The Government website has a page covering the measures being introduced to support businesses through these uncertain times. Please see our separate article dedicated to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) here (https://www.ts-p.co.uk/news/covid-19-understanding-how-the-business-interruption-loan-scheme-can-help-your-organisation). Some of the other key measures are:
The Government has announced that VAT payments will be deferred for 3 months (from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020). This will apply to all businesses and any liabilities which accrue during this period will not need to be paid until the end of the tax year for 2020/2021.
Any payments due on 31 July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021.
The VAT and Income Tax support amount to interest free, short term loans and there is no need to apply for either, but they are not grants.
Tax: Time to Pay service
If you anticipate financial difficulty in paying a recent or upcoming tax liability, you can ask for time to pay. HMRC will assess this on a case-by-case basis. The relevant helpline number is: 0800 0159 559.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS):
This scheme has been introduced by the Government in the hope that it will enable employers to retain employees who they would otherwise have to make redundant as a result of COVID-19 (“Furloughed Workers”). Under this scheme, HMRC will be reimbursing 80% of the employment costs of any Furloughed Workers, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month per employee. Full details are not yet available, but, so far, the scheme seems remarkably free of the restrictions which so often attach to Government support. The money is unlikely to be available until mid April and you will have to apply for it through an on-line portal which does not yet exist.
The scheme applies to all UK businesses and HMRC is currently setting up the necessary systems to implement it. A portal will be established where you will be required to upload details of the people you have designated as Furloughed Workers and their salaries. Unless their contract of employment gives you the right to do this, they will have to agree to be furloughed to avoid any contract or unlawful deduction of wages claims. Whilst there is a delay in the system being set up, you could seek financial assistance to pay wages via the CBILS (see above), although we fear that this will not provide cash any more quickly.
The Government has also confirmed that it will be setting up a system where small and medium sized businesses can reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP) paid to employees as a result of COVID-19. The employer must have less than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020. As with the CJRS above, the Government is establishing the systems in order to issue the repayments as soon as possible.
Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme (RHGS):
Under the RHGS, a cash grant of £25,000 per property will be made to businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, whose property has a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. If your business operates in this industry and the rateable value of your property is £15,000 or less, you will be eligible to receive a grant of £10,000.
You do not need to apply. If you are eligible, your local authority will contact you.
If your business is currently eligible for small business rate relief, rural rate relief or tapered relief, you may be eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000. Your small business must also be based in England and the business must occupy a property. As with the cash grants above, you do not need to apply as the local authority will let you know if you are eligible for this grant. Further guidance will be issued shortly by local authorities.
Holiday on business rates:
The Government has also announced a business rate holiday for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. This will be for all businesses based in England who operate in this sector and there is no need to make an application as it will apply to your next business rate bill automatically.
A business rate holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year will also apply to nurseries. Further guidance on eligibility is set out on the Government website and it will apply automatically to your next bill.
Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)
The Bank of England will provide funding to larger businesses by purchasing short term debt from them. This short-term debt will be in the form of Commercial Paper and relevant companies will need to discuss this with their banks. The aim behind this scheme is to enable businesses to pay off their immediate liabilities despite any short-term cash flow or funding issues.
CCFF is only available to larger businesses and the Bank of England’s website offers some guidelines as to which businesses will be eligible. In short, this will be businesses making a material contribution to the UK economy and who can demonstrate that they were in a sound financial position prior to the current disruption. The examples given by the Bank of England as to what would constitute a material contribution to the UK economy include companies with significant employment or revenues in the UK, a large UK custom or a number of UK operating sites.
Further details of the facility including eligibility and how to apply are set out on the Bank of England’s website.
It is unlikely the standard terms of an insurance policy will cover the circumstances we are facing but it is worth checking your specific policy to see if you are covered. The Association of British Insurers has released a Q & A on Covid-19 and insurance which covers this area in more depth.
If you are in doubt as to whether you may be able to claim you should check your insurance and speak with your insurance adviser or broker.