Today’s coronavirus daily press briefing was delivered by Dominic Raab. The foreign secretary stated that at each point the government has been following scientific and medical advice and has been very deliberate in its actions. Despite the prime minister still being in hospital Mr Raab commented that the government is still united in its leading of the crisis. Many of todays questions from the press featured around how the PM can be well enough to run the country if he is unwell enough to be in hospital. Dominic Raab repeated that Mr Johnson was admitted to hospital for tests as a precaution due to persistent symptoms and that the PM is still very much in charge. Today saw the return of Prof Chris Whitty. When Prof Whitty was asked how long the current restrictions will have to continue the response was that a serious review of restrictions will only be possible once the peak of the virus has been reached.
We have been hearing positive feedback from clients regarding better systems now in place in order to take up some of the offers of assistance with the Covid-19 situation. I’d like to share some of those with you this evening.
We understand, that as of last week, many councils have now a simple online application form in order to claim under the Small Business Grant Scheme. This is where the government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding to local authorities to support small business that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. Remember, if eligible this will provide a one-off-grant of £10,000 and this is designed to help meet ongoing business costs. www.gov.uk states that eligible businesses will be contacted by their local authority. But as things have developed it has come to light that some local authorities have decided to operate an application process. Our research has shown that all you need to do if you meet the criteria, is search for the relevant local authority online and go to their designated Covid-19 webpage. If your council do indeed have an online process, you will need your most recent council rate letter detailing your reference number and the rateable value, and if limited, the company registration number. We are currently being told that should the application be approved you can expect to receive payment in around 6 weeks’ time, of course this is yet to be seen. However, the government when issuing out the money, did promise that funds had been released to local authorities only in the expectation that they would be passed on to those eligible as quickly as is sensibly possible.
Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) received a great number of enquiries in its early days of release with many clients reporting to us that they had spent the day on hold to access their existing lenders and with no resulting success initially. There was also some bad press for the scheme with stories emerging that banks were still not sanctioning lending to those needing it, or for example placing much emphasis on taking additional charges and offering much higher rates than expected making it unaffordable to many of those the scheme should have been assisting. What we are now hearing that lenders, after the initial week following the release of CBILS, is that negotiating with existing lenders and approaching for assistance has been much more pain free with additional lending being sanctioned ready for should the funds need to be called upon. Remember, that if you qualify, the government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees so you could benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial payments. I’m not suggesting that you look to take lending for the sake of lending, but if you feel that imminently you might be required to inject cash into your business, then speaking with your existing relationship manager and getting funds sanctioned ready to call upon would be a sensible suggestion for many. Besides, you don’t have to spend those funds if you don’t need to!
We are still receiving queries with regards to furloughing of employees. More clarity has come out over recent days. We now know that you can furlough some of your team and then bring those employees back and furlough a second half of your team. So, in effect one individual could be furloughed more than once before the scheme end date. However, a period of furlough must be for a period of 3 weeks as a minimum. We have checked in with HMRC today and confirmed that the date for the system to open for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) applications is still scheduled to be the end of this month. It has also now been confirmed that you can claim for furloughed employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) if they are unable to work from home and you would otherwise have to make them redundant. And that also employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) can be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed.
For business owners, have you considered deferring PAYE with HMRC under the Time to Pay Scheme? All business and self-employed people with outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC Time To Pay service. We have made enquiries and found from HMRC that it is possible, for example, to defer payment of PAYE due from month 12, so the pay period we have just now completed, until July. Currently you will incur interest daily on this but, depending on your wage bill, this could assist cash flow in the short term. It is worthnoting however that should you then move to furlough employees, you couldn’t benefit from both regimes simultaneously. HMRC’s dedicated helpline is 0800 024 1222.
A positive comment on personal lending, we have been informed that some helpful lenders have now set up a slick process for those wanting to access payment holidays. In some instances, following a brief call or online chat, a text is sent to you asking to confirm the payment holiday and then the holiday is actioned. Presumably the application is slick as the mortgage lender won’t lose out with the interest and additional payments being added to the term in most cases. But again, if you are
wanting to free up income in the short term and you accept the cons, this could help your household cashflow. Obviously, this will vary lender to lender and depending on the circumstances of the borrower.
Meanwhile in the markets..
As the new tax years begins, a more positive day was seen on the markets.
As new information is coming to light the below links are updated swiftly should you need a quick reference guide.
Essential Links for assistance via Gov.uk
Self-Employment & Universal Credit
Employment & Support Allowance
Covid-19 Small Business Government Grant https://smallbusiness.co.uk/how-do-i-get-the- government-3000-coronavirus-grant-2549866/
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan https://smallbusiness.co.uk/how-do-i-apply-for-a-coronavirus-business-interruption-loan- 2549863/
Citizen’s Advice https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/help-if-on-a-low-income/if-youre-struggling- with-living-costs/
Should you have any concerns or questions, we are here for our clients and will happily arrange a telephone or video call appointment to provide guidance, please either call our practice mobile 07543 368 478 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your appointment.
We are here to help you through these challenging times, so please don’t be afraid to get in touch.