With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic these are extremely uncertain and unprecedented circumstances for the business community in Northern Ireland. A number of measures have been announced to provide support to businesses during this period.
GMcG remains open for business and we will endeavour to support your business in whatever way we can through this difficult and uncertain time.
Some of the main ways that we can support you include:
To discuss how the measures that the government has introduced apply to your business and how we can help you to access support please get in touch with your usual GMcG contact.
The key measures and announcements that have been revealed are explained below.
Self-Employment Support Scheme
On 26 March 2020 the government announced this scheme to support those who are self-employed or members of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus. HMRC have now begun to contact taxpayers who may be eligible for the scheme.
To avail of this support you must:
In addition, you must satisfy one of the following conditions:
If you commenced trading in the period 2016-19, only those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return will be used to determine your income levels..
Check if you’re eligible
You can HMRC’s online tool at https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference find out if you’re eligible to make a claim. If you are a personal tax client we can also use the online tool on your behalf. However, the current position is that agents cannot make the claim on behalf of the taxpayer so you will need your own Government Gateway access to claim.
You’ll need your Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number and National Insurance number to use the tool.
If you are eligible HMRC will tell you the date you’ll be able to make a claim from and ask you to add your contact details, which will be used to remind you when the online service will be available.
If you’re not eligible, you can ask HMRC to review this after you’ve used the online tool.
The claims service opened on Wednesday 13 May 2020 and those eligible will have the money paid into their bank account within six working days of completing a claim.
Amount of Support Available
The amount of support that is available is a grant of 80% of your average profits from the previous three tax years (or the average from commencement of trade where trading commenced in the period 2016-19).
The average profits will be used to calculate a monthly amount.
The grant will be up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for three months and will be paid directly in one instalment.
The grant is taxable.
Universal Credit for Self-employed
The minimum income floor for self-employed has been suspended meaning that self-employed can access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.
Self-assessment payments due on 31 July 2020 have been deferred until 31 January 2021. No interest or penalties will be charged in the deferral period.
Under this scheme employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of the salary of those employees that they would otherwise have to layoff due to the crisis.
The key points are:
The nature of this scheme is such that the employer must still make the payments to employees and subsequently claim the reimbursements from HMRC. This will have cash flow implications for many businesses who may require additional support through the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which is explained in more detail below.
The Chancellor has stated that there is no limit on the funding available and the government will support as many jobs as needed.
Full details of the scheme can be found at:
Making a claim
Claims are made through the Government Gateway.
To make a claim you will need:
If your claim is in relation to more than 100 furloughed employees you will need to upload a file in either .xls, .xlsx, .csv or .ods format. The full must contain the following information for each furloughed employee:
After you have submitted a claim you will get a claim reference number. HMRC will check that your claim is correct and pay the claim amount into your bank account within 6 working days.
Full details on how the make a claim and a link to the Government Gateway can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme and further details on how much you can claim are at https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/job-retention-scheme-calculator
Irish Employers – Wage Subsidy Scheme
On 24 March 2020 the Irish Government announced a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme to provide support to workers affected by the crisis. The scheme enables employees, whose employers are affected by the pandemic, to receive support of up to €410 per week directly from their employer through the payroll system.
The scheme began on 26 March 2020 and is expected to remain open for 12 weeks. Further changes to the scheme were announced on 15 April 2020 and these changes took effect from 4 May 2020.
Further details on the operation of the scheme can be found at:
Frequently asked questions can be found at:-
Businesses will not need to make any VAT payments in the period 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, with payment of VAT falling due during the period not required until 31 March 2021.
Businesses must continue to submit their VAT returns by the due date as normal. Those businesses that normally pay their VAT liability by direct debit and are unable to pay their VAT liability, should cancel the VAT direct debit with their bank in sufficient time so that HMRC does not attempt to automatically collect the payment following submission of the VAT return.
Refunds and reclaims will be paid by HMRC as normal.
On 18 March 2020 the Northern Ireland Executive announced that £370m is being provided to help the most vulnerable businesses in Northern Ireland during the pandemic.
£10,000 Small Business Grant Scheme
Small businesses with a Net Annual Value (i.e. rateable value) of up to £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000.
Registration is now open for businesses to apply for the £10,000 Small Business Grant Scheme.
Automatic payments will be made to those eligible businesses whose bank account details are held for the purposes of paying rates by Direct Debit. The first payments in the Small Business Support Grant Scheme have already been made.
Eligible businesses that don't currently pay business rates by Direct Debit can register for the scheme and provide their bank details by completing an online registration form at:
Business with multiple premises will only be eligible for one grant of £10,000 in total and vacant properties are not eligible.
Grant payments are not being automatically issued to landlords of properties with a rateable value of £1,590 or less. Arrangements are being put in place to contact the landlord and small businesses concerned.
£25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant
Larger, medium-sized firms in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors can apply up until 20 May 2020 to receive a grant of £25,000.
Businesses must have a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 to qualify for the £25,000 grant.
The following exclusions and conditions apply:
Full details can be found at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-%C2%A325000-retail-hospitality-tourism-and-leisure-grant
Applications for the grant can be made at https://www.covid-19smallbusinessgrants.economy-ni.gov.uk/BusinessGrant25K/
NI Micro-Business Hardship Fund
On 15 May 2020 it was announced that Department for the Economy (DfE) are making £40 million available through a fund, which is being administered by Invest Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for the Economy.
The level of Hardship Fund grant will be up to £10,000 for businesses which pay business rates on premises and up to £5,000 for those that do not pay business rates. Businesses within each category will receive the same amount. The final amounts awarded will depend on the number of successful applicants.
To be eligible businesses must:
The hardship fund is open to all micro-businesses and social enterprises, although the following exclusions apply:
What to do now
Applications can be made online through the Invest NI website from 6 pm on 20 May and will close on 12 June at 6 pm.
You will need to gather some information before starting your application, including:
Full details can be found at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-ni-micro-business-hardship-fund
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate for SMEs
Employers will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.
The key points are:
To be eligible for the scheme a business must be based in the United Kingdom, it must be classed as small or medium sized, and it must have had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020.
A rebate scheme is currently being developed and further details will be provided in due course.
Further details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19
On 27 April 2020 the Government announced the Bounce Back Loan scheme, which will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 for terms of up to 6 years.
Loans are capped at 25% of 2019 turnover.
The loans will be guaranteed 100% by the government and there will be no fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. In addition, no repayments will be due during the first 12 months of the loan.
The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.
To apply, a business must be able to self declare that it:
You cannot apply if you are already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). However, if you have already received a loan of up to £50,000 under CBILS you can transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme. This can be arranged with your lender until 4 November 2020.
How to apply
The Bounce Back Loan scheme launched on 4 May 2020.
Applications are through a short, standardised online application and the loan should reach the business within days. Business plans and projections will not be required as part of the application process.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme went live on 23 March 2020 and is initially expected to remain open for six months.
On 2 April the scheme was expanded and the scheme’s features and eligibility criteria were changed. The changes mean even more smaller businesses across the UK impacted by the coronavirus crisis can access the funding they need.
Access to the scheme has been extended to those smaller businesses who would have previously met the requirements for a commercial facility but would not have been eligible for the scheme.
Insufficient security is no longer a condition to access the scheme, which significantly increases the number of businesses eligible for the scheme.
A number of lenders have already registered to provide access this scheme, including most of the main Northern Ireland banks.
Applications should be made as early as possible through your bank or finance provider and a business plan will be required, so please speak to us to assist with this.
Full details, including a list of the lenders that have registered for the scheme, are available at:
For larger businesses the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBLS) was launched on 20 April 2020. This will support large businesses, with an annual turnover of over £45 million.
All viable businesses with a turnover of more than £45 million per year will be able to apply for up to £25 million of finance. Firms with a turnover of more than £250 million will be able to apply for up to £50 million of finance.
Rates holiday for businesses
There will be a three month rates holiday for most business ratepayers; public sector and utilities are excluded. The effect of this is that no rates will be charged for April, May and June 2020. This will be shown as a 25 per cent discount on the annual rate bill for business ratepayers.
From 25 March 2020 companies have been able to apply for a three month extension for filing their accounts with Companies House.
The extension is not automatic so companies must apply before their existing filing deadline.
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.
HMRC have setup a dedicated helpline on 0800 024 1222 for any businesses concerned about their ability to pay their tax due to Covid-19.