Argents - Supporting You/Your Business

We will keep this page up to date with the latest news, advice, links and contact details during this challenging time. We are here to support you, please do get in touch to discuss your concerns regards to these changes. 

Support for UK Businesses 

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • Local Authority Discretionary Grant Funds
  • New Microloans for small firms
  • A  Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • A Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
  • 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
  • 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

 

Local Authority Discretionary Grant Funds

The Discretionary Grants Fund supports small and micro businesses that are not eligible for other grant schemes.

You’re potentially eligible if your business has been adversely affected by Covid-19 and:

  • is based in England
  • has fewer than 50 employees
  • has fixed building costs such as rent
  • was trading on 11 March 2020

Check the government website for more details or contact your local authority.

New microloans for smaller firms

Small businesses will be able to access 100% state-sponsored microloans of up to £50,000, or 25% of their turnover, from Monday, May 4, 2020, described as 'bounce back' loans.  Introduced following fears that emergency funds for smaller businesses are taking too long. 

Described as a ‘simple solution for those in need of smaller loans’, the new microloans could be in a firm's bank account within a day and no capital or interest repayments will be due for a year.

The scheme will require a two-page, self-certification form to be completed online.  Firms applying for the new microloans will only have to prove they were viable in the past before the crisis.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

UPDATED 1/6/2020

  • Following the Chancellors recent announcement, the furlough scheme has been extended to the end of October.
  • He has also announced further details regarding how this will work.  From August 1st, 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.
  • The option to use a more flexible furlough scheme will be bought forward to July 1st. (Enabling employers to bring back previously furloughed employees part-time and still receive a grant for the time when they are not working.)
  • The scheme will close to new employees on June 30th.

This means claims will only be possible from 1st July onwards for employees who begun a 3 week furlough period for the first time on or before June 10th. This is something to consider if you are planning to change who is furloughed amongst your workforce-especially staff who may not have previously been on furlough.  Please see the government website for detailed information.

 

All UK employers are 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.

How 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 available now. (HMRC guidance available here)

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

How To Claim For Your Employees' Wages Through The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

The Government recently provided more details on how the CJRS works. Please note the online service you will use to claim is now open – guidance available here. We have the capability to calculate and submit your CJRS Claim so please let us know if we can help.

Overview of the scheme

The principle behind the CJRS is that If you cannot maintain your current workforce because your operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (C19), you can furlough employees and apply for a grant that covers 80% of their usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.

This is a temporary scheme in place from 1 March 2020 until October 31st, but it may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme anytime during this period. It is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by C19 to retain their employees and protect the UK economy. However, all employers are eligible to claim under the scheme and the government recognises different businesses will face different impacts from coronavirus.

Who can claim?

You must have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020, enrolled for PAYE online and have a UK bank account.

Any entity with a UK payroll can apply, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.

Employees you can claim for

You can only claim for furloughed employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. If you made employees redundant, or they stopped working for you on or after 28 February 2020, you can re-employ them, put them on furlough and claim for their wages from the date on which you furloughed them, even if you do not re-employ them until after 19 March 2020.  This applies as long as the employee was on your PAYE payroll as at 28 February 2020, which means an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 28 February 2020.

Employees can be on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts. Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed.

To be eligible for the grant, when on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for, or on behalf, of the organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue. Employers are free to consider allocating any critical business tasks to staff that are not furloughed. While on furlough, the employee’s wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.

Agreeing to furlough employees

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. When employers are making decisions in relation to the process, including deciding who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.

To be eligible for the grant employers must confirm in writing to their employee confirming that they have been furloughed. A record of this communication must be kept for five years.

You do not need to place all your employees on furlough. However, those employees who you do place on furlough cannot undertake work for you.

How much you can claim

You will need to claim for:

  • 80% of your employees’ wages (even for employee’s on National Minimum Wage) - up to a maximum of £2,500. Do not claim for the worker’s previous salary.
  • minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on the subsidised wage

You can choose to top up your employee’s salary, but you do not have to. Employees must not work or provide any services for the business while furloughed, even if they receive a top-up salary.

Grants will be prorated if your employee is only furloughed for part of a pay period.

Claims should be started from the date that the employee finishes work and starts furlough, not when the decision is made, or when they written to confirming their furloughed status.

The way you work out your employees’ wages is different depending on what type of contract they’re on, and when they started work.

Full or part time employees on a salary

Claim for the 80% of the employee’s salary, as of 28 February 2020, before tax.

Employees whose pay varies

If the employee has been employed for 12 months or more, you can claim the highest of either the:

  • same month’s earning from the previous year
  • average monthly earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year

If the employee has been employed for less than 12 months, claim for 80% of their average monthly earnings since they started work.

If the employee only started in February 2020, work out a pro-rata for their earnings so far, and claim for 80%.

Employer National Insurance and Pension Contributions

You’ll still need to pay employer National Insurance and pension contributions on behalf of your furloughed employees, and you can claim for these too.

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

Past Overtime, Fees, Commission, Bonuses and non-cash payments

You can claim for any regular payments you are obliged to pay your employees. This includes wages, past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments. However, discretionary bonus (including tips) and commission payments and non-cash payments should be excluded.

Benefits in Kind and Salary Sacrifice Schemes

The reference salary should not include the cost of non-monetary benefits provided to employees, including taxable Benefits in Kind. Similarly, benefits provided through salary sacrifice schemes (including pension contributions) that reduce an employee’s taxable pay should also not be included in the reference salary. Where the employer provides benefits to furloughed employees, this should be in addition to the wages that must be paid under the terms of the Job Retention Scheme.

Normally, an employee cannot switch freely out of a salary sacrifice scheme unless there is a life event. HMRC agrees that COVID-19 counts as a life event that could warrant changes to salary sacrifice arrangements, if the relevant employment contract is updated accordingly.

Apprenticeship Levy and Student Loans

Both the Apprenticeship Levy and Student Loans should continue to be paid as usual. Grants from the Job Retention Scheme do not cover these.

National Minimum Wage

Individuals are only entitled to the National Living Wage (NLW)/National Minimum Wage (NMW)/ Apprentices Minimum Wage (AMW) for the hours they are working or treated as working under minimum wage rules.

This means that furloughed workers who are not working can be paid the lower of 80% of their salary or £2,500 even if, based on their usual working hours, this would be below their appropriate minimum wage. However, time spent training is treated as working time for the purposes of the minimum wage calculations and must be paid at the appropriate minimum wage, taking into account the increase in minimum wage rates from 1 April 2020. As such, employers will need to ensure that the furlough payment provides sufficient monies to cover these training hours. Where the furlough payment is less than the appropriate minimum wage entitlement for the training hours, the employer will need to pay the additional wages to ensure at least the appropriate minimum wage is paid for 100% of the training time.

Where a furloughed worker is paid close to minimum wage levels and asked to complete training courses for a substantial majority of their usual working time employers are recommended to seek independent advice or contact Acas.

What you will need to make a claim

Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. Employers may need to seek legal advice on the process. If sufficient numbers of staff are involved, it may be necessary to engage collective consultation processes to procure agreement to changes to terms of employment.

To claim, you will need:

  • your ePAYE reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • the claim period (start and end date)
  • amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 consecutive weeks)
  • your bank account number and sort code
  • your contact name
  • your phone number

It is the employer’s responsibility to make the claim.  Please contact us if you need help in calculating the claim. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.

The full guidance can be found at:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#history

 

If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

Support for businesses through deferring VAT and Income Tax payments

HMRC are supporting businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 6 months. If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. Find out more on our Payment Deferring Page.  Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit if they are unable to pay, via online banking or contact your bank. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

VAT

For VAT, the deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

All UK businesses are eligible.

How to access the scheme  Find out more on our Payment Deferring Page

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. Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit if they are unable to pay, via online banking or contact your bank. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return.

Income Tax

For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021.

If you are self-employed you are eligible.

How to access the scheme  Find out more on our Payment Deferring Page

This is an automatic offer with no applications required.

No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities.

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees:

Legislation will be brought forward 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. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP 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

Eligibility

You are eligible for the scheme if:

  • your business is UK based
  • your business is a small or medium-sized and employs fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020

How to access the scheme

A rebate scheme is being developed. Further details will be provided in due course once the legalisation has passed.

 

Support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that pay business rates

Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

Business rate holidays will be introduced for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.  All shops, cinemas, restaurants, music venues and business operating in the leisure and hospitality sectors will have no business rates to pay in 2020/21.  Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

Eligibility

  • 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 & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation

How to access the scheme

There is no action for you. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, 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 their business rates calculator.

Further guidance for local authorities is available in the expanded retail discount guidance.

Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses

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.

For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000, they will receive a grant of £10,000.  

For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000, they will receive a grant of £25,000.

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 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.

Norfolk County Council

Website: www.norfolk.gov.uk

Broadland District Council

Website: www.broadland.gov.uk

Suffolk County Council

Website: www.suffolk.gov.uk

Cambridgeshire County Council

Website: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Cambridge City Council

Website: www.cambridge.gov.uk

Support for nursery businesses that pay business rates

Business rates holiday for nurseries in England will be introduced for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Eligibility

You are eligible for the business rates holiday if:

  • your business is based in England

Properties that will benefit from the relief will be hereditaments:

  • occupied by providers on Ofsted’s Early Years Register
  • wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage

How to access the scheme

There is no action for you. This will apply to your next council tax bill in April 2020. However, local authorities may have to reissue your bill 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 nursery discount guidance.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Eligibility

You are eligible if:

  • your business is based in England
  • you are a small business and already receive SBBR and/or RRR
  • you are a 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

The new 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 of 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.

  • £90 million of business interruption loans approved for nearly 1,000 firms and £1.9 billion corporate finance provided to firms hit by COVID-19
  • current loan scheme extended so more small businesses can benefit
  • new scheme announced to bolster support for larger firms not currently eligible for loans
  • Chancellor emphasises importance of banks moving quickly to support the economy, jobs and businesses

If you need help securing the finance to keep your business afloat please talk to us about the Government supports available

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

How to access the scheme

The scheme is now open for applications. To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers (not the British 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 with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.

 

Support for businesses paying tax: 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. For further guidance please see our Time to Pay page.

Eligibility

You are eligible if your business:

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

How to access the scheme

If you have missed a tax payment or you are worried about your next payment/future payment due to COVID-19, we are here to help-please read our support page for guidance in preparation, before calling HMRC. The new HMRC’s dedicated helpline number is: 0800 0159 559.

Insurance Cover

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 as long as all other terms and conditions are met.

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. Pandemic cover is not a feature of most business disruption cover, a point underlined by the Association of British Insurers in a statement it issued on 17 March.

Off-payroll working in the private sector (IR35)

Also on 17 March, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barker, said in a statement to the House of Commons that the start date for the new IR35 tax rules would be deferred to 6 April 2021.

Measures for Individuals

Mortgage Holidays

For people who find themselves in financial difficulties because of coronavirus, mortgage lenders will offer at least a three-month mortgage holiday.

Statutory Sick Pay

You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work, rising to £95.85 from April. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

If you are staying at home because of COVID-19 you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people in the same household and therefore have been advised to do a household quarantine.

To check your sick pay entitlement, you should talk to your employer, and visit the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) page for more information.

If you are Self-Employed or not Eligible for SSP

If you are not eligible for SSP – for example if you are self-employed or earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week earnings threshold for SSP and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance.  For 12 months from 6 April 2020, the standard allowance in Universal Credit (UC) and the basic element in Working Tax Credit (WTC) for will be increased by the equivalent of about £20 a week over and above planned annual uprating (which were to £323.22 per month for UC for age 25 and over and £1,995 a year for WTC). This effectively brings UC into line with the rate of SSP. The change will apply to all new and existing UC claimants and to existing WTC claimants.

If you are eligible for new style Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home.  You are able to claim Universal Credit, providing you meet the usual eligibility criteria.

To support you with the economic impact of the outbreak, and allow you to follow government guidance on self-isolation and social distancing, from 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the outbreak.

New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment.

Support for rent costs

You should check your eligibility for Universal Credit, which is available for people in and out of work. Support for rental costs will be paid through Universal Credit.

From April, Local Housing Allowance rates are increasing to the 30th percentile of market rents. This applies to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.

High earning parents may be entitled to claim Child Benefit

The impact of furloughing or reduced income due to Coronavirus may mean that parents are able to reinstate a claim for Child Benefit.

The High Income Child Benefit tax charge results in child benefit being restricted for parents where the higher earner has income between £50,000 and £60,000. This has led to many parents withdrawing their claim, to avoid having to effectively pay this back via their tax returns.

With incomes likely to be significantly lower for many in the current tax year, the impact of this tax charge will be reduced proportionately as earnings drop below £60,000. (For every £100 earned above £50,000, 1% of the child benefit received is effectively withdrawn through the charge.) If the higher paid parents earnings drop below £50,000 full entitlement for the 20/21 tax year equates to £21.05 a week for the 1st child and £13.95 a week per child for all subsequent children under 16.

If you believe that your income is likely to be affected, then you can contact the Child Benefit helpline on 0300 200 3100 (8am-4pm) to ask them to reinstate your claim (Have your National Insurance ready). Alternatively visit https://www.gov.uk/child-benefit-tax-charge/restart-child-benefit. The claim can be backdated for up to 3 months, and so you should act as soon as possible, to avoid missing out for part of the tax year.

Please get in touch with your usual Argents contact if you would like to discuss your entitlement and the tax charge any further.

Hardship Fund

The Chancellor announced in the Budget a £500 million Hardship Fund, which would be distributed to Local Authorities so that they could support the vulnerable.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss these measures further, please email your Argents Contact.

To stay up to date with the latest news and changes as they happen please download our MyAccountants App.

Key Government websites where you can access the latest information:-

 

New HM Coronavirus Business Support Website 

https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

 

  • Guidance on social distancing and stay at home:

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

  • Travel advice:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

  • Support for businesses:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

  • Tax helpline to support businesses who are concerned about paying their taxes:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

  • Guide for employees, employers and businesses:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

  • Budget 2020: tax-related documents:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/budget-2020-tax-related-documents

  • NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19):

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/