Home COVID19: Support for Businesses

COVID19: Support for Businesses

Welcome to the Business Support Hub providing you with support and guidance from a variety of government departments and agencies during this unprecedented and difficult time.

For the most up to date information, please visit www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk

The ABC Business Support team is now working remotely, please contact us to request a call back.

Page last updated: 27 March 2020, 3.15pm.

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  • The Northern Ireland Executive has announced two immediate grants will be available to local businesses.
  • A one-off grant of £10,000 will be provided to all small businesses who are eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (i.e. all businesses with a NAV up to £15,000). This will benefit around 27,000 businesses.
  • A grant of £25,000 will be provided to companies in the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. This should assist 4,000 business.
  • The schemes will be administered by the Department for the Economy and Invest Northern Ireland working with the Department of Finance’s Land & Property Services.

How will eligible businesses be identified?

  • The ratings system will be used as the mechanism to identify eligible businesses in Northern Ireland.
  • Last year’s rating list will be the basis for payment.
  • Businesses who are eligible as a result of revaluation are also being identified.
  • Businesses with multiple properties will only be eligible for one grant in total.
  • Vacant properties and MLA Constituency Offices are not eligible for this grant.
  • For rental properties, the scheme is designed to benefit small businesses and not landlords or managing agents.
  • A new online form for rental properties is to be made available in the coming days.  This will apply to landlords and managing agents of properties with a rateable value of £1,590 or less and small businesses in the same position.

How and when will businesses receive payment?

  • Payments will be made directly into the bank accounts of eligible businesses who currently pay business rates by direct debt. The first payments are expected to be made on or before 31 March 2020.
  • An online web portal for businesses that qualify for a £10,000 grant but who do not currently pay business rates by direct debit can provide their bank details by completing an online registration form: www.covid-19smallbusinessgrants.economy-ni.gov.uk/
  • Online registration details will be checked and if everything is in order, grant payments will be paid directly into bank accounts.

Businesses should note that:

  • If any information provided via the online registration form is later found to be false, repayment of funding may be required.
  • Any payment must be declared to HMRC as appropriate as part of the tax return for the business.
  • The grants constitute State Aid and businesses will be asked to confirm that they agree to the State Aid Requirements when completing the online form.
  • Additional processes are underway for the £25,000 grant for the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors and the scheme will be fully operational as soon as possible.
  • More information: Small Business Grant Scheme Helpline – 0300 200 7809 or www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-business-support-grant-schemes
  • With immediate effect measures to be implemented to ensure that Government Departments (including those in Northern Ireland) pay contractors as quickly as possible to maintain cash flow and protect jobs. Payments will continue to flow promptly even if the contract cannot be delivered as previously agreed.
  • Departments will take action to continue to pay suppliers at risk due to COVID-19 on a continuity and retention basis so they are able to resume normal service delivery and fulfil their obligations when the outbreak is over.
  • Suppliers to Government can request relief using various options such as interim payments, advance payments for goods and services, changes to delivery and payment dates and bringing forward orders and payments.
  • Supplier requests for relief will receive a response within three days of receipt. If approved they must provide a certificate of costs which sets out their actual costs, expenses, cash flow and profits. The supplier will also be required to ensure that staff and the contract supply chain are paid promptly.
  • Suppliers must provide any information or evidence which is reasonably required to verify payments requested. If the supplier does not spend the interim payment in line with what it said it required the interim payments for, action will be taken to recover the payments and mandatory or discretionary exclusion from future government contracts may be considered.
  • More information: www.gov.uk/government/publications/procurement-policy-note-0220-supplier-relief-due-to-covid-19
  • In addition to the COVID-19 measures announced, there are other existing reliefs available to help business ratepayers. These rate support schemes include:
    • Charitable exemption for rates: offers charitable bodies 100% relief.
    • Sports and recreation rate relief: provides sport and recreation bodies 80% relief on the parts of their premises that are used for sporting purposes. Community amateur sports clubs receive 100% relief.
    • Industrial derating: provides manufacturing businesses with a 70% reduction in rates.
    • Non-domestic vacant rating: rates are payable on vacant non-domestic properties at 50% of the normal level.
  • The Hardship Rate Relief for non-domestic property is intended to assist a business recover from a temporary crisis, financial or otherwise, as a result of exceptional circumstances. The relief can provide up to 100% of rates owed for the period of hardship against the rating year the application is received.
  • Hardship Rate Relief is only available on rates that are due, therefore, it will not be possible to claim it for April, May and June 2020. However, if your business has been affected during February and March 2020, you can apply.

Eligibility

All NI businesses with the exception of:

    • properties used solely for, or in connection with:
    • the parking of motor vehicles;
    • telecommunications masts and towers; or
    • automatic teller machines
    • Properties used solely for exhibiting advertisements

Hardship Relief constitutes State Aid and will be given in compliance with the State Aid rules.

How to claim

  • The Government will be automatically deferring business payment for Value Added Tax (VAT).
  • Deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.
  • All UK businesses are eligible.
  • Deferral will be automatic and businesses will not need to make VAT payments during this period, however HMRC has published the following advice in relation to this:

Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay.  Please do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of you VAT return.

  • This scheme is to support employees to be kept on payroll by employers.
  • Grants rate – 80% of salaries for paid workers with salaries of up to £2,500 per month.
  • Employers can top up salaries further if they choose to, but are not required to.
  • The scheme will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and open for at least three months but will be extended if required.
  • First grants to be paid before end of April 2020.
  • The scheme will be available for all employees currently paid via PAYE and we understand it will include a mechanism to address the position of zero hour’s workers and other employees who may not be entitled to receive standard rates of pay.
  • Businesses may need to fund the gap between payment of wages and receipt of the grant – if businesses need short term cash flow support, they may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
  • If employees’ salaries are reduced as a result of these changes, they may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.
  • The Scheme is expected to be up and running by the end of April 2020.
  • For information on, who can apply, how to claim and availability visit: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-claim-wage-costs-through-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme and www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19#history
  • This scheme allows self-employed individuals or members of partnerships to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months.

Eligibility

  • A self-employed individual or a member of a partnership who can satisfy the following:
    • have submitted an Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19;
    • traded in the tax year 2019-20;
    • are trading when they apply, or would be except for COVID-19;
    • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21;
    • have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19.
  • Self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income must come from self-employment.
  • This is determined by at least one of the following conditions being true:
    • having trading profits/partnership trading profits in 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your total taxable income; or
    • having average trading profits in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 of less than £50,000 and these profits constitute more than half of your average taxable income in the same period.
  • If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return.
  • If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.
  • HMRC will use data on 2018-19 returns already submitted to identify those eligible and will risk assess any late returns filed before the 23 April 2020 deadline in the usual way.

How much can an individual or member of a partnership get?

  • They will get a taxable grant which will be 80% of the average profits from the tax years (where applicable):
    • 2016 to 2017
    • 2017 to 2018
    • 2018 to 2019
  • To work out the average HMRC will add together the total trading profit for the three tax years (where applicable) then divide by three (where applicable), and use this to calculate a monthly amount.
  • It will be up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for three months.
  • The grant will be paid directly into bank accounts, in one instalment.

How to apply?

  • HMRC will contact those who are eligible for the scheme and invite them to apply online.
  • Individuals should not contact HMRC.
  • Access to this scheme will be through GOV.UK only. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.

What happens after you’ve applied?

  • Small and medium-sized businesses and employers can reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.
  • Cover up to two weeks Statutory Sick Pay per employee.
  • Employers with less than 250 employees.
  • Employees will not need to provide a doctors fit note and can self certify for the first seven days off work.
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP.
  • 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.
  • The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the legislation/regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force. Once the legislation/regulations have been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
  • Government to work with employers over coming months to set up a repayment mechanism.
  • More information: www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
  • For those who are unable to pay due to coronavirus, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore, agreeing an instalment arrangement, suspending debt collection proceedings, cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.
  • To be increased by £1,000 per year for the next 12 months.
  • Persons who are self employed have access in full to Universal Credit, providing they meet the usual eligibility criteria.
  • The requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • The standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit will both increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating i.e. additional income of £1,040 per annum.
  • Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area. This applies to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.
  • More information: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk or www.nidirect.gov.uk
  • Payments due in July 2020 to be deferred to January 2021.
  • No applications required as deferral will be automatic.
  • No penalties or interest for late payments will be applied in this period.
  • More information: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk or HMRC Coronavirus Helpline 0800 015 9559.
  • Firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities may apply to HMRC to defer tax payments.
  • Agree to defer tax payments through HMRC’s “Time To Pay” service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.
  • HMRC has also scaled up their “Time to Pay offer” and have established a dedicated COVID-19 helpline.
  • All companies must send their accounts, reports and confirmation statements to Companies House every year. If a company’s accounts are filed late, the law imposes an automatic penalty.
  • Your company should take appropriate measures to ensure accounts are filed on time. You should also file your accounts online if you are able to do so.
  • More information: www.gov.uk/file-your-company-annual-accounts
  • If, immediately before the filing deadline, it becomes apparent that accounts will not be filed on time due to your company being affected by Coronavirus, you may make an application to extend the period allowed for filing.
  • From 25 March 2020, businesses will be able to apply for a three month extension for filing their accounts.
  • Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take 15 minutes to complete.
  • Companies should simply cite COVID-19 or Health matters as the grounds for their application.
  • More information: www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-more-time-to-file-your-companys-accounts

Late filing penalties

  • If you do not apply for an extension and your accounts have been filed late, an automatic penalty will be imposed. The registrar has very limited discretion not to collect a penalty.
  • More information: www.gov.uk/government/publications/late-filing-penalties
  • Each appeal is treated on a case-by-case basis, and GOV.UK already has policies in place to deal with appeals based upon unforeseen poor health. Appeals based upon COVID-19 will be considered under these policies.
  • All UK businesses are eligible.
  • The Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies in order to help finance short term liabilities.
  • The facility will purchase commercial paper (which is an unsecured, short-term debt instrument issued by a company) of up to one-year maturity.
  • The minimum size of an individual security that the fund will purchase from an individual participant is £1 million, with financing terms comparable to those prevailing in markets before Covid-19.
  • To access the scheme you will need to contact your bank. Not all banks issue commercial paper so if this applies to your bank, UK Finance will provide a list of banks that are able to assist.
  • The scheme will be available from 23 March 2020.
  • More information: www.bankofengland.co.uk
  • Dedicated helpline for tourism businesses: 028 9592 5313.
  • Help and guidance available Monday to Sunday 9.00am – 5.00pm.
  • Submit an online query at www.tourismni.com
  • Information available on e.g. funding support available, employment law, tourist accommodation certification (currently postponed) and quality grading schemes (membership now extended by six months), cash flow management, booking T&C’s, inbound travel, commercial contracts etc.
  • More information: www.tourismni.com/Grow-Your-Business/covid-19-new-coronavirus/
  • Information available online to assist members with legal advice including e.g. furloughing and job retention schemes.
  • Please contact 07736 284 764 for further advice.
  • More information: https://hospitalityulster.org/
  • Live chat section dealing with current business queries.
  • Online training links for e.g. marketing, business advice etc.
  • More information: www.enterprisenation.com/
  • Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, caravan parks, camping sites and boarding houses should take steps to close immediately.
  • Hotels and other accommodation providers should remain open if they satisfy the government guidance with regards exclusions.
  • More information: www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-advice-for-accommodation-providers
  • If you have been told to stay at home by NHS 111, and your employer requires evidence to support sickness absence, isolation notes for employees who are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus can be obtained from NHS website: https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/
  • Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.
  • No business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June 2020.
  • There is also the option for the government to extend this period if needed.
  • This is not a rental holiday, and all commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent.
  • All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible.
  • More information: www.gov.uk
  • JobCentre Online (JCOL) is a website that will assist employers who are looking to recruit new staff managed through the Department for Communities.
  • Employers can notify and manage their job vacancies online in a quick, easy and convenient way.
  • As an employer you can enter job specifications, qualifications required, wage details and any other requirements specific to their vacancies, with the ability to manage your account online 24/7.
  • JCOL reaches a wide audience, advertising current job vacancies throughout Northern Ireland, as well as vacancies in the Republic of Ireland.

How do employers post their job vacancies?

  • Employers can register with www.employersonlineni.com  and have their job vacancies posted on Job Centre Online the same day. This is a free service to all employers.

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