Since the Spring Budget 2020 on 11 March the government has announced a series of measures designed to counter the threat posed to the UK economy by the outbreak of the Coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.
This post summarises all measures issued so far and is updated as new measures are announced. Please bookmark this page and visit it every day to keep up to date. Or, click here, to sign up for our newsletter to receive regular updates via email.
How we can help you
Our colleagues at Brewers Chartered Accountants would be happy to help:
- Providing advice and guidance on all of the COVID-19 measures that have been announced.
- Providing employers with a template letter for employees that they wish to furlough.
- Providing advice and guidance on cashflow planning and prioritising creditors.
- Keeping you up to date on all the measures announced so far and any new measures as they are released on this page each day or by subscribing to our newsletter here.
- Providing details of eligibility for the schemes announced and how you can access the support on offer, again, on this page and clicking the links where the measure is detailed.
Get in touch
Give us a call on 01483 205890, or email us by clicking here and we can put you in touch with the right person at Brewers to help you.
Updates from 13 May
The self-employed income support scheme has opened for claims today. This offers self-employed people a taxable grant of 80% of their monthly trading profits, paid in a lump sum to cover three months, and capped at £7,500 in total.
Self-employed individuals must use this service to make the claim themselves – accountants cannot make a claim on a client’s behalf. However, you can advise them on whether or not they might be eligible, using HMRC’s online eligibility checker, and help them to find the details they need to apply.
Updates from 12 May
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the coronavirus job retention scheme until the end of October.
He said there will be no further changes to the scheme until the end of July, but that from August it will offer “greater flexibility” to support the transition back to work, by allowing employers to bring furloughed members of staff back part-time.
It will also require employers to make a contribution to the cost of salaries.
The full details are expected to be released by the end of May, but Sunak stressed that while this scheme is open, workers will continue to receive the same level of support as they do now, at 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has also issued new guidance on how businesses can operate safely during the pandemic. The guides cover eight different types of work, with information on how social distancing can be implemented.
Updates from 11 May
Prime Minister addresses the nation
In an address to the nation on Sunday 10 May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a “conditional plan” for easing lockdown restrictions. He said a new five-level alert system will determine the rate at which restrictions are lifted.
The plan, which will depend on whether conditions for combating COVID-19 are met, includes the following steps:
- From Wednesday 13 May, those who cannot work from home, such as workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors, are being encouraged to go to work but have been told to avoid using public transport. Those who are able to work from home should continue to do so.
- From 1 June, shops and schools could be reopened in phases.
- From 1 July, some hospitality businesses and other public places could reopen – but only “if the numbers support it”.
The government has published a 60-page guidance document on its COVID-19 recovery strategy, which can be found here.
Government issues guidance on working safely
The guidance sets out practical steps for businesses, focused on 5 key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:
1. Work from home, if you can
2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
3. Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible
4. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk
5. Reinforcing cleaning processes
For more information on the 5 key points, click here.
The government has also provided guides on working safely during the Coronavirus outbreak, covering a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles, so may need to use more than one of the guides while planning what needs to be done to keep people safe.
Updates from 04 May
Local authority discretionary grant
On Saturday 02 May, the government announced an additional grant scheme designed to plug a gap in provision of support for businesses operating from shared working spaces and not paying business rates.
The local authority discretionary grant fund is worth £617 million in total – a 5% increase on the £12.33 billion already pledged – and is expected to help market traders and those in co-working office spaces. Councils have been told to use their discretion in deciding which types of business might be eligible, based on local knowledge and need.
Grants are capped at £25,000 and apply only to firms with fewer than 50 employees trading on or before 11 March 2020.
Businesses claiming the new grant will be expected to demonstrate that they have ongoing fixed building-related costs and have suffered a fall in income due to COVID-19. Those already claiming via existing grant schemes or through the self-employment income support scheme will not be able to access this additional funding.
Bounce Back Loan Scheme
You cannot take out a Bounce Back Loan if you’ve already taken advantage of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), however, it has now been announced that you can transfer a CBILS loan of up to £50,000 to the Bounce Back Scheme before 04 November 2020. More details can be found here.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
It was also announced by HMRC that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will now be delivered ahead of its original June schedule, with payments now being made by 25 May, ahead of the original June timeframe. Check if you are eligible to claim a grant here
Updates from 27 April
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new micro-loan scheme called Bounce Back Loans, which offers loans of 25% of a business’s turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000, with the government paying 100% of the interest for the first twelve months.
Sunak promised there will be “no forward-looking tests of business viability; no complex eligibility criteria; just a simple, quick, standard form for businesses to fill in”, and said the loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval for most firms.
The scheme is due to open from 9am on 04 May 2020.
Measures have also been put in place to protect high street businesses against aggressive debt recovery actions. These include a temporary ban on the use of statutory demands made between 01 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, and on winding-up petitions presented from 27 April 2020 to 30 June 2020.
Updates from 21 April
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live on Monday 20 April.
Accessing the system
Some users have had difficulty accessing the system because they do not have an active PAYE enrolment. In order to make claim you will need to:
- have a Government Gateway (GG) ID and password – if you don’t already have a GG account, you can apply here, or by going to GOV.UK and searching for 'HMRC services: sign in or register'
- be enrolled for PAYE online – if you aren’t registered yet, you can do so now, or by going to gov.uk and searching for 'PAYE Online for employers'.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Calculator
HMRC has also updated its online calculator tool so that it covers more employment circumstances. The update will mean that users can use it to calculate what they can claim for most employees who are paid variable amounts each pay period, as well as those who are paid fixed amounts.
If you have already made a claim
HMRC advise users to retain all records and calculations for claims in case it needs to contact them. Provided a claim is made in accordance with HMRC’s published guidance, claimants can expect to receive the funds six working days after an application is made.
Updates from 20 April
A new scheme to support startups, called the Future Fund, was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday, 19 April. The £1.25 billion fund is designed to help firms not eligible for funding through existing coronavirus support schemes. It will provide loans to UK-based companies, from £125,000 to £5 million, as long as they’ve found at least equal funding from private investors. Further detail is expected soon but applications are expected to open in May. Your business may be eligible if:
- it is based in the UK
- has appropriate funding from private investors and institutions
- has previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment in the past 5 years.
Today, 20 April 2020, the coronavirus job retention scheme portal opened, receiving 67,000 applications for furlough payments in the first ten minutes. It can be accessed via the gov.uk website.
Finally, in the past week councils have urged businesses notified of their eligibility for business support grants to complete their applications. Although at the time the grant schemes were announced businesses were told they would need to take no action, it is necessary to complete an application to receive this funding.
Updates from 14 April: Update on support for the self-employed
HMRC intends to contact millions of people eligible for the self-employed income support scheme by the middle of May.
Those workers who have lost profits due to COVID-19 will be invited to submit online claims for payments, which will be made by early June.
The scheme provides taxable grants worth 80% of a self-employed worker's trading profits, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
It can be claimed for an initial three months, starting from 01 March 2020, as long as trading profits were less than £50,000 in 2018/19.
Most of the UK's five million self-employed population are expected to be eligible for the scheme.
Updates from 08 April: Help for UK and NI charities
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged a £750 million package to help charities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunak announced the measure on 08 April in an attempt to address concerns that some charities are facing collapse.
As part of the scheme, £370m will go to small local charities that are working with vulnerable people during the coronavirus crisis.
Another £360m in cash grants is available to charities, such as St John's Ambulance and the Citizens' Advice Bureau, that are providing key services.
For charities in England, this support will be provided through organisations like the National Lottery Communities Fund.
For charities in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, £60m of funding will be available through the Barnett formula.
Updates from 03 April
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for struggling businesses has been revamped.
In addition to the previous offering, it will offer state-backed loans of up to £25 million for larger firms with turnover of between £45m and £500m.
UK Finance said more than 130,000 loan enquiries had been made since the scheme opened, but less than 1,000 had been approved by banks.
In response, the Government will underwrite 80% of these loans to nudge banks into speeding up the provision of these emergency funds.
Banks will also be banned from asking company owners to underwrite loans of up to £250,000 with their own assets, such as property or savings.
Updates from 02 April
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme now applies to off-payroll contractors working for public-sector organisations.
Furlough can be offered to all public-sector workers, including those paid under PAYE, through an umbrella or their own personal service company.
Updates from 01 April
The second phase of Making Tax Digital for VAT, which introduces more complex technology and stringent rules, has been deferred for 12 months.
New rules around the way digital firms link their MTD software and how they upload their VAT returns will now kick in on 01 April 2021.
Updates from 30 March
Further clarification on the Job Retention Scheme has been given by the Department for Work and Pensions. It has been announced that employer auto-enrolment contributions and National Insurance liabilities are covered under the scheme.
The grants, covering whichever is the lower of 80% of a furloughed employee's regular wage or £2,500 a month, can also be used to claim employer National Insurance contributions and minimum auto-enrolment employer pension contributions (3%) on that wage.
The move is designed to alleviate any pressure on employers to suspend auto-enrolment contributions.
Employers paying above the minimum of 3% will not be able to claim back the additional amount.
Claims will be made to HMRC through an online service, which should be up and running by the end of April 2020.
Updates from 27 March
Full guidance has now been published setting out how businesses can claim through the coronavirus job retention scheme. Some key details are as follows:
- Only employers that created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 28 February 2020 are eligible.
- The scheme covers full-time employees, part-time employees, employees on agency contracts and employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.
- Employees made redundant after 28 February 2020 but rehired by their employer can be furloughed.
- Employees hired after 28 February cannot be furloughed.
To make a claim, employers will need to provide:
- ePAYE reference number
- number of employees being furloughed
- the claim period
- amount claimed
- bank account number and sort code
- contact name and number.
Updates from Thursday 26 March: Support for self-employed people, at last
Having been under pressure for the past week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced measures to support self-employed people whose earnings have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Self-employed income support scheme
- Those who are already self-employed and facing financial difficulties are asked to apply.
- The scheme will cover up to 80% of average profits over the past three years, up to £2,500 per month, for at least three months.
- Those with trading profits of more than £50,000 are not eligible.
- Eligibility is determined with reference to earnings in 2018/19 as reported on tax returns filed this year.
- What next? Application will be to HMRC via an online platform, yet to launch. The grants probably won’t be available until June 2020, backdated to 1 March. In the meantime, self-employed people who can’t work are expected to claim universal credit, access to which was broadened in the Spring Budget.
Updates from Wednesday 25 March
The Prime Minister stated in his daily address that measures to help the self-employed will be announced on Thursday 26 March. We will give an update on these proposals as soon as they are issued.
Further to the news below that Companies House would automatically be giving those who need it a two-month extension on filing their accounts, the government has now confirmed an automatic three-month extension for businesses that need it.
As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the 3-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.
A new note has been added to the guidance on deferral of VAT payments reminding businesses that pay by direct debit to cancel if they want to defer payment:
Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay. Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return
The Scottish Government has published guidance on its support for businesses in Scotland, with some specific differences:
- The threshold for £25,000 grants for small business is £18,000 rather than £15k, as in England.
- All non-domestic properties in Scotland will get 1.6% rates relief, applied automatically.
- Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will get 100% rates relief, as in England, also applied automatically.
Guidance from the Welsh Government is also now available. One notable difference is that the threshold for the £25,000 grant payment for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses is £12,000 – lower than in England or Scotland.
Businesses in Wales can also access loan and equity funding via the Development Bank of Wales.
Updates from Tuesday 24 March
Fuller detail of the retail, hospitality and leisure grant (RHLG) fund has been published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The guidance document, intended to help local authorities administer the scheme, is available on the government website.
- Payments will be made to the person listed in local authority’s records as the ratepayer for the business premises on 11 March 2020.
- There is a strong warning against fraudulent claims with a promise of prosecution and clawback for any such payments.
- Certain premises are excluded on the grounds of private use, such as private stables and beach huts. Car parks and parking spaces are also ineligible.
- Businesses in liquidation or dissolved as of 11 March aren’t eligible either.
The Coronavirus Bill currently before Parliament now includes an amendment calling for support for the self-employed and freelancers in line with that being provided for employees under PAYE via the Coronavirus job protection scheme. It was passed by the House of Commons last night and will now go to the House of Lords for scrutiny.
Updates from Monday 23 March
The scheduled 5pm press conference was cancelled and the Prime Minister instead addressed the nation at 20:30 announcing, to all intents and purposes, a total lockdown of the UK. Movements are to be restricted and non-essential shops are to close.
This means expected clarifications on how businesses can access support are likely to be delayed until later in the week.
As scheduled, however, the British Business Bank has published comprehensive details of how the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan cheme (CBILS) can be accessed:
- Eligibility: an SME must be UK-based with annual turnover of less than £45m and have a proposal which would be considered viable by the lender under normal circumstances.
- Types of finance available: Term loans, overdrafts, asset finance, invoice finance.
- How to apply: via one of the accredited lenders on this list. In the first instance, the British Business Bank is urging businesses to apply online and asking those who don’t need emergency finance to ‘consider the urgency of your need’. More detail is available here.
In other news, Companies House has confirmed that, in line with it’s existing rules, firms that were unable to file accounts on time can apply for a deadline extension, with an automatic two-month extension for those in isolation.
Measures announced on 20 March
On the evening of 20 March 2020 the Prime Minister announced further restrictions on the compulsory closure of bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Alongside these new measures, the Chancellor announced a further package of support for businesses facing the prospect of having to reduce staff numbers.
Coronavirus job retention scheme
- Grants of up to £2,500 per employee where those employees are unable to work (are ‘furloughed’) because of Coronavirus, covering 80% of salary costs.
- Intended to run for three months in the first instance with the first payments expected in early April and the scheme fully up and running by the end of that month.
- The grants will be paid via HMRC.
- All UK employers will be eligible.
- What next? At present, no information has been provided on how to apply. Though it is generally understood to mean ‘stood down but still employed’, there is as yet no official definition of ‘furloughed’. It is unclear whether employers will be expected to make up the remaining 20% of salary.
Extension of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
- Maximum turnover for eligible businesses was previously set at £41 million per year; it has now been increased to £45m.
- The interest-free period has been increased from six months to twelve.
- The scheme is being managed by the British Business Bank but businesses will access them via one of 40 accredited lending providers, including most major banks.
- The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5 million – higher than the £1.2m announced initially.
- What next? Discuss business plans with existing lending providers. Loans will be available from Monday 23 March 2020.
Deferral of tax and VAT payments currently due
- VAT payments from UK-based VAT registered businesses due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 won’t need to be paid to the usual deadlines, with payment deferred until the end of the tax year.
- Self-assessment income tax payments for the self-employed which were due on 31 July 2020 can now be deferred until 31 January 2021.
- What next? Both deferral schemes apply automatically with no application required.
Access to welfare for the self-employed
- The minimum income floor for access to universal credit has been suspended for self-employed people affected by the economic impact of Coronavirus.
Measures announced on 17 March
At a press conference on 17 March, the Chancellor announced a package of support worth £350 billion – around 15% of the value of the entire UK economy.
It came upon the heels of a statement from the Prime Minister on 16 March which urged people to stop visiting cafes, pubs and restaurants.
It was intended to send a strong signal to British businesses not to act hastily in downsizing because support would be forthcoming.
Extension of business rate discount
- All hospitality, leisure and retail venues in England, regardless of rateable value, can now claim a 100% discount on business rates for 12 months from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
- Unoccupied properties that become vacant in the next 12 months will be charged 100% full rates from three months after they become empty.
- What next? The discount will be applied automatically to the next council tax bill, due in April 2020.
Cash grants for very small businesses
- Hospitality, leisure and retail businesses operating from units with rateable values between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.
- Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of less than £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000.
- Those with a rateable value of more than £15,000 will receive £25,000.
- Your local authority will contact you if you are eligible for this grant.
- What next? Await notification from local authorities.
Measures announced in Spring Budget 2020
In what the Office for Budget Responsibility called the “largest Budget giveaway since 1992”, Rishi Sunak announced business support measures worth billions. Events have moved quickly, though, and many of the specific measures announced have now been superceded or further extended
Grants for businesses receiving SBRR or RRR
- Businesses in England eligible for small business rate relief (SBRR) or rural rate relief (RRR) will receive a one-off cash grant of £10,000.
- What next? This will be processed automatically by local authorities.
Statutory sick pay reclaim scheme for SMEs
- Small-and medium-sized businesses and employers will be able to reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.
- The refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP for each member of staff off work because of COVID-19.
- It applies to all UK businesses that employed fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.
- What next? Legislation needs to pass before details of how to apply can be published.
- On 19 March 2020 the Bank of England cut interest rates to a historic low of 0.1%, having previously reduced them to 0.25% on the day of the Spring Budget.
Get in touch
To discuss any of the measures detailed above or for any other advice and guidance on COVID-19 and how it is affecting you or your business, give us a call on 01483 205890, or email us by clicking here and we can put you in touch with our colleagues at Brewers Chartered Accountants.
Updated: 13 May 2020