Government resources for businesses and the self-employed

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 

Details 

  • On 25 June 2020, the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (the Act) received royal assent. It came into force on 26 June 2020. 
  • The measures introduced by the Act will relieve the burden on businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and allow them to focus all their efforts on continuing to operate. 
  • The guidance outlines how the measures introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act will affect public limited companies (PLCs) and Societas Europaea (SEs) filing accounts with Companies House. 
  • The Act will also introduce changes to the insolvency regime. 

Accounts 

  • Companies and other types of business registered at Companies House will get more time to file accounts. 
  • If your company is eligible, we’ll update your filing deadline automatically. You do not need to apply for an extension. 
  • There are changes for public companies with a filing deadline between 26 March 2020 and 29 September 2020. 

Insolvency 

  • The Bill will introduce a new moratorium to give companies breathing space from their creditors while they seek a rescue. It will also introduce a new restructuring plan sanctioned by the court that will bind creditors to the plan. 
  • Directors will still need to meet their filing obligations with Companies House. Late filing penalties will still be applied if accounts are filed late. 
  • The Monitor is appointed to oversee the moratorium. They will need to file notices with Companies House during the moratorium. 
  • Further information and guidance at liquidation and insolvency guidance. 
  • A restructuring plan does not take effect until a copy of the court order has been delivered to Companies House. It will then be registered against the company. 

Extension announced 24 September 2020 

Changes to protect businesses from insolvency were introduced by the Government on 24th September 2020 in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act that was due to expire on 30 September 2020. 

The extension of the temporary measures include: 

  • companies and other qualifying bodies with obligations to hold AGMs will continue to have the flexibility to hold these meetings virtually until 30 December 2020. This means that shareholders can continue to examine company papers and vote on important issues remotely 
  • statutory demands and winding-up petitions will continue to be restricted until 31 December 2020 to protect companies from aggressive creditor enforcement action as a result of coronavirus related debts 
  • termination clauses are still prohibited, stopping suppliers from ceasing their supply or asking for additional payments while a company is going through a rescue process. However, small suppliers will remain exempted from the obligation to supply until 30 March 2021 so that they can to protect their business if necessary 
  • the modifications to the new moratorium procedure, which relax the entry requirements to it, will also be extended until 30 March 2021. A company may enter into a moratorium if they have been subject to an insolvency procedure in the previous 12 months. Measures will also ease access for companies subject to a winding up petition. The temporary moratorium rules will also be extended to 30 March 2021.

You can read more about the changes and extensions to the regulations here 

VAT deferral – final chance to join online

The VAT deferral new payment scheme is open for all businesses who deferred paying VAT due between 20 March‌‌ ‌and 30‌‌ ‌June 2020, and were unable to pay in full by 31 March‌‌ ‌2021.

The last day you can join this scheme online is 21‌‌ ‌June. If you join by this date you can spread your payments across up to eight instalments.

If you have deferred paying VAT and have not yet joined the VAT deferral new payment scheme, you may be charged a 5% penalty and/or interest if you do not join online by the deadline of 21‌‌ ‌June or pay in full by 30‌‌ ‌June.

You can join quickly and simply online without needing to call us. To find out more, including what you need to join online, go to GOV‌‌.UK and search 'VAT deferral'.

If you're still unable to pay and need more time, please contact us to make an alternative arrangement by 30‌‌ ‌June‌‌ ‌2021 – go to GOV‌‌‌.UK and search 'if you cannot pay your tax bill on time'.

Future Fund 

The Future Fund scheme closed to new applicants on 31 January 2021. The online portal remains open for investee companies with legally completed convertible loan agreements (CLAs) to submit information. 

HMRC’s Time to Pay service 

You can advise that if a business cannot pay their business tax bill on time because of COVID-19, they may be able to delay it without penalty. 

See GOV.UK and search 'Time to pay'. 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme  

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended until the end of September 2021. 

The UK Government will continue to pay 80% of employees’ usual wages for the hours not worked, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, up to the end of June 2021. 

For periods in July, CJRS grants will cover 70% of employees’ usual wages for the hours not worked, up to a cap of £2,187.50. In August and September, this will then reduce to 60% of employees’ usual wages up to a cap of £1,875. 

You will need to continue to pay your furloughed employees at least 80% of their usual wages for the hours they do not work during this time, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. This means, for periods between July and September, you will need to fund the difference between this and the CJRS grants yourself. You can also top up wages above the 80% if you wish, but you are not required to do so. 

You must continue to pay the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions on subsidised furlough pay from your own funds. 

Submit your CJRS claims for June

CJRS claims for periods in June can now be submitted and must be made by Wednesday‌‌ ‌1‌‌4 Ju‌‌l‌‌y.

You can claim 80% of your furloughed employees’ usual wages for the hours not worked, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

You can claim before, during or after you process your payroll. If you can, it’s best to make a claim once you’re sure of the exact number of hours your employees will work so you don’t have to amend your claim later.

Conditions of claiming CJRS grants

You must pay the associated employee tax and National Insurance contributions to HMRC. This is a condition of claiming the grant, and not doing so will mean you’ll need to repay the whole of the CJRS grant and you may not be able to claim future CJRS grants.

If you’re having difficulty paying any of your tax liabilities to HMRC, we can work with you to explore affordable payment options – for example, through a payment plan where you can pay in instalments. To find out more, go to GOV‌‌.UK and search 'time to pay arrangement’.

Flexibly furloughing employees

If your business continues to be affected by coronavirus, you don’t need to place all your employees on full furlough. You can also use the CJRS flexibly if you bring your employees back to work for some of their usual hours. You can claim a portion of your employees’ usual wage costs, but only for the hours spent on furlough.

You must not claim under the CJRS for any hours that your employees work. We are carrying out compliance checks to identify error and fraud in claims.

What you need to do now:

  1. If you haven’t submitted your claims for May but believe that you have a reasonable excuse for missing the deadline (14 June), check if you can make a late claim by searching 'claim for wages' on GOV‌‌.UK.
  2. Submit any claims for June no later than Wednesday‌‌ ‌14‌‌ ‌July.
  3. Keep records that support any CJRS grant amounts you claim, in case HMRC needs to check them.
  4. Make sure you’re paying employee tax and National Insurance contributions to HMRC and contact us if you're struggling to pay.

Changes to the CJRS from July

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.

You will need to pay the 10% difference in July, and 20% in August and September, so that you continue to pay your furloughed employees at least 80% of their usual wages for the hours they do not work during this time, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

You can still choose to top up your employees’ wages above the 80% level or cap for each month if you wish, at your own expense.

To help you plan ahead for future claim periods, the CJRS calculator is available to help you work out how much you can claim for employees up to the end of September. To find this and everything you need to know about the CJRS, search 'Job Retention Scheme' on GOV‌‌.UK.

What to do if you or your clients have overclaimed 

Some employers have contacted HMRC to let them know that they have claimed too much. If this applies to you or your clients, then all you need to do is tell HMRC when you next claim so you can pay it back. You will be asked when making your claim whether you need to adjust the amount to take account of a previous error. Your new claim amount will be reduced to reflect this. You do not need to take any other action but should keep a record of this adjustment for six years. 

If you or your clients have made an error in a previous claim but do not plan to submit further claims, you need to contact HMRC to let them know, so that HMRC can tell you how to repay the money. 

Claiming for 100 or more employees? 

You can use template to claim to ensure your claim is processed quickly and successfully. 

You can find this template by searching 'download a template if you're claiming for 100 or more employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme' on GOV.UK. 

Updated guidance on military reservists 

HMRC guidance now confirms you and your clients can furlough an employee who is a military reservist returning to work following a period of mobilisation ending after 10 June 2020 – even if they haven’t been furloughed before. Search for 'Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme' on GOV‌‌‌.UK to find out more. 

Paying employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and pension contributions 

A condition of the CJRS grant is that you pay the related PAYE tax, NICs and pension contributions due on wages. Until 31‌‌‌ ‌July you can continue to claim these for the hours the employee is on furlough. From 1‌‌‌ ‌August 2020 employers will no longer be able to claim for NICs and pension contributions. 

If you think you or your clients may struggle to pay your PAYE tax and/or NICs from August 2020, please contact HMRC as soon as possible, before they start action to recover the unpaid debt as HMRC may be able to give you time to pay. 

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) 

As accountants do not have access to SEISS, you can support your clients by helping them to: 

  • understand the eligibility criteria; and 
  • apply for, or informing them of, the Government Gateway. 

Clients can apply for a Government Gateway account in time   

Note: 

There is no requirement for your clients to wait for any pins or codes to be sent to them through the post to register for a Government Gateway account, or the SEISS grant service. 

  • Clients will be able to verify their identity using details such as their passport or driving licence. 
  • It should take a minimum of 10 working days from application to issuing Government Gateway access 

Future grants confirmed 3 March 2021 

The UK Government has today announced that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will continue until September with a fourth and fifth grant. 

The fourth and fifth grants will take into account submitted 2019-20 tax returns. This means your clients may be able to claim, even if they were not eligible for previous grants. Your clients must have submitted their 2019-20 tax returns by 2 March 2021 to be eligible for the fourth and fifth grants. 

Fourth SEISS grant 

The UK Government will pay a taxable grant which is calculated based on 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single payment and capped at £7,500 in total. The value of the grant is based on an average of your client’s trading profits for up to four tax years between 2016 to 2020, where available. 

The grant will be available to claim from late April. As with previous grants, trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to non-trading income in order to claim the fourth SEISS grant. 

Eligibility for the fourth SEISS grant will also depend on whether your client experienced a significant financial impact from coronavirus between February 2021 and April 2021. 

As the calculation now takes into account the tax year 2019-20, your clients who previously claimed SEISS grants may receive grants that are higher or lower in value than any previous SEISS payments they received. 

We have moved quickly to ensure we have the information we need to check customers' eligibility before applications are open, while also protecting the SEISS from fraud. Where we need to make further checks, we will write to customers and explain that we will call them to ask for proof of identity and evidence of trade. To make these calls, we will use the telephone number on the customer's record. If this is their agent's number, we will ask that you provide us with your client’s contact number as we need to speak to them directly. Thank you for supporting your clients with this process, which will help make sure we can get support to people who need it. 

Further details of the scheme can be found by searching 'Self Employed Income Support Scheme' on GOV‌‌‌.UK. 

How your clients can claim the fourth SEISS grant 

From mid-April, your clients will be given their personal claim date by HMRC which confirms the earliest date they can claim. We are inviting customers to claim on different days to ensure the system is fast and easy to use. 

The online claims service for the fourth grant will be live from late April. This is to allow us time to process recently submitted 2019-20 Self Assessment tax returns. 

Your clients must make their claim for the fourth grant between their personal claim date and 31‌‌ ‌May 2021 at the latest. 

Your clients will need to make an honest assessment that there has been a significant reduction in trading profits due to reduced demand or their inability to trade, and to keep appropriate records as evidence. 

Fifth grant 

The UK Government has also announced that there will be a fifth and final SEISS grant covering May to September. The amount of the fifth grant will be determined by how much your clients’ turnover has been reduced. 

The grant will be worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500, for those with a higher reduction in turnover (30% or more). For those with a lower reduction in turnover, of less than 30%, then the grant will be worth 30% of three months average trading profits. 

Your clients will be able to claim the fifth grant from late July if they are eligible. Further details will be provided on the fifth grant in due course. 

Questions and answers on SEISS: 

  • When will further guidance be available? 
  • We will publish more guidance in due course. 
  • How will customers receive their personal claim date? 
  • We will contact your clients from mid-April by email, letter or SMS, depending on the information they have provided to us previously. 
  • What can customers do to prepare? 

We will send details of how to make a claim when we contact customers with their personal claim date. 

In the meantime, to confirm eligibility and make a claim, customers should ensure they have the following to hand: 

  • National Insurance number 
  • Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) 
  • Government Gateway user ID and password 
  • bank account number and sort code. 

Customers claiming SEISS for the first time may be asked additional questions to prove their identity. These customers should be ready to answer questions about the following documents, which we recommend they have to hand: 

  • UK passport 
  • credit file (such as loans, credit cards or mortgages) 
  • Self Assessment tax return (within the last 3 years) 
  • driving licence (DVLA UK or DVA NI) 
  • tax credit claim 
  • P60 
  • three most recent payslips. 

During the first two weeks of a grant opening for claims, we receive many calls to our helplines from customers who cannot access the Government Gateway or have issues verifying their identity. We would be grateful if you could support your clients in preparing the above documents so they’re ready to claim. 

What support is there for those who are not eligible? 

Those who are not eligible for SEISS may be eligible for other elements of the financial support provided by the UK Government. This includes Bounce Back Loans, tax deferrals, rental support, increased levels of Universal Credit, mortgage holidays, and other business support grants. 

More information on further support can be found by searching on GOV‌‌‌.UK. 

Statutory Sick Pay 

You can help and support clients by advising that as employers they can reclaim Statutory Sick Pay rebate paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. 

Taxable expenses and benefits 

Guidance on when they are paid to employees because of coronavirus and how to report them to HMRC  

Tax-free childcare and 30 hours free childcare 

HMRC published new guidance for parents applying for, or already receiving, tax-free childcare and/or 30 hours free childcare during the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • To help make sure critical workers can continue to access the childcare they need to enable them to work, even if their circumstances have changed during coronavirus, HMRC has made some temporary changes. 
  • The guidance explains how the changes may affect parents who are: on furlough; not able to work or are working less; self-employed and critical workers earning more. 

Tax rules on waiving your income or donating to charity 

HMRC advice for people choosing to give up their income to support their business or donate to charity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Workplace testing – guidance for employers relating to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) issues from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) 

To compliment government guidance on returning to the workplace the ICO have published separate guidance to help UK employers to operate in compliance with GDPR requirements. 

The guidance is broken down into question and answers, with ten Q & A’s in total. It sets out practical steps for businesses focused on the following points: 

  • Legal considerations for testing employees in the workplace 
  • How to demonstrate compliance 
  • Record retention in relation to Covid-19 testing 
  • Ensuring employees are able to exercise their information rights. 

Other useful resources  

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Information for businesses and employers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland 

HMRC helpline 

A dedicated HMRC helpline for businesses and self-employed individuals who have difficulty with paying their tax due to COVID-19 promised at Budget 2020 is now in operation. The number of the helpline is 0800 0159 559. 

The helpline can assist with:  

  • setting up a time to pay arrangement,   
  • suspending debt collection proceedings, and  
  • cancelling late payment penalties and (unusually) interest.   

Helpline for Scottish business 

COVID-19 helpline for Scottish businesses 
The helpline is open Monday to Friday, between 8.30am to 5.30pm. Advisers across Scotland will answer questions from businesses related to COVID-19. The helpline will also help the Scottish Government identify the current challenges facing businesses.