23 March 2020

Government measures and our advice

With further business closures over the weekend, and measures announced by Rishi Sunak in the Budget, the Government has embarked upon the biggest intervention in the private sector since the second world war. £350bn of aid has been promised to businesses, in the Budget and subsequently. As details are still to be clarified, here’s what we know already and how the measures might help our clients:

Help to keep your workforce employed

The government has agreed to cover 80% of a workers’ salary up to £2,500 per month via the Coronavirus job retention scheme. The scheme is being introduced to offer much needed support to both employees who have monthly bills to pay and to employers who are understandably worried about being able to remain afloat during the crisis. The Chancellor confirmed that the scheme will be backdated to 01 March 2020 and will run for three months initially, with an extension being promised if necessary. The scheme is still being prepared, and it is hoped that the first grants will be available via HMRC by the end of April.

ACTION: It is still at least 6 weeks before the first grants will be available in April. We will support our clients with making these claims where required.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme that is being launched next week has now been amended to make the first 12 months interest free. Loans of up to £5 million will be available from Monday 23 March, but be aware that they are loans, and will need to be paid back.

ACTION: Speak to your accountant about your suitability for a loan and capacity for taking on debt.

VAT bills will be deferred

VAT Registered businesses that have a VAT payment due between 20 March and 30 June (the deferral period) will now have until the end of the financial year (5 April 2021) to pay the bill without incurring any interest or penalty charges, instead of the usual one calendar month plus seven days. This is an automatic deferral and no need to apply to HMRC.

ACTION: VAT returns will need to be prepared, calculated and submitted so we will still be in touch to make sure everything is correct. If you can’t complete and file your returns due to sickness or staff shortages, record the reason for the delay so can appeal any late filing penalties.

Help for the self-employed

The self-employed can now receive the same level of universal credit equivalent to SSP for employees. In addition, self-employed taxpayers who are due to make a second payment on account in July 2020 will no longer have to meet the deadline; instead, the next personal tax payment deadline will now be January 2021. Read our separate article on help for the self-employed which will detail any changes.

ACTION: The Government response for the self-employed feels lacklustre at best. The Government has described it as ‘operationally difficult’ to administer help to the self-employed, so we await further measures to be announced. Consider taking a three month mortgage holiday, though these are not available for buy-to-let investors. The deferral of the second tax deadline is welcome, though the payment will still be liable in January 2021, so you should speak to your accountant and start planning for a larger tax bill then.

Summary

Government measures above, as well as the £10,000 grant to businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief, provide a welcome influx of help for businesses and employees. Small business owners will be reassured that their employees will get help, but are left wondering at the help they themselves will receive.

Finally, a personal note from us:

Our sympathies go to everyone who has been affected by Covid-19 (which, at this point, is everyone, in one way or another).

I wanted to reassure you that we will continue to do everything we can to help our clients in these uncertain times.

Our business is such that we will be able to fully service our clients during this time, albeit with some changes, to keep you, and us, as safe as possible:

  • Our offices remain open for mail and deliveries.
  • We have cancelled all face to face meetings.
  • Only essential visitors are coming to our office.
  • Our workforce remains vigilant about the latest hygiene guidelines.

We’ll try to keep you up to date with news and assistance, but please be aware that we may take longer than usual to get back to you due to these unprecedented circumstances.

Finally, and most importantly, all of us at Bennett Verby hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.

Kind regards

Bennett Verby

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