As a family-owned business, we fully appreciate the challenges that you may be facing at the moment.
We have had to make some decisions to protect both our people and the business over the last few weeks so that we have a resilient business ready to push ahead when this global pandemic is over.
Given that we’ve reviewed a lot of the information surrounding the support available to businesses we thought we'd put this together in one place.
Government Support Packages Available
1 CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME
Under this scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue to pay part of their employees’ salary, for those employees who would otherwise have been laid off or made redundant during the crisis. All UK businesses are eligible.
In order to be eligible, 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. It is anticipated that in the current circumstances, there will be a large degree of understanding and that agreement will be reached quickly with affected employees. Workers cannot do any work for an employer that has furloughed them.
- Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC have still to 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. This will certainly relate to wage costs which have been processed through the PAYE system. This can be backdated to 1st March 2020 and will run for a period of 3 months at which time it will be reviewed. The employer can top-up the 80% HMRC payment but does not have to.
HMRC is working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers.
It is very likely that employee consent will be required before they are furloughed, in particular if their existing contracts of employment do not give the employer the right to lay-off and if the employer does not intend to make up the 80% to the full pay level.
There are a huge amount of questions that remain unanswered over how this scheme will operate in practice. However, we do know the principal of what the Government is trying to achieve, and this should allow employers to plan now and make relevant employees furloughed safe in the knowledge of the Government support they are going to receive.
For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
2. BUSINESS CASH GRANTS
There will be a flat one-off £10,000 cash grant for each business that already benefits from zero or reduced business rates because of small business rate relief.
There will be cash grants of up to £25,000 for businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value of between £18,000 and £51,000 (Scotland) and between £15,000 and £51,000 (England).
There is one cash grant available per business, regardless of the number of properties you occupy.
These grants must be applied for. The application forms can be accessed online via your local Council website where there will now be a Coronavirus area containing all relevant information.
For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
3. RATES RELIEF
The Government has announced that they will introduce a business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for the 2020/21 year, i.e. these reliefs will be available to non-domestic properties from 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021.
There is no rateable value limit on this relief, therefore, all businesses in these sectors will qualify. The Government has advised that this relief should be applied automatically, i.e. there should be no need to apply for it.
4. VAT DEFERRAL
Any VAT payments due to be made between 20th March 2020 and 30th June 2020 can be deferred to 31st March 2021. This is an automatic deferral with no applications required. VAT refunds will be paid by HMRC as normal. The business must submit its VAT Return as usual within the usual timescales. HMRC have advised that businesses which pay their VAT by Direct Debit should cancel the Direct Debit mandate now to avoid the payment being lifted accidentally.
5. SELF ASSESSMENT TAX DUE 31ST JULY 2020 - DEFERRAL
For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on 31st July 2020 will be deferred until 31st January 2021. No penalties or interest will be charged in the deferral period. You are eligible for this offer if you are Self-Employed.
6. TIME TO PAY – OTHER TAXES
There have been no specific deferred payment schemes announced for Corporation tax, PAYE, National Insurance or any other taxes (other than noted above). However, HMRC has set up a telephone hotline (Time to Pay Service) to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to COVID-19.
The Time to Pay Service Hotline number is 0800 0159 559 (ensure that you have your relevant tax reference numbers at hand), and any arrangements are agreed on a case by case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances. You should ideally call the hotline and make the arrangement in advance of the due payment date of the tax.
7. GOVERNMENT BACKED LOANS
The new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme [CBILS] will support SME’s (businesses with a turnover of less than £45m p.a.) with access to working capital (including loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance) of up to £5m in value for up to 6 years. The Government will pay the interest for the first 12 months and also any lender levied fees, e.g. arrangement fees. The Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan/facility in order to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SME’s. All major banks are offering this scheme and it is now open to applications. To apply you should speak to your bank manager.
At the discretion of the lender, the scheme may be used for unsecured lending for facilities of £250,000 and under. The lenders will not be taking primary residential property as collateral for borrowing of up to this amount, unlike conventional business loans. In theory, this should make accessing funding of up to £250,000 more streamlined and speed up the process.
For larger facilities above £250,000, the lender must establish a lack or absence of security prior to the business using the CBILS. If the lender can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the scheme, they will do so. In those instances, all security will be sought from the business. In applying for these larger facilities, you are likely to be asked to provide Management Information for the last 12 months, most recent annual accounts, future projections, a note of the impact of COVID-19 on your business, assumptions to support the amount of borrowing being sought, details of existing debt in the business and confirmation of what other Government support you have sought.
8. SICK PAY
For a business with less than 250 employees, the cost of providing up to 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay [SSP] per employee will be funded in full by the Government where the absence is due to COVID-19. This will also apply to those who are in self isolation. Previously, this SSP would have been a cost of the employer. The Government has announced that the 3-day waiting period for SSP will also be removed. Further details on the implementation are yet to be announced. This will be a rebate scheme whereby the employer will pay the SSP to the employee and then have the money rebated at a later date by HMRC.
10. SCAM ALERT
We are aware of emails claiming to be from HMRC offering tax rebates as a result of the Coronavirus.
If you receive an email, text or call claiming to be from HMRC that asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank account details, it is a scam.
Businesses that have cover for Pandemic or Government-ordered closure should be covered, as the Government and insurance industry confirmed on 17th March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, restaurants, theatres, etc. is sufficient to make a claim as long as all other terms and conditions are met. Insurance policies differ significantly, we are certainly not experts in these matters, and so you are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of your own specific policies and contact the relevant providers if you think there may be the chance of a claim. Most businesses are very unlikely to be covered since the standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.
12. BANK COVENANTS
Many businesses will not be able to meet their banking covenants if there is a period of significant disruption, as now seems inevitable. This could either be on performance covenants or simply the provision of financial information in case of staff disruption. Banks will be expecting this, and it is recommended that there is early communication with banks and, where possible, covenant waivers are sought. In those businesses with particular cash constraints, it is also recommended that the subject of payment holidays is raised with the bank early on. Our experience to date is that banks have been accommodating on this when asked.
13. FILINGS WITH COMPANIES HOUSE
Companies House and the Financial Reporting Council have confirmed that all companies with imminent filing deadlines – predominantly 30th June 2019 year-ends which are due for filing by 31st March 2020 – will be granted a two-month extension. If you are in a situation where your annual accounts are not ready for filing and may not be completed by the filing deadline, you must still contact Companies House prior to the deadline to agree on the extension.