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Coronavirus | Business Support

The coronavirus is spreading vastly across the globe and not only affecting our health and safety, but also our businesses.

With regards to sickness, unpaid leave and other disruptions, many businesses are experiencing problems with their cash flow.

Thankfully, the budget has announced measures to provide support to businesses during this difficult time.

The announcement should provide temporary support by reducing their costs or addressing cash flow problems before they arise, whilst also protecting workers jobs.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The government has adjusted the rules of SSP in relation to COVID-19 to help support small to medium-sized business with the extra costs that are emerging.

The virus-related costs of SSP will be refunded as long as the criteria are met.

The criteria for the scheme is as follows:

  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible for the scheme. This will be determined by the number of people that were employed as of 28th February 2020
  • This refund will be limited to 2 weeks per employee
  • The eligible period will commence from the day on which the regulations extending SSP to self-isolation come into force
  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP as a result of the Coronavirus.
  • As usual, the employers must maintain records of all staff absences, however, in these special circumstances, employees are not required to provide a “Fit Note”
  • While existing systems are not designed to aid such refunds for SSP, the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment system for employers.

Small Business Grant Funding

The government recognises many businesses pay no or next to little business rates because of the Small Business Rates Relief and so to support these said businesses, Over £2.2 billion of funding will be introduced for local authorities.

This will provide £10,000 to the smallest businesses currently eligible for the relief, all in aid of helping them meet their ongoing business costs. Businesses that are eligible for rates relief will not need to apply for the funding, local authorities will contact them once the funding has been provided in early april.

For most properties that are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief, they will have a low rateable value, so this will represent a great proportion of their annual rent.

Business Rates Reliefs

To support small businesses that are directly affected by the Coronavirus the government is increasing Business Rates Retail Discount to 100% for 2020-21, further than the previously announced 50%.

These temporary measures taken will mean that for 2020-21 around 900,000 properties will receive 100% business rates relief.

The relief will also be expanded further to the leisure and hospitality sectors.

Recently the government had already announced the introduction of Business Rates discounts of £1,000 for pubs with a rateable value below £100,000 in England. In support of businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak, the discount will be increased to £5,000.

Local authorities will be fully compensated for these business rates measures.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

In aid of business interruption due to the pandemic, the government will launch a new, temporary scheme, the “Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme”.

This will be delivered by the British Business Bank to support businesses with access to bank overdrafts and lending.

The scheme will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan giving each lender further confidence on continuing to provide finance to SMEs.

The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 Million in value.

Initially, the new guarantee will support up to £1 Billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.

Time to Pay

HMRC has setup up a dedicated Coronavirus helpline to help those affected by the virus. HMRC may be able to agree a Time to Pay arrangement with employers.

The government has ensured that business and self-employed alike will receive support with outstanding tax liabilities and affairs.

The Time to Pay scheme was also successfully used in response to flooding and financial crisis, giving businesses a deferral period on HMRC liabilities, with, of course, an agreed period of time to pay them back.

This arrangement will give businesses the time it needs to pay HMRC whilst supporting their recovery through any temporary financial distress and challenges that have occurred.

If you’re worried about the wait time of calling HMRC, they have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to deal with the support needed.

HMRC have also stated that they will waive late payment penalties and interest where a business is experiencing administrative difficulties in respect to COVID-19.

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