New COVID financial support announced

Following the impact on businesses in England of the current ‘Plan B’ covid measures and the impact of Omicron on trade in the hospitality sector in particular, the Government has announced a new support package.

The package comprises three elements:

  • Dedicated support for the hospitality and leisure sectors in the form of one-off grants worth up to £6,000 per premises. There will also be more than £100 million in discretionary funding for local authorities to support other businesses.
  • The reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) for employers with fewer than 250 employees. This will apply to up to two weeks’ COVID-related absence and is effective immediately, with employers able to make retrospective claims from mid-January.
  • £30 million for cultural organisations through the Culture Recovery Fund.

There will also be £154 million in funding to the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to provide similar support.

The grants for the hospitality and leisure sectors will be administered by local authorities and the Treasury says they will be available “in the coming weeks”.

For help and advice with related matters, please get in touch with our team today.


Plan B – What does it mean for you and your business?

As infection rates of the Omicron COVID-19 variant rise across the UK, the Government has decided to implement its Plan B measures to restrict the spread of the virus.

Although this announcement was expected, and details of it widely publicised beforehand, here is what you need to know:

  • The return of work from home guidance – From Monday (13 December), office workers should work from home, where possible, to reduce the number of people they come into contact with. Anyone who cannot work from home, due to the requirements of their employment, should continue to go into work.
  • Mandatory Covid-status certificates in certain settings – From next Wednesday (15 December) ‘Covid passports’, demonstrating that a person has been vaccinated and taken a negative lateral flow test, will be required to enter some indoor and larger outdoor venues, including:
    • nightclubs
    • unseated indoor events with more than 500 attendees
    • unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 guests
    • large outdoor events with crowds of more than 10,000 people.

A full list of conditions for this requirement can be found here.

  • Mandatory face coverings in more locations – From 9 December, the rules on face coverings will be extended to hospitality venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship. However, they won’t be needed in places “where it is not practical to wear one”, like when eating, drinking or exercising.

At present, the Government hasn’t given any indication of additional financial support to help businesses with these rules.

However, these new measures for England are much less stringent than those announced last winter and many similar rules are already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

While certain industries may experience a greater impact due to these changes, early indications are that the wider economy should be less affected due to the preparedness of many businesses.

Here for you

It is understandable, given the events of the last few years, that you may have concerns about the latest restrictions.

We just want to reassure you that whatever happens we are here and ready to offer our support, so let us know if you have any concerns.


Take advantage of the extension to the Recovery Loan Scheme

Although much of the COVID-19 financial support has been withdrawn, the Government still wants businesses to access funding to aid their recovery.

That is why the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has extended the Recovery Loan Scheme until 30 June 2022 – instead of it ending on 31 December this year.

Intended to bridge the gap between the previous Coronavirus loans and regular credit conditions, the Recovery Loan could be worth up to £10 million per business, or up to £30 million across a business group.

However, as part of the extension to this scheme, certain criteria will change from 1 January 2022, including:

  • The scheme will only remain open to small and medium-sized enterprises
  • The maximum amount of finance available will decrease to £2 million, per business
  • The Government guarantee offered to lenders will fall from 80 per cent to 70 per cent.

To apply for the Recovery Loan Scheme, businesses need to check the list of accredited lenders on the British Business Bank’s website here.

Not sure if you are eligible or need help making an application? Please get in touch with our team today.


Received a CJRS compliance check? Act now!

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ended in September but many firms could still be subject to a CJRS compliance check in the weeks and months ahead.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has been sending out letters to employers throughout the year telling them they need to pay back CJRS payments because they claimed too much or are suspected of furlough fraud.

What is a compliance check?

In addition to checking CJRS payments, HMRC could write or phone to say they want to check:

  • Any taxes you pay
  • Accounts and tax calculations you have submitted
  • Your Self-Assessment tax return
  • Your company tax and VAT returns
  • PAYE records and returns, if you employ people.

These compliance checks can even be sent at random where there is no suspicion of illegal or inappropriate activity.

How does HMRC determine CJRS fraud?

HMRC classes furlough fraud as:

  • Not paying employees the full amount they are entitled to
  • Employers claiming furlough payments for workers who are still working for them
  • Claiming payments for non-existent employees
  • Not telling staff they are furloughed, who only find out when they receive their wages
  • Backdated claims that include periods in which the employee was working.

What if my firm was not entitled to payments?

HMRC can claw back any money paid out which the employer was not entitled to via a 100 per cent income tax charge whether the claim was made innocently or deliberately. This includes overpayments of a CJRS grant due to errors.

The compliance check will request details of staff members and how much money they received while furloughed. HMRC will typically give a short timescale to provide this information – usually around 30 days.

HMRC will write to tell you the results of the check. You will then be:

  • Told no additional tax is due;
  • Repaid if you’ve paid too much tax – you may also get interest on the amount you’re owed; or
  • Asked to pay additional tax within 30 days if you owe more ­– you’ll normally have to pay interest from the date the tax was due.

You may also have to pay a penalty. When issuing fines HMRC will look at:

  • The reasons why you underpaid or overclaimed the tax
  • Whether you told HMRC as soon as you could
  • How helpful you’ve been during the check.

If you have problems paying, you should tell HMRC immediately, as it may be possible to arrange a time to pay arrangement.

If I am penalised, how much will I pay?

The penalty percentage will fall within a range and depends on the type of behaviour and whether the disclosure was unprompted or prompted. They fall broadly into three categories:

  • Deliberate
  • Non-deliberate
  • Deliberate and concealed or treated as deliberate and concealed

Each carries a different penalty, which can be seen here.

If you do get a letter or phone call about a CJRS compliance check then you should seek immediate assistance from an accountant.

Get advice today

For help and advice with related matters, please get in touch with our team today.


Final SEISS deadline – Submit your claim by 30th September!

If you are applying for the fifth and final grant of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), you must ensure that your application and any necessary documents are with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) by 30th September.   You can make your claim here   (link to https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme)

If you fail to submit your claim in time, it will not be processed

Those eligible to make a claim for the fifth SEISS grant need to:

  • Apply on or after their personal start date given to them by HMRC
  • Tell HMRC that they intend to carry on trading in 2021/22
  • Reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in their trading profits between 1 May and 30 September 2021 due to the pandemic.

Don’t forget the turnover test!

Following changes to the SEISS, there are two levels of grant available, which are dependent on your turnover.

This ensures that those whose turnover fell by:

  • 30 per cent or more will continue to receive a grant worth 80 per cent of three months’ average trading profits (capped at £7,500).
  • Less than 30 per cent will receive a reduced grant equal to 30 per cent of three months’ average trading profits (capped at £2,850).

The figures used in this calculation are not profit but rather gross sales for all concurrent trades. All COVID-related grants received should be excluded from your turnover figure.

Here to help

While we cannot complete the fifth SEISS application on your behalf, we are happy to provide advice on your turnover. 


UK Autumn and Winter Covid Plan

Last week the Prime Minister set out the government’s plan to manage Covid throughout autumn and winter and the government will aim to sustain this progress through building defences through pharmaceutical interventions, identifying and isolating positive cases to limit transmission, supporting the NHS and social care, advising people on how to protect themselves and others and pursuing an international approach.

Vaccines will continue to be the first line of defence. All those who were vaccinated during Phase 1 of the vaccine programme (priority groups 1 to 9) will be offered booster jabs from this month – to boost immunity amongst the most vulnerable groups during winter.

The Test, Trace and Isolate programme will continue with symptomatic PCR testing continuing throughout the autumn and winter.

Lateral flow tests will also remain free of charge but at a later stage, as the response to the virus changes, this will end, and individuals and businesses will be expected to bear the cost.

The legal obligation to self-isolate for those who have tested positive, and their unvaccinated contacts will continue, and the financial support payment for those self-isolating on certain benefits will continue in its current format until the end of March.

The coming few months could pose renewed challenges and it is difficult to predict the path of the virus so there will be a range of ‘Plan B’ measures kept under review to help control transmission of the virus while minimising economic and social damage.

Plan B would include:

  • Introducing mandatory vaccine only Covid status certification in certain, riskier settings.
  • Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, such as public transport and shops.
  • Communicating clearly and urgently to the public if the risk level increases.

The government could also consider asking people to work from home again if necessary, but a final decision on this would be made at the time, dependent on the latest data – recognising the extra disruption this causes to individuals and businesses.

More info – GOV.UK


HMRC auto-correcting 2020-21 SEISS tax returns

Where grants claimed under the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) do not correspond with records held by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), it will auto-correct 2020-21 tax returns and issue a new SA302 calculation to both taxpayer and acting agent.

Corrections may be necessitated if:

  • The grant amount was omitted;
  • The amount received appears in the wrong box on the return; or
  • Where HMRC believes a taxpayer was not eligible for the SEISS because of missing self-employment or partnership pages.

If your return is auto-corrected to include details of an SEISS grant, but you did not receive a grant, you should speak with your agent or HMRC immediately as this could point to fraudulent activity.

2020-21 self-assessment tax returns should accurately report the first three SEISS grants, as the grants are taxable in the tax year that they are received.

HMRC has only been auto-correcting returns since 19 June, meaning that any received before this date will still require manual input and so the wait time for processing these may be longer.

If you receive notification that your tax return has been auto-corrected, you may choose to either accept the correction and amend the return, if appropriate, or dispute it.

If you intend to dispute a correction, you should ensure this is notified to HMRC within 30 days of the correction notice and in writing, where possible.

A careful review of your records, and the right professional advice where necessary, should enable you to determine the applicable response.

Where you have received any SEISS or other taxable grants, your accountant or adviser should be made aware of these to enable them to accurately prepare your tax returns.

For help and advice, please contact us.