Governmental Measures to Support SMEs Affected by COVID-19

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and its subsequent economic impact, the UK government issued a number of measures to support affected businesses. Read more about the different financial measures taken by the government below. The government has also launched a central website for businesses impacted by COVID-19 to help them find the right support and advice they need.

If you need help in determining what kind of financial support is right for you, try the Government’s new support finder tool.

 

Deferral of VAT and Income Tax payments

The government has announced VAT payments have been deferred for 3 months (20th March – 30th June). This is estimated to inject £30bn back into UK businesses. f you choose to defer your VAT payment, you must pay the VAT due on or before 31st March 2021.

At this time, Government has said that all the VAT payments due following the end of the deferral period will have to be paid as normal.

All UK VAT registered business are eligible to defer their next VAT payment.

For support with PAYE & Corporation Tax payments, you must still contact HMRC. Please ask your main contact at Goodwille to handle this for you if required.

No applications are required and you do not need to tell HMRC that you are deferring your VAT payment. However, note that if you normally pay by Direct Debit you should contact your bank to cancel your Direct Debit as soon as you can.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers’ wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, 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.

On  12th May, the government announced that the scheme will be extended until the end of October.

This is open to all UK businesses, and the employee must be on the PAYE scheme. The employee must remain employed by the company, but not undertaking any work. Previously employees had to be on the scheme by the 28th February, but this has since been extended to the 19th March.

The online service is now live and open for applications. We have written a separate article, which will give you more detailed guidance on the scheme and how you can submit a claim. Please see it here.

HMRC’s Time To Pay service

All businesses and self-employed individuals who are struggling to pay their PAYEVAT or Corporation Tax due to COVID-19, may be able to receive support via the HMRC ‘Time-To-Pay’ Scheme.

You are eligible if your business:

  • pays tax to the UK government
  • has outstanding tax liabilities

However, please note that businesses do not automatically qualify for the scheme, but instead, the need for support will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and will be tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you feel you cannot pay your tax bill due to COVID-19, please request that your Goodwille contact calls HMRC as soon as possible to avoid any penalties due to late payments.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Scheme

SMEs with up to 250 employees will be subject to a Statutory Sick Pay relief for absence due to COVID-19 (either because they have coronavirus or self isolating due to suspected coronavirus), meaning they are able to reclaim sick pay (at SSP rate) for up to 2 weeks per employee. Worth to mention is that SSP will be paid day 1 of those affected by Coronavirus, rather than day 4.

All employers based in the UK and who have fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020) can claim for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus. In addition, you must have had a PAYE payroll scheme in place on or before 28 February 2020.

You can make the claim for the following reasons:

  • 13 March 2020 – if your employee had coronavirus or the symptoms or is self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • 16 April 2020 – if your employee was shielding because of coronavirus

If your employee has COVID-19 or is advised to stay at home, they can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’).

On 19 May, the government announced that the online claims service will launch on Tuesday 26 May. Please notify our Payroll Manager if you think this applies to any of your employees.

Please note that you must keep the below records for 3 years following your claim;

  • the reason why an employee could not work
  • details of each period when an employee could not work, including start and end dates
  • details of the SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work
  • National Insurance numbers of all employees who you have paid SSP to

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

Government has announced a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England. For additional support, please see the next section about available grants.

 

All businesses in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector, and based in England, are eligible for this scheme.

Properties that benefit from the scheme include those that are wholly or mainly used as:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure (for example: a sports club, a gym or a spa)
  • as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

All businesses in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector, and based in England, will automatically qualify and do not need to take any action themselves. If your business has already received a bill showing a value, this will be reissued automatically by the local authorities. They will do this as soon as possible.

You can estimate the business rate relief using the business rates calculator.

If you’re not getting a relief you think you’re entitled to, contact your local council.

Grant Funding Scheme for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses (RHLG)

For businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000, may be eligible for a cash grant of £10,000.

For businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,00 and under £51,000, may be eligible for a cash grant of £25,000.

Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not eligible for this scheme.

You are eligible for the grant if:

  • your business is based in England
  • your business is in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector
  • your business has a rateable value of under £51,000

Exclusion to RHLG:

  • Recipients cannot receive both SBGF and RHLG on the same property. (see the next section for SBGF)
  • Businesses which are not ratepayers in the business rates system are not included in this scheme.
  • As of 11 March your business was in liquidation or dissolved.

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

Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant, you do not need to do anything. All communication should go through your local authority.

Grant Funding Scheme for small businesses ((SBGF)

For those businesses already in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR) in the business rates system will be eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000.

You are eligible if:

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a small business and already receive small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief (RRR)  as of 11 March
  • you are a business that occupies property

Eligible recipients will receive one grant per property.

Businesses which as of the 11 March were in liquidation or were dissolved will not be eligible.

 

You do not need to do anything. Guidance and funding for the schemes will be available to local authorities shortly who will contact businesses who are eligible.

Eviction of 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. This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent.

All commercial tenants are eligible.

As a tenant you are protected from eviction, but you do still have to pay the rent. You should contact your landlord to discuss arrangements if you are struggling to pay your commercial rent. The change will come into force when the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent. No action is required.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

In order to ensure continuous financing support for SMEs during critical times, the British Business bank have guaranteed an 80% payback to lenders of SMEs financially affected by the outbreak. The government will also cover interest rates and any lender-levied fees for the first 12 months so businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

Various type of business financial facilities are supported under the CBILS scheme, including:

  • Term loans
  • Overdrafts
  • Asset finance
  • Invoice finance

 The scheme is available through more than 40 accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website.

The criteria for the scheme was changed on the 2nd April, following the banks rejecting a large number of loan requests. The loans have been made more accessible for smaller businesses. This scheme was set up to help any viable business with turnover of no more than £45 million per year.

Changes as of the 2nd April

  • Applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms, extending the number who benefit. However, the Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge.
  • Banks will be banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or property when borrowing up to £250,000
  • Larger firms with a turnover of up to £500m will also be eligible for more help – with state-backed loans of up to £25m available to firms with revenues of between £45m-500m.
    source: bbc.co.uk

However, to be eligible, you still need to show that your business:

  • would be viable were it not for the pandemic
  • has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

For detailed eligibility criteria:

CBILS is available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders – see the full list here.

Businesses should first approach their own provider (preferably via the lender’s website) but may consider approaching other lenders as well if they are not able to acceess the finance they need.  For more information on how to access the scheme,  please visit the Brisith Business Bank’s website.

New Future Fund For Startups

On April 20, the government unveiled plans to launch a new “Future Fund” for startups and has initially promised £250 million towards the £500 million fund, while the other half will come from the private sector. This means that the scheme will operate on a match funding basis and to unlock the investment from the government (ranging from £125,000 to £5m), the startup needs to secure an equal or greater amount of funds from private investors. Investment through the scheme will come in the form of a convertible loan note. This may be a good option for you if you rely on equity investment and can’t access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The fund is expected to be launched in May and will initially be open for applications until the end of September.

You are eligible if:

  • your business is an unlisted UK registered company
  • you have raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from private, third party investors in the last five years
  • you can attract the equivalent match funding from third-party private investors and institutions

The government will publish the full eligibility criteria shortly.

The Future Fund is expected to be launched in May 2020. We will update this section once new information becomes available.

Read the Future Fund headline terms HERE

Bounce Back Loan Scheme for SMEs (BBLS)

The Bounce Back Loan scheme is aimed at smaller businesses and will enable them to borrow of up to 25% of their annual turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000. Under this new scheme (launched on May 4), the firms are expected to get the cash “within days” after applying.  The government will guarantee 100% of the loan as well as pay the interest on the loan and any associated fees for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

The scheme is delivered through a network of accredited lenders.  Loan terms will be up to 6 years but you can repay early without paying a fee. If one lender turns you down, you can apply to other lenders in the scheme.

You are eligible if:

  • you are a UK based business
  • your business was established before 1 March 2020
  • your business has been negatively affected specifically by the coronavirus crisis and was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019

At this stage, there hasn’t been any clear definition of what “undertaking in difficulty” means but it is likely to mirror the viability test which applies to the CBILS. If a business was struggling to meet its financial obligations before the outbreak of COVID-19, they may be excluded from the BBLS scheme.

You cannot apply if you are:

  • a bank, insurer or reinsurer (but not insurance brokers)
  • a public-sector body
  • a state-funded primary or secondary school

Note that you also can’t apply for this scheme if you are already claiming under:

However, if you would like to transfer a loan (of up to £50 000) you received under CBILS into the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4 November 2020.

There are 11 lenders participating in the scheme including many of the main retail banks. You should approach a suitable lender yourself via the lender’s website.

The lender will ask you to fill in a short online application form and self-declare that you are eligible.

The lender will decide whether to offer you a loan or another type of finance and you’ll be responsible for repaying 100% of the amount borrowed.

Find a lender here.

 

COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

HM Treasury and the Bank of England have launched a Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) to provide additional help to businesses who experience disruptions to their cash flows as a result of COVID-19. The CCFF will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy. It will help businesses across a range of sectors to pay salaries, rents and suppliers.

The scheme is operated by the Bank and will run for at least 12 months.

All UK non-financial businesses that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.

For more information on how to access the scheme,  please see the Bank’s website  as well as this page for contact details.

How We Can Help 

At Goodwille, we will keep monitoring the current situation and governmental advice regarding COVID-19, regularly updating this post. Once additional information is announced regarding how and when to apply for the grants and reliefs as described above, we will make sure to keep you updated, and support you throughout the application process.

We encourage our clients, as well as other businesses, to get in touch with our team in case you have any questions or concerns regarding your UK operations and the implications of COVID-19.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is an initiative open to all UK employers with a PAYE scheme in place for the employees. The scheme will keep employees employed by their employer but they must not undertake any work.  The government will cover 80% of furloughed workers’ wages, up to £2,500 a month. Read more about the qualifying criteria, and how it may benefit your UK business.

The government has also published a step by step guide for claiming your employees’ wages through the CJRS, which can be accessed here.

The Scheme

Employers are able to claim back 80% of furloughed workers wages, limited to £2,500 per month and employee. Additionally, the employer can claim for associated Employer National Insurance contributions (NIC) and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions. Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included. Employees must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks.

The government initially said that the scheme will remain open for a minimum of three months but the deadline has now been extended in its current form until end of July.

On 12th May, it was announced by the Chancellor that the scheme will remain open until the end of October, though under different circumstances. From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time and employers will be expected to pay a percentage towards the furloughed staff’s salaries. These contributions will partly replace those made by the government, thus ensuring that employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.

The application portal went live on 20th April and can be accessed here.

All UK employers are eligible to apply for the scheme. This includes not only for-profit businesses, but also charities and recruitment agencies and public authorities. The scheme requires, however, that the organisation has a UK bank account and has started a PAYE payroll scheme prior to, or the day of, 19th March. In addition, you need to be enrolled for PAYE online (this can take up to 10 days).

 

About The Employees

Any type of employment is eligible, though the furloughed employees must have been on the PAYE payroll prior to, or on the day of, 19 March 2020. The employee cannot undertake any work for the organisation, thus, the scheme does not cover employees who are working on reduced hours or reduced salary contracts due to the current crisis.

Examples of type of employees you can claim for:

  • Full-time employees
  • Part time employees
  • Employees on agency contracts
  • Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • Rehired employees who were made redundant since 28 February.

Foreign nationals are also eligible to be furloughed.

Please see more detailed guidance on different types of employees on this page.

No, employers are not enforced to furlough all employees. When choosing who to furlough, the usual equality and discrimination laws will apply.

The government recommends that any changes made to employment contracts should be discussed and done in consent with employees.

Short term illness/ self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness, and there is a 3 week minimum furlough period.

If, however, employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee.

Calculating the Claim

You are entitled to claim 80% of the employee’s salary before tax as of 28 February, non-inclusive of fees, commission and bonuses and with a maximum amount of £2,500. See detailed guidance on how to calculate the wages here.

National Insurance and Pension Contributions

You are also entitled to claiming back the associated NIC and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions from the HMRC, both which you are still liable to pay. Note that you cannot claim for:

  • additional National Insurance or pension contributions you make because you chose to top up your employee’s salary
  • any pension contributions you make that are above the mandatory employer contribution

The calculation differs depending on how long the employee has been employed.

Employees whose pay varies and were employed from 6 April 2019

If the employee has been employed continuously from the start of the 2019 to 2020 tax year, you can claim the highest of either:

  • 80% of the same month’s wages from the previous year (up to a maximum of £2,500 a month)
  • 80% of the average monthly wages for the 2019 to 2020 tax year (up to a maximum of £2,500 a month)

Employees whose pay varies and who started employment after 6 April 2019

If the employee started their employment after 6 April 2019, claim for 80% of their average monthly wages since they started work until the date they are furloughed, up to a maximum of £2500 per month.

About Furloughed Employees

Yes, you may top up your employee’s salary if desired. Bear in mind, you will also have to pay for NIC and pension contributions for the top-up amount, which you will not be able to claim back.

No. According to the scheme, no one can be furloughed or claimed for unless they are on the PAYE payroll scheme before or on the day of 19 March.

Yes, as long if they do not do any type of work to generate revenue for, or on behalf of, the organisation.

Furloughed employees have the same right as they did before, including SSP, maternity rights and rights against unfair dismissal. Depending on the outcome, the right to redundancy payments could be particularly important ones the government ends the scheme.

This does not affect your claim – an employee can be furloughed for each job separately.

Claiming with HMRC & End of Scheme

To make a claim, you will need:

  • 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

See more details here.

As long as you are eligible for the grant, the HMRC will pay it directly to your UK bank account. (within 6 working days of submitting the claim). The amount must then be transferred directly to your employee. You may not deduct any fees from the grant.

Once you’ve claimed, make sure you:

  • keep a copy of all records, including:
    • the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
    • the claim reference number for your records
    • your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
  • tell your employees that you have made a claim and that they do not need to take any more action
  • pay your employee their wages, if you have not already

When the scheme ends, the employee can return to normal duties, or, it may be necessary to consider redundancy. The normal procedures for terminations must then be followed.

How We Can Help 

At Goodwille, we will keep monitoring the current situation and governmental advice regarding COVID-19, regularly updating our blog If any additional information is announced regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme we will notify you, and support you throughout the application process.

We encourage our clients, as well as other businesses, to get in touch with our team in case you have any questions or concerns regarding your UK operations and the implications of COVID-19.