News

Coronavirus/COVID-19: Summary of Finance and Business Measures – last updated 17 June

This article summarises the business support measures the UK and Scottish governments, along with other NGBs and organisations have introduced as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Last updated 17 June: Eviction Protection for Commercial Tenants (England only) – the ban on landlords evicting firms for unpaid commercial rent is being extended

For each measure we have listed the date of the latest change. Simply click on any of the measures and you will be taken to the appropriate part of this article which covers that topic in more detail.

Annual leave – updated 14 April 2020
Business Interruption Insurance – updated 1 February 2021
Business Rates Holidays – updated 3 March 2021
GOV.UK Business Support Finder Toolupdated 21 April 2020
Community & Third Sector Resilience Fund (Scotland only) – updated 8 April 2021
Company Accounts: 3 Month Filing Extensionupdated 25 March 2021
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)/Furloughed Staffupdated 10 June 2021
Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) – updated 14 April 2020
Creative Scotland Funding updated 14 June 2021
Destination & Sector Marketing Fund (Scotland only)updated 1 June 2021
Discretionary Support Fund (Scotland only) – updated 15 May 2021
Employee Taxable Expenses and Benefits – updated 5 June 2020
Eviction Protection for Commercial Tenants (England only)updated 17 June 2021
Events Recovery Fund (Scotland only) – updated 8 April 2021
Farmers, Landowners and Rural Businesses – updated 4 November 2020
Helplines: HMRC and Scottish Government 
Kickstart Scheme – updated 16 October 2020
Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (Scotland only) – updated 10 July 2020
Landlords – Private Rented Sector Loan (Scotland only) – updated 11 March 2021
Mortgage Payment Holidaysupdated 2 November 2020
Recovery Loan Scheme – updated 8 April 2021
Restart Grants updated 3 June 2021
Self-Assessment Tax Payments Deferral and Time to Payupdated 30 April 2021
Self-employed Support (SEISS) updated 4 June 2021 
Stamp Duty Land Tax (England and Northern Ireland only) – updated 3 March 2021

Statutory Sick Pay – updated 20 May 2020
Test & Trace/Self Isolation Support – updated 8 October 2020
VAT Cut: food, accommodation and attractions – updated 3 March 2021
VAT Deferral updated 14 April 2021
Working from Home Tax Relief – updated 8 October 2020

 

COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

(Update as of 10 June 2021) The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) provides grants to cover a percentage of the salaries of staff you have placed on furlough.

In  the 2021 Budget announcement it was confirmed that the furlough scheme will be extended to the end of September 2021 with employers expected to make additional contributions from July.

Furloughed employees will continue to receive 80% of  their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, with businesses being required to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions.

From 1 July, employers will have to start contributing towards the costs of unworked hours.  In July, the UK Government will pay 70% of employees’ usual wages for the hours not worked, up to a cap of £2,187.50.  In August and September, this will reduce to 60% of employees’ usual wages up to a cap of £1,875.  Employers will need to pay the 10% in July, then 20% in August and September to ensure their furloughed employees receive at least 80% of their usual wages for the hours they do not work.

The furlough scheme is set to end on 30 September 2021.

More details in relation to the extension of the CJRS can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

Businesses have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time. So staff may be brought back part-time to say, set up premises for the lifting of national restrictions, or to prepare for Brexit.

The following individuals are covered by CJRS:

  • employees on any type of employment contract including zero-hours, flexible, part-time or fixed term
  • apprentices
  • agency workers (including those employed by umbrella companies)
  • owner-managed businesses (including company directors) – but only on PAYE income
  • salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs)
  • nannies and other domestic staff.

You must make claims by 11.59pm 14 calendar days after the month you’re claiming for. For example a claim for furlough days in June 2021 must be made by 14 July 2021. If this falls on a weekend or a bank holiday then claims should be submitted on the next working day.

If you do miss a claim deadline, HMRC may still accept your applications if you have all of the following:

  • a reasonable excuse
  • taken reasonable care to try and claim on time
  • claimed without delay as soon as you were able to.

More details on what HMRC consider to be a ‘reasonable excuse’ can be found here on the GOV.UK website. 

An employer will need to do the following to be able to make a claim:

  1. Employees will need to be officially designated as ‘furloughed’ employees and those employees will need to be notified of this change.  Don’t forget that changing the status of an employee is subject to existing employment law and any employment contracts in place.
  2. Employers will need to submit information in relation to their ‘furloughed’ employees through the HMRC online portal.

The main HMRC guidance on the CJRS can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

In addition HMRC have provided examples to help in calculating wages, National Insurance and pension contributions when claiming via the CJRS. HMRC also have a step by step guide on how to claim for the CJRS.

There are updates being made on a regular basis.  Therefore, if you are in any doubt please do contact us.

Overclaims:  We would strongly encourage all of our clients that have received CJRS grants to double-check their entitlement.  The recently introduced Finance Act 2020, provides recipients with a 90-day period to inform HMRC of any overclaimed amount and also provides HMRC with powers to recover grant payments to which the recipient is not entitled, as well as to charge penalties.

The onus is on the taxpayer to notify HMRC if they have overclaimed and this must be done within 90 days of the Act’s Royal Assent (so by 20 October 2020) or 90 days of receipt of the grant, whichever is the later. HMRC has published guidance on how to repay overclaimed CJRS grants as well as a factsheet on how the penalty rules will apply.

It is important to note that error penalties may also apply if there are mistakes are made when putting the grant figures on tax returns. The key risks affecting entitlement to CJRS grants include:

  • grants not used for the purposes for which they are intended;
  • calculation errors; and
  • employees working during periods that they are on furlough.

For  more information on the penalties that may be charged in relation to an overpayment please see the latest HMRC factsheet.

There is the ability to delete a claim, as long as it is within 72 hours of submitting it, via the online claim service. If your claim has been submitted for a period of longer than 72 hours you should follow the process outlined below.

If you have made an error and overclaimed but do not plan to submit further claims, you should contact HMRC to inform them of the error, and discuss how to pay back any overclaimed amounts. HMRC will provide a reference number and will also confirm the process for making the necessary payment to correct the error.  If you have made an error and overclaimed and are planning to make further claims, the error can be adjusted for within your next CJRS claim. Your new claim amount will be reduced to reflect the overclaimed amount.  You should keep a record of this adjustment for six years.

If you have made an error that has resulted in an underclaimed amount, you should contact HMRC. HMRC will conduct further checks before any additional payment is made.

If you are a GWA client who uses our PAYE services, we will be able to make the CJRS claims on behalf of your employees and also any reimbursement claims on your behalf.

If you have any concerns or questions about CJRS we would encourage you to contact us and we will be happy to help.

Further guidance can be found here on the HMRC website.

 

Kickstart Scheme

(Update as of 16 October) The Kickstart Scheme is designed to help 16-24 year olds into work through the creation of high quality 6-month work placements.

Businesses can join the scheme, and receive up to £6,500 to cover each individual’s wages and associated costs plus £1,500 to help set up support and training.

Any business or organisation, private, public or voluntary, regardless of size, can apply for funding. If you are applying for 30 or more job placements, you can apply directly.

If you are applying for less than 30 job placements, you may be able to apply through an intermediary who will submit an application on your behalf.

As an employer you will also receive a grant of £1,500 towards the administration and training of the employee.

Key facts you need to know are:

  • the Government will fund 100% of the relevant National Minimum wage for 25 hours per week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions
  • businesses taking on a Kickstart candidate can apply for £1,500 per job placement available for set up costs, support and training
  • placements must be for young people aged between 16-24 years old, currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment
  • placements must be for new jobs, not a replacement for existing vacancies

Other information that you need to provide can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

 

Support for the Self-employed (SEISS)

(Update as of 4 June 2021) The fourth Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant for those affected by the pandemic closed for applications on 1 June 2021. The fifth SEISS grant which covers the period May to September 2021 will be available from late July.

If you have already heard from HMRC that you were not eligible for the fourth grant, you will not be eligible for the fifth grant either. This is because the same tax returns have been used to determine eligibility for both grants.

A turnover test, which details how much your turnover has reduced in the 2020-21 tax year compared to pre-COVID trading, will determine the amount of grant available.  Individuals whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more will be able to claim an 80% grant, capped at £7,500. Anyone else will be able to claim a lower grant, worth 30% of their average profits –  this amount will be capped at £2,850.

More information on the fifth grant can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

You can claim if you are a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership.  Limited companies and trusts are not entitled to claim.

To work out your eligibility for the fifth grant, HMRC will first look at your 2019 to 2020 self-assessment tax return. Trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to non-trading income. In addition you must:

  • have traded in tax year 2019/20 and submitted your tax return by 2 March 2021 and traded in the tax year 2020/21
  • intend to continue to trade
  • be currently trading but have been impacted by reduced activity, capacity and demand or have been unable to trade due to COVID-19

You are not eligible to claim if the only impact on your business is increased costs eg. if you’ve had to purchase face masks and cleaning supplies.  HMRC have provided some examples of what they mean by “reduced activity, capacity and demand” here on the GOV.UK website.

If you’re eligible based on your tax returns, HMRC will contact you in mid-July 2021 to give you a date that you can make your claim from.

If you’re currently trading but have reduced demand, you must keep any evidence to substantiate this, such as:

  • business accounts showing reduction in activity compared to previous years
  • records of reduced or cancelled contracts or appointments; and
  • a record of dates where you had reduced demand or capacity due to government restrictions.

If your business is temporarily unable to trade you must keep evidence to substantiate this, such as:

  • a record of dates where you had to close due to government restrictions
  • NHS Test and Trace communications – if you’ve been instructed to self-isolate in-line with NHS guidelines and are unable to work from home
  • a letter or email from the NHS asking you to shield
  • test results if you’ve been diagnosed with coronavirus; and
  • letters or emails from your child’s school with information on closures or reduced hours.

We are unable to claim SEISS grants on behalf of our clients, but if you have any questions regarding eligibility or how to claim please get in touch.

We want to remind everyone that the SEISS grant is taxable income.  If you want to understand how the grant may affect you and your business from a tax point of view, again please do not hesitate to contact us.

Overclaims:  We would strongly encourage all of our clients that have received SEISS grants to double-check their entitlement.  The recently introduced Finance Act 2020, provides recipients with a 90-day period to inform HMRC of any overclaimed amount and also provides HMRC with powers to recover grant payments to which the recipient is not entitled, as well as to charge penalties.

The onus is on the taxpayer to notify HMRC if they have overclaimed and this must be done within 90 days of the Act’s Royal Assent (so by 20 October 2020) or 90 days of receipt of the grant, whichever is the later. HMRC has published guidance on how to repay overclaimed SEISS grants as well as a factsheet on how the penalty rules will apply.

It is important to note that error penalties may also apply if there are mistakes are made when putting the grant figures on tax returns. The key risks affecting entitlement to SEISS grants include:

  • the trade was not adversely affected by coronavirus;
  • the trade did not continue in the tax year 2019/20 (eg. because the business was incorporated); or
  • there was no intention to continue to trade in the tax year 2020/21.

For  more information on the penalties that may be charged in relation to an overpayment please see the latest HMRC factsheet.

A word of warning. We know there has been an escalation in the number of fraudulent texts, telephone calls and emails pretending to be from HMRC.  Please be extra vigilant and never provide any bank account, credit card or payment details.  You will only ever be asked to access SEISS via the GOV.UK online service.

 

Self-Assessment Tax Payments Deferral

(Update as of 30 April 2021) Taxpayers who had payments to be made had until midnight on 1 April to pay any outstanding tax or set up a payment plan to prevent a 5% Late Payment Penalty. This can be done online without the need to call HMRC.

These enhanced payment arrangements apply to all tax due on that date including any self-assessment tax payments originally due on 31 July 2020 and that were deferred until 31 January 2021 as part of previously announced COVID-19 support measures.

The online service, called ‘Time to Pay’, is available for amounts up to £30,000 Once you’ve completed your tax return for the 2019-20 tax year, you can use the service to set up a direct debit and pay any tax that is owed in monthly instalments, over a period of 12 months. You can set up this arrangement via this link on the GOV.UK website.

To set up a ‘Time to Pay’ arrangement online you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • have no outstanding tax returns
  • have no other tax debts
  • have no other HMRC payment plans in place
  • your self-assessment bill must be between £32 and £30,000
  • your payment plan cannot be set up any later than 60 days after your tax was due for payment. ie. by 1 April 2021.

Any interest will be applied to an outstanding balance from 1 February 2021. This is different to the deferral of second payments due in July 2020 when no interest was charged.

If you do not meet the above requirements you may still be able to arrange a Time to Pay option but you will need to call HMRC on the self-assessment payment helpline: 0300 200 3822.

Currently, along with other accountancy firms, do not have access to this facility and anyone who wishes to set up a Time to Pay arrangement must do so directly.

We want to emphasise that this is a payment option to settle monies due to HMRC and any tax liability is not being cancelled.

 

COVID-19 Government Statutory Sick Pay and How to Apply for it

(Update as of 20 May) The government will be refunding the cost of Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for small businesses, providing you have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020 and you have up to 250 employees, again as at 28 February 2020.

The repayment will cover up to 14 days and be payable from day one for affected individuals.

All types of employment contracts are covered by this scheme, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • fixed term contracts (until the date their contract ends).

SSP is available for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020 for individuals who:

  • have coronavirus
  • have coronavirus symptoms
  • are self-isolating because someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms.

SSP is also available for periods of sickness starting on or after 16 April 2020 for individuals who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (this is referred to as ‘shielding’)  and have a letter from the NHS or GP requiring them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks.

Individuals who are displaying symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone symptomatic of coronavirus can get an isolation note from the NHS website or, if they are registered with a GP in England the NHS mobile phone app.  These notes can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.

The weekly allowance for SSP increased from £94.25 to £95.35 on 6 April. You can use the SSP calculator to work out the actual amount.

How to claim – to reclaim SSP you will need to use the online service which is available from 26 May 2020.

If you are a GWA client who uses our PAYE services please get in touch as we will be able to make the claims on your behalf.

If you are claiming SSP directly, you need the Government Gateway user ID you got when you registered for PAYE Online. If you have not yet registered for PAYE online you will need to do so – this can be accessed here on the GOV.UK website.

If you have lost your Government Gateway user ID you can find it using this link.

In order to make a claim you will need:

  • your employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • UK bank or building society details (a Bacs payment must be accepted)
  • the total amount of coronavirus SSP you have paid to your employees
  • the number of employees you are claiming for
  • the start date and end date of the claim period.

You can claim for multiple pay periods and employees at the same time. The start date of the earliest pay period you’re claiming for should be the start date of your claim. The end date of your claim is the end date of the most recent pay period you are claiming for.

As yet, there are not any details of an an alternative way to claim should you be unable to use the online service.

The government has also specified that employers must retain records for three years following receipt of payment for any SSP claim. You should therefore keep the following records in case there is any future dispute over payment of SSP.

  • the dates the employee was off sick
  • which of those dates were qualifying days
  • the reason they were off work – if they had symptoms, someone they lived with had symptoms or they were shielding
  • the employee’s National Insurance number.

 

Test and Trace Support Payment / Self-Isolation Support Grant

(Update as of 13 October) Local Authorities are starting to provide more detail of the £500 Test and Trace Support payment (England) and the Self-Isolation Support Grant (Scotland) available for those on low incomes who are unable to work while self-isolating. These payments can be claimed from 12 October and can be backdated to 28 September where necessary.

To be eligible for the Test and Trace payment, you must be:

  • asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace either because they’ve tested positive for coronavirus or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive
    employed or self-employed
  • unable to work from home and will lose income as a result and
  • currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.

If you meet the above criteria but do not receive any of the benefits or support listed you may still be eligible if you are on a low income and will face financial hardship as a result of not being able to work while you are self-isolating.

You must apply to your Local Authority for the self-isolation payment.

 

Carrying over Annual leave

(Update as of 14 April 2020) Employees who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry up to a maximum of four weeks into the next two leave years.  For example, if an employee:

  • is self-isolating or too sick to take holiday before the end of their leave year
  • has had to continue working and could not take paid holiday

If an employee has been furloughed and cannot reasonably use their holiday entitlement, they may also be able to carry over holiday.

The government guidance on holiday entitlement and pay for staff who have continued to work and been placed on furlough can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

 

Employee Taxable Expenses and Benefits

(Update as of 5 June) The government has provided information about how to treat certain expenses and benefits that may be applicable to employees during the COVID-19 crisis.  Information can be found here on the GOV.UK website and it includes how to report these to HMRC.

The list of expenses and benefits is pretty extensive and some of the guidance does not allow much flexibility to assist employees bearing in mind the current exceptional circumstances. We would therefore recommend you read the information quite carefully and if you have any questions or require further clarification please get in touch.

 

Tax Relief – working from home

(Update as of 8 October) As firms have closed offices as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, many staff are now working from home. If you are working from home, even for part of the week, you are eligible to claim for increased costs. As apportioning these costs can be time-consuming and difficult, the simplest way to do this is to claim a rate of £6 per week.

Your employers can give you an tax free allowance up to this amount.  Alternatively, if you are not within self -assessment, you can make a claim for the same amount by using a form P87. You can complete the form online or print and post it. The Low Income Tax Reform Group also provides useful information in relation to completing a form P87.

 

Business Rates Holidays

(Update as of 3 March) Eligible businesses within the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England with rateable values of £51,000 or less will not have to pay business rates until 30 June 2021.

From 1 July 2021 until 31 March 2022 this relief will be reduced and businesses will receive 66% business rates relief.

The reduction will be capped at £2m per business for properties that were forced to close on 5 January 2021, or £105,000 per business for other eligible properties.

On 16 February 2021 the Scottish Government announced that retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses are to get this 100% rates relief for 2021/22 tax year.

More details on the eligibility for the business rates relief can be found here on the GOV.UK website and  here on the mygov.scot website.

 

Restart Grants  (England only)

(Update as of 3 June 2021) Restart grants will be available to help high street businesses in England reopen after lockdown. It is expected to assist business including shops, salons, gyms, and restaurants.

To qualify for a grant, businesses must satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • have a property within with a qualifying rateable value
  • have been trading on 1 April 2021
  • be classed as non-essential retail, hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care or a gym business
  • offer in-person services where the main service/ activity takes place in a fixed-rate paying premises
  • not be in administration, insolvent or have a striking-off notice against them

Eligible businesses will be paid:

  • a one-off grant of up to £6,000 in the non-essential retail sector
  • a one-off grant of up to £18,000 in the hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym sectors.

Restart grants are being administered by local authorities across England.  It is down to each local councils’ discretion, as to whether a business meets the eligibility criteria for this grant scheme. Applications will close for the Restart grants on 30 June 2021.

The most recent links we have for our local clients are:

Northumberland Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) Restart Grant – This is a one-off grant is aimed at businesses who would otherwise not be eligible for the Government’s Restart Grant.

This will help businesses in two strands:

  • Strand One – non-essential retail, personal care, B&Bs and direct suppliers to the hospitality, hotel, bed and breakfast and leisure sectors
  • Strand Two – to support hospitality, accommodation, leisure, and gym businesses

The grant will be calculated on the rateable value of the qualifying business property or, if it has no rateable value, the rateable value proxy ie. the commercial premises lease, licence or other formal rental agreement, or commercial mortgage for those who own their own premises.

Strand One eligible businesses will receive:

  • rateable value or proxy of exactly £51,000 and over will receive a payment of £6,000
  • rateable value or proxy  of over £15,000 and below 51,000, will receive a payment of £4,000
  • rateable value of £15,000 or under or proxy will receive a payment of £2,667.

Strand Two eligible businesses will receive:

  • rateable value or proxy of exactly £51,000 and over will receive a payment of £18,000
    rateable value or proxy  of over £15,000 and below 51,000, will receive a payment of £12,000
    rateable value of £15,000 or under or proxy will receive a payment of £8,000.

More information can be found here on the Northumberland County Council website. Applications must be made no later than 30 June 2021.

 

Discretionary Support Fund (Scotland only)

(Update as of 18 May) This funding aims to support small businesses and the self-employed who have suffered from the impacts of the pandemic since 1 October 2020 and who have been ineligible for any COVID-19 related business support since that date.

Applications for the fund will be via Local Authorities across Scotland. Each Local Authority will determine eligibility criteria so this may vary from region to region and the period of application may also vary by Local Authority.  Please check your Local Authority website for details and the supporting documentation required.

  • Scottish Borders  – applications no longer being taken
  • East Lothian – applications no longer being taken
  • Midlothian – applications no longer being taken
  • West Lothian

 

Recovery Loan Scheme

(Update as of 8 April) The Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) replaces Bounce Back Loans and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS/CLBILS) which ended on 31 March.

The new scheme aims to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 and can be used for any legitimate business purpose, including managing cashflow, investment and growth.

The RLS will be open to all businesses including those who have already received support under the existing COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes.  A key aim of the scheme is to improve the terms on offer to businesses.  If you are able to secure a commercial loan from a lender on better terms, without requiring the guarantee provided by the RLS, you should consider doing so.

Lenders can provide up to £10 million as one of the following facilities:

  • term loan – with loan periods from 3 moths to 6 years
  • overdraft – with loan periods from 3 months to 3 years
  • invoice finance – with loan periods from 3 months to 3 years
  • asset finance – with loan periods from 3 moths to 6 years

The minimum facilities available under the scheme are £1,000 for asset and invoice finance and £25,001 for term loans and overdrafts. The maximum amount is £10 million per business (maximum £30million per group).

If you are borrowing £250,000 or less the lender will not require any form of personal guarantee. If you are borrowing more than £250,000 the lender may request personal guarantees.

The specific terms of each loan will depend on the individual lender. You will be required to follow the lender’s usual borrowing process, which will include standard credit and fraud checks, and lenders will ask for information to support the application and demonstrate that the repayments are affordable. Required information may  include:

  • a business plan
  • management accounts
  • historic accounts
  • details of assets held by the business.

The RLS is administered by the British Business Bank and will run until 31 December 2021. More information including FAQs for applicants can be found here on the British Business Bank website.

If you would like to discuss the RLS in more detail or require help in collating the information required to apply please get in touch.

 

Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)

(Update as of 14 April) The Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which is co-ordinated by HM Treasury and Bank of England, will provide funding to all UK businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy. Commercial paper, also called CP, is an instrument used for obtaining short-term funding.

This should help businesses across a range of sectors pay wages and suppliers, whilst they are experiencing disruption to their cash flows.

This will be administered by the Bank of England and further details can be found on the Bank of England website.

 

VAT Deferral

(Update as of 14 April) During the first COVID-19 lockdown, HMRC allowed businesses to defer VAT liabilities due between the period of 20 March to 30 June 2020 until 31 March 2021. Businesses who did defer VAT payments can now opt in to a VAT deferral payment scheme.

Instead of paying the full amount of VAT owed by the end of March 2021, the scheme allows you to make smaller monthly instalments, interest free.  All instalments must be paid by the end of March 2022.

In order to use the scheme businesses must:

  • still have deferred VAT to pay
  • be up to date with VAT returns
  • join by 21 June 2021
  • pay the first instalment when you opt in
  • be able to pay the deferred VAT by Direct Debit.

If you want to use the new payment scheme you will need to opt in. GWA cannot do this on your behalf.

To join the scheme please follow this link to the GOV.UK website.

Please note if you do not pay in full or make an arrangement to pay by 30 June 2021, you may be charged a 5% penalty or interest.

To opt in you must have a Government Gateway account.   If you do not have a Government Gateway account you can you can do so by visiting the HMRC login page.  It is a fairly simple process but if you need any assistance or you would like us to walk through the process with you please get in touch.

You will also need to have submitted any outstanding VAT returns from the last four years and if you are aware or have been informed of any errors on your VAT returns you should correct these as soon as possible (see below for further information on how to do this). You should ensure you know how much you owe, including the amount you originally deferred and how much you have already paid back.

Applications can be made here on the GOV.UK website.

In summary, if you deferred VAT between 20 March and 30 June 2020 and still have payments to make, you have the choice of:

  • paying the deferred VAT in full on or before 31 March 2021
  • opting in to the VAT deferral new payment scheme – the online service is open between 23 February 2021 and 21 June 2021
  • contacting HMRC if you need more help to pay

The following conditions still apply:

  • VAT returns must still be submitted as normal
  • VAT repayments and refunds will be made as normal

Correcting errors on your VAT returns relating to the VAT payments deferral scheme: The VAT payments deferral scheme covered the following accounting periods:

  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020 – for customers using Payment on Account or with Non-Standard Tax Periods (NSTP)

If you notice an error on a VAT return which relates to a period covered by the scheme, you should:

You can then contact the HMRC COVID-19 helpline to ask for error correction payments to also be included in your deferred VAT balance only after:

  • HMRC have processed your error correction; and
  • you have received a Statement of Account confirming the balance

You can also contact the HMRC COVID-19 helpline if you want to include extra payments in the new scheme as a result of a HMRC VAT assessment.

If you want to include either errors or VAT assessment extra payments in the new deferral scheme, it is important to note that:

  • you must contact The HMRC COVID-19 helpline by 29 January 2021
  • you cannot include extra payments after you have opted in.

Whilst GWA cannot opt-in to the scheme on your behalf, our friendly team of experts are here to help if you need advice. Please do not hesitate to contact us via email or by phone.

 

VAT Cut – Food and Non-Alcoholic Drinks / Accommodation and Attractions

(Update as of 3 March) The reduced 5% VAT on food, accommodation and attractions will continue to apply until 30 September 2021.  From 1 October, businesses in these sectors won’t go straight back to the 20% rate and instead will pay an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months.

The reduced 5% rate of VAT will apply to:

  • food and non-alcoholic drinks sold by restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises
  • supplies of accommodation
  • admission to attractions, including zoos, cinemas and theme parks

We have complied an easy to read FAQs to answer some of the most common questions. We will continue to update this information as more details becomes available.

The purpose of the VAT reduction is to support businesses, but the contract that a business may have in place with their customer might require them to pass on any VAT savings to them. This could result in some negotiating to share any VAT savings. Ideally a VAT inclusive price will have been agreed up front so that the full saving can be retained by the business.

If you require any clarification please do call either the partner who looks after your affairs or our expert VAT team who will try and answer any questions you may have.

 

Filing Company Accounts – 3 Month Extension

(Update as of 25 March 2021) All companies must send their annual accounts to Companies House every year. If a company’s accounts are filed late, the law imposes an automatic penalty.

The automatic extensions granted by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act for companies affected by COVID-19 will expire for filing deadlines that fall after 5 April 2021.

Companies can still apply for a 3-month extension.

More guidance on extending your filing deadline can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

 

Mortgage Payment Holidays

(Update as of 2 November) In an announcement on 31 October, the UK Government extended the application period for a mortgage holiday.  Borrowers who have not yet had a payment holiday and are experiencing financial difficulty will be able to ask for for a six-month holiday. Those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be also able to top this up to six months. The payment holidays will have no impact on your credit rating.

You need to apply by 31 March 2021 and all payment holidays must end by 31 July 2021.

You can find more information here on the FCA website.

It is important to note that this is a deferral of a loan and as such you will still be charged interest for the period you’re not making payments. This interest will be added on to the total cost of your mortgage and factored into future repayments.

 

Protection from Eviction for Commercial Tenants

(Update as of 17 June 2021) Within England, the measures that apply to commercial tenants who are unable to pay rent on their commercial property have been extended. Commercial tenants will now be protected from the risk of eviction until the 25 March 2022.  The measures were due to end on 30 June 2021.

It is important to highlight that this measure is not the same as a rental holiday. Commercial tenants are being protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent but will still be liable for their rent. Landlords and tenants will be encouraged to work proactively together to find ways to restructure and, hopefully, meet both parties’ financial needs.

 

Aid for Private Rental Landlords (Scotland only)

(Update as of 11 March) The Scottish Government have extended funding to support landlords whose tenants are having difficulty paying rent during the COVID-19 crisis. Landlords who are eligible can apply to the Private Rent Sector (PRS) Landlord COVID-19 Loan Scheme for support.

The scheme supports landlords who:

  • were, or had applied to become, registered before 01 February 2020
  • are not classified as businesses
  • have five or fewer properties to rent in Scotland, and
  • have lost rental income due to tenants being unable to pay rent because of COVID-19 or if a property became vacant after 01 February 2020 and you have been unable to get a new tenant due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As part of the process landlords will also need to confirm they understand the terms of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 in relation to eviction proceedings.  You must also have discussed and reached an agreement with your tenant on managing any associated rent arrears.

A loan will cover lost rental income for a period of up to six months, backdated to the 01 August 2020.  An initial payment of half of the agreed amount will be available and landlords will be asked to verify the continued loss of income before the second instalment is paid.

However, it should be noted that before applying for a loan from the scheme, if you are a landlord who is facing difficulties with mortgage repayments on a rental property you should first seek a mortgage repayment holiday from your lender. Also, if you are eligible for other forms of support eg. the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) you would be expected to take these options rather than apply for this loan.

More details and the online application form can be found here on the GOV.SCOT website.

 

Business Interruption Insurance

(Update as of 1 February) If you have not already done so, you should check your business insurance policies to see if business interruption cover for pandemics is in place.

In January 2021, a ruling by the Supreme Court backed small firms over business interruption insurance claims.  You can read more about these details in our previous update.

The FCA have a useful ‘policy checker’ and FAQs to help find out if your insurance policy may cover business interruption losses caused by COVID-19.

 

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) Cut (England and Northern Ireland only)

(Update as of 3 March) The nil rate stamp duty land tax on sales up to £500,000 introduced in Summer 2020 will be removed at the end of June 2021.

As stamp duty is tiered, anyone buying properties in England and Northern Ireland, costing more than £500,000 will pay nothing on the first £500,000 and then normal rates on anything above that. The 0% band also applies to residential leasehold sales and new residential leases.

From 1 July 2021, the nil rate band will reduce to £250,000 until 30 September 2021 before returning to £125,000 on 1 October 2021.

The change will not apply in Scotland or Wales.

 

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) – Scotland only

(Update as of 10 July) The Scottish Government is extending the time period in which homeowners have to sell their main home after buying a replacement property and be able to claim a rebate on LBTT. Currently, if you purchase a second home you are liable to an additional LBTT at 4% of the new purchase. If the second home is a ‘replacement home’ you can reclaim additional LBTT when the old home is sold, subject to this sale being within 18 months of the new purchase. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the sales of property stalling, this period has been increased from 18 months to 36 months.

The LBTT threshold at which this tax kicks in (for residential property) is to be temporarily increased from £145,000 to £250,000. This will continue until 31 March 2021. This means that a residential property purchase in Scotland over £250,000 will have a reduced LBTT bill of £2,100.

The benefits from the changes to SDLT and LBTT are available to those buying their own homes and residential property investors whether individuals or companies.

There is no change to the Additional Dwelling Supplement (3% in England and 4% in Scotland). For those buying a residential property that is not their main home, this charge will still apply.

Also, there are to be no changes to the SDLT or LBTT payable on commercial property transactions.

Further information on LBTT can be found here on the gov.scot website.

 

Farmers, Landowners and Rural Businesses

(Update as of 4 November 2020) The GOV.UK website has a dedicated page that contains information for farmers, landowners and rural businesses in relation to COVID-19.  It provides general information on all the main schemes the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) operates including Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications, Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue claims, Environmental Stewardship (ES) claims, and woodland legacy revenue claims.

 

Destination & Sector Marketing Fund

(Update as of 1 June 2021) The £3m fund aims to specifically support post-pandemic recovery and allow Destination and Sector groups develop and market their visitor experiences.

The fund will be split into 3 tiers with the following funding available:

  • Local Destination Organisations and Marketing Group: awards Between £10,000 – £20,000.  Applications must be made by 23rd July 2021
  • Pan Scotland & Regional Destination Organisations: awards Between £40,000 – £80,000.
  • Applications must be made 13th July 2021
  • City Region Award Programme: awards Between £50,000 – £100,000.  Applications must be made by 29th June 2021

To be eligible your group or organisation must:

  • have a place of business in Scotland and be delivering and/or operating in Scotland
  • have a registered bank account in the name of the applicant/lead organisation
  • not have been in financial difficulty before December 2019
  • use the funding for promotional activities that target the UK and Ireland market only

The fund is being administered by VisitScotland.  More details, full eligibility criteria and links to apply can be found here on the VisitScotland website.

 

Community & Third Sector Resilience Fund – (Scotland only)

(Update as of 8 April) The Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme is aimed at charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations that are supporting people and communities through lockdown and recovery.

The Adapt & Thrive programme provides support through business advisers to assist organisations to develop a plan to change and recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Funding to implement the plan is also available. This resource will be available until 30 June 2021.

The Communities Recovery Fund provides support  to community groups, charities, social enterprises, and voluntary organisations. This funding closed on 12 February 2021.

Applicants can request support from both Adapt & Thrive and Communities Recovery. More information and application link scan be found here on the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) website.

 

Creative Scotland Funding

(Update as of 14 June 2021) Creative Scotland has been provided with additional funding to provide support for the creative community impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund: This is a second round of funding targeted to support organisations that contribute to the rich and diverse cultural life of Scotland.  These may include for example, gallery owners, performing arts venues,  dance and theater companies, music venues, festivals, comedy venues, nightclubs and related supply chain businesses.

Applicants are required to have been working in Scotland’s culture sector before April 2019 and be at significant threat of insolvency or significant job losses as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Recipients of funding from the first round of this fund, are entitled to apply again, but are not guaranteed to not receive funding in the second round. In addition, new applicants who meet the eligibility criteria can also apply.

Applications open at 2pm Thursday 17 June 2021 and will close at 12 noon Thursday 24 June 2021. Full guidance on who is eligible and how to apply can be found here on the Creative Scotland website.

Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund: This is a second round of funding targeted to support the critical financial needs of venues which programme theatre and/or dance and/or music, and to help them remain solvent during the period of closure to the public and to mitigate the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

Eligible venues must be located in Scotland and have been established and operating since before 1 April 2019. Performing arts venues which have previously received funding through the first round and which can continue to demonstrate they have immediate need for financial support, can apply. In addition, new applicants who meet the eligibility criteria can also
apply.

Applications open at 2pm Thursday 17 June 2021 and will close at 12 noon Thursday 24 June 2021. Full guidance on who is eligible and how to apply can be found here on the Creative Scotland website.

The Open Fund: Sustaining Creative Development aims to allow creative practitioners continue to develop work using the funding to explore how best to sustain their practice, and reimagine their work. Funds may also be used for the development and presentation of work. Funding will support up to 12 months of activity with a maximum award of £100,000. More information can be found on the Creative Scotland website.

 

Events Recovery Fund (Scotland only)

(Update as of 8 April) Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund (SERF) has been established to help Scotland’s events sector plan and deliver events through to the end of 2021, and to provide support as the industry responds and adapts to the effects of COVID-19.

Eligible events must take place in Scotland and are defined as being planned sporting and cultural events and festivals taking place outdoors, indoors or online and which are open to the public to attend. New and previously staged events can apply for support.

There are two routes of funding.

  • Community Events – awards of between £1,000 – £5,000
  • Events supporting the visitor economy (e.g. regional and Scottish domestic tourism) – awards of between £5,000 – £35,000

There is a fixed amount of £2.75m funding available. This is an open fund without a fixed application deadline and remains open to eligible applicants.  Currently applications are eing assessed  for events taking place until the end of May 2021. Applications submitted for events taking place between beyond June will be carried out following this.

Applications should be completed via the VisitScotland website where you will also find full guidance notes.

 

GOV.UK Business Support Finder Tool

(Update as of 21 April) A ‘support finder’ tool is available on the GOV.UK website that helps businesses and self-employed individuals identify what financial support is available to them as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The online service requires you to fill in a simple and quick questionnaire which will then determine what measures you may be eligible for.

The ‘support finder’ can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

 

HMRC and Scottish Government Helplines

(Update as of 30 March) HMRC has a set up helplines providing practical help and advice to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax as a result of COVID-19.

The main helpline number is 0800 0159 559.
Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm.
The helpline will not be available on Bank Holidays.

To increase capacity there is now an additional dedicated phone number 0800 024 1222.
Opening hours for the helpline will be 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday only.

The Scottish business helpline specific to COVID-19 is based at the existing Scottish Enterprise call centre in Clydebank.

The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660.
Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm.

Guidance for employees, employers and businesses

Government guidance on healthcare advice for employers and support for businesses can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

 

We do appreciate that the range and breadth of the financial support on offer is fast moving and can be confusing. We continue to encourage you to contact us if you need support or would like a query or question answered. Our phone numbers and email addresses remain as they were. We are open for business and happy to help.

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