Five ways companies will get help from UK government to deal with coronavirus
- Revenue’s ‘time to pay’ tax suspension
SMEs that cannot afford to pay their tax bills can ask HM Revenue & Customs for a “time to pay
” agreement which would suspend debt collection.
The system has been used to help businesses affected by flooding and the 2008 financial crisis. Each agreement is negotiated on an individual basis through a dedicated hotline. During the coronavirus outbreak the usual 3.5 per cent annual interest on deferred tax payments will be waived.
However, as always, it will be important to get upfront agreement from HMRC before a payment deadline.
It is likely that HMRC will allow companies more time to pay overdue tax due to the virus but again this will be on a case by case basis. HMRC was lenient to some companies affected by the Carillion collapse
A Time to Pay Arrangement with HMRC is a debt repayment plan for your outstanding taxes. Companies that have defaulted on their payments to settle their Corporation Tax, VAT and/or PAYE can ask HMRC for extra time to pay. They will usually agree that you can pay it back over 6-12 months.
- Business rates relief
The government has already announced that, for one year from 1 April 2020, the business rates retail discount for properties with a rateable value below £51,000 in England will increase from one third to 50% and will be expanded to include cinemas and music venues.
To support small businesses in response to COVID-19, the retail discount will be increased to 100% and expanded to include hospitality and leisure businesses for 2021.This includes hotels, restaurants and coffee shops.
The government previously committed to introducing a £1,000 business rates discount for pubs with a rateable value below £100,000 in England for one year from 1 April 2020. To further support pubs, in response to COVID-19 the discount for pubs will be increased to £5,000.
These measures mean that around 900,000 properties, or 45 per cent of all business premises in England, will not pay rates in 2020-21.
- Grants for smallest enterprises
The 700,000 smallest businesses who are already exempt from paying rates will be eligible for £3,000 grants to help meet their business costs.
That is a three months’ rent bill for a typical small shop, according to the government. It is not yet clear how businesses will access the grants
- Risky loans underwritten by government
The government is offering to underwrite loans to businesses adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme will replace the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme (EFG), under which the government guarantees debt to encourage lenders to give loans to companies that would otherwise be deemed too risky.
Interest rates will be similar to existing bank lending. The scheme will be delivered by the British Business Bank, a state-owned wholesale bank that currently operates the EFG. More than 40 lenders including the big four banks — Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Lloyds — provide funds under the scheme as term loans, overdrafts, or asset-based lending secured on equipment or invoices.
Under the coronavirus scheme the BBB will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent of each loan. The government will waive the 2 per cent it charges borrowers annually for the guarantee under the EFG and will support loans of up to £1.2m. The total amount it will guarantee this year will jump from £500m to £1.2bn. More details will be made available next week. The BBB said that as companies are affected by coronavirus they will be eligible to apply for funds under the scheme.
- Sick pay costs can be reclaimed:
The government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs. The eligibility criteria for the scheme include:
- The refund will be limited to two weeks per employee
- Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
- Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
- Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but should not require employees to provide a GP fit note
- The eligible period for the scheme will commence from the day on which the regulations extending SSP to self-isolators come into force.