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Government unleashes business support during COVID-19 outbreak

Registered Gas Engineer has collated all the available information about government support to small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak in one place. Please note that the information provided here is subject to change in the current fast-moving environment, so please make sure you check for the latest updates in the links provided below.

The government’s restrictions on movement and businesses across the UK as part of its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s work. Many businesses have implemented working from home procedures for their employees, while others have temporarily closed since movement restrictions were announced on 23 March.

For gas engineers, the advice has been more complex. The government is keen for the construction industry to continue while workers abide by social distancing measures. It has indicated that gas engineers who are asked to carry out emergency repairs on a property – such as repairing a broken boiler – can continue to do so.

And there’s no doubt that the lockdown is placing a financial strain on many families – particularly in the plumbing and heating industry, where a large percentage of workers are self-employed. The government has created an unprecedented a package of financial measures to help support employees and businesses through this disruption. Not all measures are up and running yet but most should be in the coming weeks.


Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
Anyone who is self-employed will be able to claim a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the past three years, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The scheme is open to anyone with trading profits of up to £50,000, who is already registered as self-employed and who has submitted a tax return for the 2018/19 year. For those who have less than three years’ tax returns, HMRC will calculate an average based on the information available.

This money will available from the beginning of June and will be backdated to 1 March. Those who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC, and must then complete a form before the backdated grant is paid directly into their bank account.

Anyone who has not yet submitted their 2018/19 tax return is being given one month from 26 March to do so, to ensure they will be included in the scheme.

The scheme will run for three months initially, but the Chancellor has said it will be extended if necessary.


Frequently Asked Questions
What happens to individuals whose 2018/19 profits are very different from what they would have expected to make this year?
The government can only act on the most recently available data. This is from the 2018/19 tax year. To try to provide the most accurate possible estimate of self-employed income, the government can look at average profits over 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19.

What about those who haven’t filed their 2018/19 tax return yet?
The scheme is for those who have filed a tax return to report income from self-employment in the tax year 2018/19. For eligible individuals who have not submitted their returns for 2018-19, they will have until 23 April 2020 to file their return, and therefore become eligible for this scheme.

Is this grant subject to tax?
Yes. Individuals will pay income tax and National Insurance on any payments received through this scheme as they are replacement for income in line with normal practice for benefits or grants that replace income. The grant is recognised as income for the purposes of Universal Credit and Tax Credits and may impact the amount that claimants are entitled to.

What should self-employed people do while they wait to be paid?
In the interim, self-employed individuals may be eligible for Universal Credit. Further information on how to access this support can be found here.

Why is this scheme limited to those who with trading profits below £50,000? For many, higher incomes might mean higher losses at this time.
In order to target support at those most in need, the government has chosen to cap this scheme.

For all those with trading profits of £50,000 and over, the mean self-employment income is £186,000 and the mean total income is £217,000.

Those with higher average incomes are more likely to have access to savings and other resources. They may also still be able to access support through the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Why does this scheme not cover small businesses that are incorporated?
Self-employed individuals who are owner-managers and pay themselves a salary through PAYE will be eligible for support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Further details can be found here.

SMEs can also access support through the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This supports SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years.

The new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is open to anyone who reports trading profits through income tax self-assessment. Self-employed individuals who work through a company do not report their trading profits in this way.

What about self-employed people on Universal Credit? Why should they benefit twice?
We have announced measures that can be quickly and effectively operationalised. DWP and HMRC are experiencing high demand and the government has to prioritise the safety and stability of the benefits system and tax system overall.

The Self Employed Income Support Scheme will be treated as earnings in Universal Credit in the same way as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Universal Credit is designed to adjust the amount of benefits you receive in response to changes in your income.

Unemployed people will benefit from the package of welfare measures announced by the Chancellor. These include increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months, and nearly £1 billion of additional support for private renters through increases in housing benefit and Universal Credit.

Further information on how to access this support can be found here.


The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Employers can access support to pay 80 per cent of the salary of any permanent employee who is unable to continue to work for the business, and who would otherwise have been laid off during the crisis. This is available to all UK businesses for an initial three months, backdated to 1 March 2020.

Employers must designate their affected employees as “furloughed workers”, then submit information to HMRC on their earnings through an online portal. HMRC will reimburse the business with a grant covering 80 per cent of the total wage cost, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The scheme is not available to anyone on a zero-hours contract.


Deferring VAT and income tax payments
If your business pays VAT, these payments are being deferred for three months until 30 June 2020. For self-employed tradespeople, the income tax payments due on 31 July 2020 under self-assessment system will be deferred until January 2021.

Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020/21 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. Businesses and self-employed people not need to apply for this deferral, but anyone who usually makes these payments by direct debit should cancel this with their bank.


Sick pay support
Small-and medium-sized businesses and employers will be allowed to reclaim the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for up to two weeks of sickness absence due to COVID-19 per eligible employee. This support will be available to employers with fewer than 250 employees. Businesses will need to maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. The rebate scheme that will be used to return these funds is currently in development.


Small Business Grant Scheme
Any company in England that occupies a business property is eligible for a £10,000 grant to help meet its ongoing business costs. This is available to any small business that already receives small-business rate relief (SBBR) and/or rural rate relief (RRR). Eligible businesses will receive a letter from their local authority informing them that they are eligible for the grant.


Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will support SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank. Forty accredited lenders are able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan to give lenders further confidence in providing finance to SMEs.

The scheme is open to any UK business with a turnover of no more than £45 million a year that meets British Business Bank eligibility criteria. It can be applied for now by contacting any major bank.

Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service
All businesses or self-employed people that are in financial distress, with outstanding tax liabilities, can receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis. Any business or self-employed tradesperson who has missed a tax payment, or who expects to miss their next payment due to COVID-19, can call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

Protection from eviction for commercial tenants
Commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction from now until 30 June. This means no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June. The government may extend this period beyond 30 June. This is not a rental holiday and all commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent.

Employee sick pay
Employees on permanent contracts can receive £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks if they are unwell. SSP is being extended to any employee who is staying at home because of COVID-19. This includes anyone caring for people in the same household and who have been advised to quarantine their household. SSP will now be paid from the first day of an employee’s absence from work, instead of day four – and this will be applied retrospectively from 13 March.

To claim SSP, employees can get an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online at and do not need to visit a doctor. Self-employed people are not eligible for SSP.


If you’re 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 – and you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.

If you are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance, it will now be payable from the first day of sickness, rather than day eight, if you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home.


Universal Credit
Anyone who is not eligible for the schemes outlined above is advised to consider claiming Universal Credit if their work has been affected by COVID-19. For one year from 6 April, the standard Universal Credit allowance of £317.82 a month (for single people aged 25+) is being increased by £20 per week, as is the basic level of Working Tax Credit. Additional benefits may be available for people with children.

The existing requirements of the Minimum Income Floor (the level of the national minimum wage at the number of hours you would be expected to work) are also being relaxed temporarily.

New claimants will be able to access advanced payments without needing to attend a jobcentre, but must meet the usual eligibility criteria.

Support for businesses and employees in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Some elements of business support are devolved to the Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland governments, so the support available may be different in these areas.



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