive a grant for the time when they are not working.

  2. From 1‌‌ August 2020, employers will have to start contributing to the wage costs of paying their furloughed staff and this employer contribution will gradually increase in September and October.

  3. The scheme will close to new entrants from 30‌‌ June.

 

1. Part time furloughing

From 1‌‌ July 2020, businesses using the scheme will have the flexibility to bring previously furloughed employees back to work part time – with the government continuing to pay 80% of wages for any of their normal hours they do not work up until the end of August. This flexibility comes a month earlier than previously announced to help people get back to work.

Employers will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, and will be responsible for paying their wages in full while working. This means that employees can work as much or as little as the business needs, with no minimum time that they can furlough staff for.

Any working hours arrangement agreed between a business and their employee must cover at least one week and be confirmed to the employee in writing. When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, they will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week. They can choose to make claims for longer periods such as on monthly or two weekly cycles if preferred. Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked.

If employees are unable to return to work, or employers do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough and the employer can continue to claim the grant for their full hours under the existing rules.

 

2. Employer contributions

From August, the government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered.

  • in June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICs) and pension contributions for the hours the employee doesn’t work – employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work

  • in August, the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 but employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions – for the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs that they would have incurred if the employee had not been furloughed

  • in September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee does not work – employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500

  • in October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee does not work – employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% of the total up to a cap of £2,500

  • the cap on the furlough grant will be proportional to the hours not worked.

 

Many smaller employers have some or all of their employer NIC bills covered by the Employment Allowance so will not be significantly impacted by that part of the tapering of the government contribution.

 

Around a quarter of CJRS monthly claims relate to wages that are below the threshold where employer NICs and auto enrolment contributions are due, and so no employer contribution will be required for these furloughed employees in August.

 

3. Important dates

It’s important to note that the scheme will close to new entrants from 30‌‌ June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30‌‌ June.

This means that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10‌‌ June for the current three-week furlough period to be completed by 30‌‌ June. Employers will have until 31‌‌ July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30‌‌ June.

You can only claim for furloughed employees that were employed on 19 March 2020 and who were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. To qualify, employers must keep the employee on the payroll and notify them in writing (email will be fine) that they are ‘furloughed’, this is subject to applicable employment law. The furloughed employee must not undertake any work for the business during this period and must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 consecutive weeks.

A claim calculator can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/work-out-80-of-your-employees-wages-to-claim-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

 

The guidance for employers and employees has now been issued by HMRC please see the following links for full details:

 

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

 

The online claim service launched on 20th April 2020. The only way to make a claim is online and payment will be made within 6 working days. You can claim yourself or if your payroll is administered by an agent they can claim on your behalf.

 

Claim your CJRS furlough grant here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

 

You’ll need the following to make a claim:

  • to be registered for PAYE online

  • your UK bank account number and sort code

  • your employer PAYE scheme reference number

  • the number of employees being furloughed

  • each employee’s National Insurance number

  • each employee’s payroll or employee number (optional)

  • the start date and end date of the claim

  • the full amount you’re claiming for including employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum pension contributions

  • your phone number

  • contact name

 

You also need to provide either:

  • your name (or the employer’s name if you’re an agent)

  • your Corporation Tax unique taxpayer reference

  • your Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference

  • your company registration number

 

Agents authorised to act for you on PAYE matters can make the claim on your behalf using their ID and password. If you have not authorised your agent to do PAYE online for you, you can do that by accessing your HMRC online services and selecting ‘Manage Account’. You must be enrolled in PAYE online for employers to do this.

You should retain all records and calculations in respect of your claims.​

Company director’s will be eligible for the furlough scheme, if they have been paid through the payroll prior to 19 March 2020. A director can be furloughed and still carry out their statutory duties in keeping the company running, however to be eligible to be furloughed they will not be able to carry out any income/fee generating duties for the company, i.e. they must not carry out any ‘work’ for the company whilst furloughed.

 

The implementation of the portal has brought one serious issue to light in that if you are a company director who is paid via the annual payroll scheme and this was not submitted prior to 19 March 2020 you are not currently able to claim a CJRS furlough grant through the portal. It is not currently known if this is an intended consequence of the cut off date of 19 March or whether there will be adjustment to allow for directors paid annually for 2019/20 after the 19 March to claim the grant. We will update our guidance with any updates to this position.

 

If you have any questions on this scheme or how it will effect you or your company please contact us.

 

Deferral of VAT payments

All UK VAT registered businesses are eligible to defer their VAT payments that are due in the period 20th March until 30th June 2020.

 

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period but may need to cancel any existing direct debit arrangements. This does not apply to any historic VAT liabilities and those already in time to pay arrangements. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020/2021 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. As we understand it VAT returns are still required to be filed on time.

 

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

HMRC will introduce a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. This will apply to those businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year, and these businesses will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible. Additional guidance for local authorities details the businesses covered by this scheme and can be found here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/873622/Expanded_Retail_Discount_Guidance.pdf

Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF)

Under the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) all businesses in England in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR),  as at 11th March 2020, in the business rates system will be eligible for a payment of £10,000. Businesses  that were eligible for relief under the rural rate relief scheme are also eligible.

Eligible recipients will be entitled to receive one grant per business from the earlier of the date payment of the grant by the Local Authority or 1st April 2020.

Local Authorities are contacting those who they believe may be entitled to this grant. If you have not heard from your local authority but believe this will apply to you, please contact them as soon as possible.

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF)

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. This will apply for businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000. For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000, they will receive a grant of £10,000.

 

Eligibility

You are eligible for the grant if:

  • your business is based in England

  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector

 

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied hereditaments 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

 

How do you access the scheme? 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.

For further information on the SBGF and RHLGF grant funding we recommend you view this guide: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-business-support-grant-funding-guidance-for-businesses

 

IR35 tax reforms have been delayed a year

Controversial reforms which will lead to tax bills going up for many contractors have been delayed a year as a result of coronavirus. Changes to IR35 'off payroll working' rules will now come in from April 2021 instead. However, while the delay comes as a respite for some, it's been made clear they will still definitely go ahead in April 2021.

 

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports SMEs with access to working capital (including loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance) of up to £5 million in value and for up to 6 years. The government will pay to cover the first 12 months interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will not face any upfront costs and will benefit from lower initial repayments.

 

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. This scheme is being delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the British Business Bank.

 

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

 

  • your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year

  • your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria

 

The scheme is now open for applications. To apply, you should talk to your normal business bank as soon as possible, to discuss your business plan. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites. All major banks are offering this scheme.

 

If you have an existing loan, asset finance etc. with monthly repayments you will need to contact your lender to discuss options which may include repayment holidays to help with cash flow.

 

More information has been released here https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

Bounce Back Loans

This scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to apply for loans between £2,000 and £50,000 and is due to launch on 4th May. It was announced that the amount would be restricted to 25% of annual turnover with a maximum of £50,000 but we await full guidance being released.

 

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan, which should mean then lenders are less stringent with their qualifying criteria and there will not be fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months, loan terms will be up to 6 years and no repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan and the application process is going to be refined to make it much simpler (mention of a 1 or 2 page form) with the potential that funds could be delivered within 24 hours.

 

The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

Eligibility

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK

  • has been negatively affected by coronavirus

  • was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019

 

You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).  However, if you already received a loan under CBILS and would like to transfer is into the Bounce Back Loan scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4th November 2020.

 

Further guidance can be found: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

 

Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay Plus service announced

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. If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19 and deferral is not allowed under the recently announced measures please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559 which is open Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm and Saturday between 8am and 4pm

 

A time to pay arrangement allows a business suffering from temporary financial difficulties to pay its liabilities over an extended period rather than on the date they fall due. VAT, PAYE and Corporation Tax can be subject to time to pay arrangements and it is understood that HMRC are being understanding in the current circumstances.

 

Commercial rent

It is understood that the same protection that has been afforded to residential tenants, that landlords won’t be able to start eviction proceedings for at least the next three months, will also apply to commercial tenants.

 

Our advice

Make sure as far as possible that your business financials are up to date, this includes forecasts, cashflows etc. stress tested for the economic impact of coronavirus. The first step we would recommend is a short terms cashflow of between 4 – 6 months to identify the cash you expect to receive and pay out in this period and how this interacts with your current position and cash in the bank or overdraft headroom. This should highlight any short term difficulties that you may encounter and allow you to make decisions now about what the business might need in the future.

 

We would recommend that careful thought is given to any major expenditure planned, capital or otherwise, and that creditors are contacted to discuss any arrangements they would be willing to accept such as payment plans. Also ensure that your own invoicing is up to date, and with debt collection consider possibilities such as yourselves offering payment plans or potential early settlement discounts, finally keep stock levels at sensible levels where possible.

 

We would recommend that you review https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses and https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/ for the latest updates.

 

Help for Individuals

 

Mortgages

The Government has announced that mortgage lenders will offer those experiencing financial difficulties a three-month payment ‘holiday’. For those in need of this support the mortgage provider should be the first point of contact. It is thought that you won’t have to ‘prove’ that Coronavirus has impacted your finances, however, to apply you’ll need to be up to date with all of your mortgage payments already.

It’s worth noting that if you take a mortgage holiday, you will still be charged interest for the time you’re not making payments, but you won’t have to pay it back straight away.  It will be added on to the total cost of your mortgage and factored into repayments when you start making them again.

 

If you are on a tracker or variable rate mortgage, you should see a reduction in your monthly mortgage payment as the Bank of England has reduced the UK base rate twice in just over a week taking it from 0.75% to 0.1% a record low.

 

Landlords with Buy to Let mortgages will be entitled to the same three month mortgage holiday if they have tenants who are struggling to pay due to Coronavirus.

Help for renters

If you think you will struggle to pay rent during the outbreak, you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible to advise them of your situation. It could be you can agree a rent deferral and repayment plan. The Government has announced that landlords won’t be able to start eviction proceedings for at least the next three months, protecting private and social tenants.

 

It is also worth checking whether you are receiving all the financial help with housing that you are entitled to.  If you have had to apply for Universal credit, for example, you may be able to claim housing benefit.

 

Employee rights

If you need to take time off work due to becoming unwell from coronavirus you’ll be entitled to your usual sick leave and sick pay arrangements, you will need to check your contract of employment to identify your rights.

If you're self-isolating on Government advice, you will be entitled to statutory sick pay from day one, not day four as previously – though employment body the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) says it's "good practice" for your employer to pay your usual sick pay as outlined in your contract. Statutory sick pay currently stands at £94.25 a week – you must be employed and earn an average of at least £118 a week to be entitled to receive it.

 

If you are off sick for any other reason, standard rules apply and SSP will be available from day four.

 

If you have any concerns regarding treatment by your employer please view https://www.acas.org.uk/ there is lots of useful guidance and explanations around employment law.

Help for the self-employed

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

You will be eligible if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

  • have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19

  • traded in the tax year 2019-20 and are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19

  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21 (from 6 April 2020)

  • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19

 

You are not required to stop trading to be entitled to this income grant.

Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment. This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true:

  • having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your total taxable income

  • having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period

 

If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return. If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.

HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.

Unfortunately, if you are newly self-employed, i.e. commenced self employment after 6 April 2019 you are not currently eligible for this scheme. You will need to pursue the other announced income support measures such as Universal Credit.

 

How much you’ll get

Initially, you’ll get a taxable grant (this will need to be included in the computation of your profits) which will be 80% of the average profits from the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018 and 2018 to 2019, to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months. Claims for this first SEISS grant, opened on 13‌‌ May, must be made no later than 13‌‌ July.

The Chancellor has now announced plans to extend the scheme for those people whose trade continues to be, or is newly, adversely affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus). Eligible self-employed people will be able to claim a second and final SEISS grant in August; this will be a taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits for three months, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £6,570 in total.

The eligibility criteria for the second grant will be the same as for the first grant. You do not need to have claimed the first grant to claim the second grant: for example, your business may have been adversely affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus) more recently.

If you do not hold full trading history for these years, i.e. you were not self-employed for this entire period, HMRC will use the information for the periods that have been submitted. To work out the average HMRC will add together the total trading profit for the 3 tax years (or applicable period) then divide by 3 (or the number of applicable months), and use this to calculate a monthly amount.

Each 3 month grant will be paid directly into your bank account, in one instalment.

If you have to take time off work due to coronavirus because you are sick or self-isolating, you might be entitled to claim benefits as follows:

 

Contribution-based employment and support allowance (ESA)

You can apply for this if you're directly affected by coronavirus or self-isolating according to Government advice. To be eligible you must have paid enough national insurance contributions in the last 2-3 years. You can get up to £73 per week – the amount won't be affected by either you or your partner's savings or income, though if you get a private pension worth more than £85 per week it'll be reduced.
As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Government is changing the rules so you're eligible to claim ESA from the first day of sickness/self-isolation rather than the eighth, as previously. This change has been announced but hasn't kicked in yet (the Department for Work and Pensions can't tell us currently when it will, but when it does the new rule will be backdated to Friday 13 March).
Given that payments are made fortnightly in arrears, claimants who meet the criteria should actually receive their first payment after around two weeks. To apply, call Jobcentre Plus – it's 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888).

 

Universal credit 

Universal credit is a payment to help with your living costs – it's paid monthly. Some who are self-employed and unable to work due to coronavirus may be able to claim. You won't be eligible to apply if you have at least £16,000 in savings though.
The standard monthly allowances are as follows: 
- If you're single and under 25: £251.77
- If you’re single and over 25: £317.82
- If you’re in a couple and both under 25: £395.20 (for both)
- If you’re in a couple and either of you is over 25: £498.89 (for both)

As part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic the Government is removing the minimum income floor, which means some claimants will get extra money to make up for lost earnings if they decrease due to coronavirus. On Friday 20 March the Chancellor announced that this will mean the self-employed can now access universal credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay, which is currently £94.25 per week. To apply for universal credit, see the Gov.uk website. For help, call the universal credit helpline: 0800 328 5644.

 

It's also worth noting that the Government is boosting the value of some benefits as part of its response to the pandemic, increasing the standard universal credit allowance and the working tax credit basic element by £1,000/year each for the next 12 months.

 

Delay for self-assessment tax bills

The Government has announced it will defer the self-assessment tax payments previously due by 31 July 2020 to 31 January 2021, in a bid to help the self-employed. As such there will be no payment due by July this tax year, allowing people more time to pay their tax bill. However, please note that this is a tax deferral not cancellation and this tax will be due for payment by 31 January 2021 in addition to any tax ordinarily due at this date (per the current guidance).


It is not clear whether this only applies to the self-employed, or anyone who fills in a self-assessment form and we are awaiting confirmation.

 

We would recommend that you review https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus for the latest updates.

 

 

If you have any questions on the above or any other concerns that you would like to discuss with us please in the first instance email or call your regular point of contact in Evolve and we will assist in any way we can during these unprecedented times.​

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