20th March 2020 Live update

Live update to how it stands for Businesses and support during COVID-19.

Please find below our latest updates as a result of the recent announcements launched to prevent Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Coronavirus Bill is making it’s progress

The public Bill introduced to allow the Government to respond quicker to the Coronavirus outbreak without having to further write new legislation. This should allow for quicker changes to be made to our UK legislation system to help the Government to respond to the outbreak by making changes which better support our NHS frontline staff and Business. The proposals set out in the bill will significantly enhance the ability of public bodies across the UK to provide an effective response to tackle this epidemic. It should be expedited and will take effect from the end of this month however, the provisions relating to Statutory Sick Pay are intended to have retrospective effect to 13 March.

More information about the Bill

The Bill as listed at Parliament

Huge national effort by reducing social contact – but how does this affect your Business?

The Government has said “we will stand by you, and remember our joint objective to get through this together.” –

  • Cafe’s, Bar’s and Restaurants to close tonight (as soon as they reasonably can) and the same for Nightclubs, Bar’s and Gym’s, Leisure centres. – This will be reviewed each month and may be relaxed if required.
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Any employer in the country, small or large, charity or any organisation. Employers will be able to contact HMRC to obtain a Grant from HMRC for up to 80% of earnings up to £2,500 per month. There will be no limit on the amount of funding for the scheme. This will be backdated to the 1st March 2020.
  • First grants to paid within weeks and will be made by the end of April 2020.
  • This will change a lot of our game plans with clients and will need to reconsider for employees laid off/made redundant.
  • The Coronavirus Business interruption loans scheme has been made interest free for
  • The next quarter of VAT payment has been deferred up to the end of June 2020. More details to follow.
  • Business rates abolished to those in hospitality for the next tax year (2020 to 2021)
  • This will be communicated in the next coming of days
  • Working Tax Credit element to be increased
  • Universal Credit can now be accessed at the same level to those claiming SSP.
  • The next Self Assessment payments deferred to January 2021. (That is moved from the 31st July 2021 – There will be no payment on accounts due)
  • Home owners to get a three month mortgage holiday if they need it.

This is in addition to the policies already announced:

  • IR35 and off-payroll working HM Treasury have said they intend to postpone the introduction of the Off-payroll working rules to the private sector. The extension of the off-payroll working rules was due to commence on 6 April 2020. The start date is now be deferred to 6 April 2021.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) -The government said that it will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim SSP paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

    Key essentials for employers

    • An SME is an employer with fewer than 250 employees, The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020.
    • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP.
    • Employees will not need to provide a GP fit note.
      • People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor.
      • This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.
      • Further details will be confirmed shortly.
    • The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home/self-isolating 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. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.

  • Business Rates
    • Existing small business rate relief continues to apply, this provides full relief for businesses using a single property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.
    • A business rate holiday applies to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020/21 tax year.
    • Pubs are given a rates discount of £5,000.

    Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March.

    Cash grants: via local authorities

    • A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
    • A one-off grant of £10,000 (this appears to have increased from the £3,000 announced at the budget) to around 700,000 businesses currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief.
    • For a property with a rateable value of £12,000, this is one-quarter of their rateable value, or comparable to three months of rent.
  • Business taxes: Time to Pay
    • 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.
    • It is essential to contact HMRC and make a Time To Pay agreement before the tax debt becomes due.

    If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

  • HMRC late payment interest rate cutHMRC interest rates for late payments will be revised after the Bank of England interest rate reduction to 0.1%.These changes will come into effect on:
    • 30 March 2020 for quarterly instalment payments
    • 7 April 2020 for non-quarterly instalments payments

    Repayment interest rates remain unchanged.

  • SMEs: Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
    • A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will be delivered by the British Business Bank.
    • The scheme is covered by the government and 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.
    • The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.
    • Businesses can access the first six months of that finance interest-free, as the government will cover the first six months of interest payments.

    Further details, including on the lenders providing access to this scheme will be announced in the coming days, and the scheme will be available from early week commencing 23 March 2020.

‘Unprecedented measures for unprecedented times’

The Chancellor said it was the first time in history the Government would step in and pay people’s wages, calling the plans “unprecedented measures for unprecedented times” – though he said he couldn’t guarantee that no one would face hardship in the coming months.

He said: “The actions I’ve taken today represent an unprecedented economic intervention to support the jobs and incomes of the British people…Now more than at any time in our history we will be judged by our capacity for compassion. Our ability to come through this won’t just be down to what Government or businesses do but the individual acts of kindness that we show each other.”