Tips for protecting your customers & staff during COVID-19

If your workshop is currently open or you are planning to re-open, there’s steps you can take to keep customers and staff safe.

Business Support through COVID-19: Government Measures

During these uncertain times, it is important to understand the measures being made available to support your business.  The following is a list of the measures which have been announced to date by the Government to provide immediate support for a wide range of businesses and individuals.

The links at the end of this article should be used for latest updates.


Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme

The scheme has been extended to all viable small businesses which have been affected and not just those who could not secure regular commercial financing.

The existing and revised terms of the scheme are:

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is set to help those experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.
 
A business may still need to provide financial forecasts to support their application for a CBILS loan.

It is hoped that, with the changes, the application process will be more streamlined with funds available more quickly than has been the case up to now.
 
The main details of the CBILS scheme are as follows:

  • It aims to support a “wide range” of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance facilities. It provides the lender with a government-backed guarantee;
  • The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5m, available on repayment terms of up to six years;
  • The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed, partial guarantee (80%) against the outstanding facility balance, subject to an overall cap per lender;
  • There will be no guarantee fee for SMEs to access the scheme. However, the lenders may still charge fees;
  • The Government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees;
  • Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities. For overdrafts and invoice finance facilities, terms will be up to three years;
  • There will be no requirement for personal guarantees from borrowers for lending facilities of £250,000 and under;
  • Personal guarantees on loans over £250,000 are to be limited to just 20% of any amount outstanding on the lending after any other recoveries from business assets. The personal guarantees will exclude an individual’s principal private residence;
  • The new regulations will also apply to any finance already offered under the scheme; and
  • The borrower always remains liable for the repayment of the whole debt.

Smaller businesses from all sectors can apply for the full amount. To be eligible for support under CBILS, an SME must have a UK-based business activity, with turnover of no more than £45m per year.
 
A potential borrower must also have a borrowing proposal which, were it not for the current pandemic, would be considered viable by the lender, and for which the lender believes the provision of finance will enable the business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty. The borrower must self-certify that their business has been adversely impacted by COVID-19.

CBILS is available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders and partners.

In the first instance, businesses should approach their existing bank – preferably via the lender’s website. They may also consider approaching other lenders if they are unable to access the finance they need from their existing finance provider.


Business rates

In the Budget, Mr Sunak announced that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, with a rateable value of less than £51,000, will pay no business rates this year.  Garages and MOT centres are not in this case currently classed as retail and this is being discussed by industry associations with the government currently.  Non- retail business should check for updates regarding their businesses classification.

The government will now provide an additional £2.2 billion funding for local authorities to support small businesses with the following measures available:

  • Those businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 per business;
  • Every shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant – and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector – will pay no business rates for 12 months regardless of size, and if they have a rateable value of less than £51,000, they can now get a cash grant; and
  • Cash grants of up to £10,000 will also be available to small business which qualify for the small business rates relief or rural rate relief.

Rules and guidance for furloughed employees

Furloughed members of staff must not work for the employer during the period of furlough.
 
Furlough is from 1 March 2020, so is to be backdated. It will last for at least 3 months and will be extended if necessary. Note that while the scheme is backdated to the beginning of March as it is intended to support all those employed then, a firm will only be eligible to claim the grant once they have agreed the furlough with their staff and staff have stopped working for the employer. This will of course be subject to employment law in the usual way.
 
The scheme is available for employees on the payroll at 28 February 2020.
 
All UK businesses are eligible, ‘any employer on the country, small or large, charitable or non-profit’ to use the Chancellor’s words.
 
The scheme pays a grant (not a loan) to the employer.
 
The grant will be paid to the employer through a new online system which is being built for this purpose. The online service is expected to be available at the end of April. Claims will have to wait until it is available.
 
The employer will pay the employee through payroll, and report payments to HMRC using the Real Time Information (RTI) system as usual, as required by the employment contract. This contract may be re-negotiated, but that is a matter for employment law.
 
The scheme will be administered by HMRC:

  • Relevant employees must be designated as furloughed employees.
  • Employers will submit claims to HMRC through a new online portal.
  • As the system will take time to build, businesses should look to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support cash flow in the meantime. The narrative used in the information released so far says ‘if your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19 they may be able to access support…’. This is a conditional phrase which may relate to existing funds available to the employer. We do not yet know how these might be determined, nor whether there is a bar of some description.

The maximum grant will be calculated per employee and is the lower of:

  • 80% of ‘an employee’s regular wage’ and £2,500 per month.
  • Plus the associated employers’ national insurance contributions (NIC) on this amount and the minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.
  • Fees, commission and bonuses should not be included.
  • This gives a maximum cap of £2,500 + £245 (employers’ NIC) + £59 (auto- enrolled pension contribution) = £2,804 of total possible grant that can be applied for per employee per month.

VAT deferred payments

HMRC have allowed all companies/individuals to defer VAT payments from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. This will equate to one quarter’s VAT.
 
All quarterly payments which would have been made on or after 7 April, 7 May and 7 June or the monthly payments for these dates can be deferred.
 
This will occur automatically and no application is required.
 
VAT returns are still required to be submitted by the due date in this period.
 
HMRC cannot cancel Direct Debit payments, therefore companies will need to cancel their Direct Debit if they wish to take advantage of the deferral.  
 
The current guidance is that the unpaid liability will have to be paid by the end of the tax year; for unincorporated businesses this will be 5 March 2021 and for companies 31 March 2021.
 
VAT refunds will still be paid as normal.


Negotiating a time to pay (‘TTP’) with HMRC

The following points are relevant for taxpayers approaching HMRC on the dedicated helpline (0800 0159 559) to secure a TTP agreement:

  • Taxpayers should contact HMRC as soon as they anticipate difficulty making a payment – but not more than 2 weeks before the payment is due; 
  • All tax returns should be up to date;
  • Taxpayers should have cash flows, forecasts and a statement of assets available as support for their TTP proposal;
  • Taxpayers should make a clear and affordable proposal to HMRC for them consider;
  • HMRC may ask questions, but these may now be less onerous than in the past simply because of the pressing need to help businesses;
  • HMRC staff have authority to agree a TTP over 12 months. For amounts over £100,000 escalation within HMRC may be necessary;
  • No deal is better than an unaffordable deal. If HMRC will not accept a proposal, taxpayers should not agree one which they cannot afford – failure to keep to a TTP agreement can be problematic. If no TTP can be agreed taxpayers should simply pay what they can and keep paying other tax liabilities;
  • If a TTP is agreed there will be no late payment penalties; and
  • With a TTP interest is still due on the delayed payments. This may be amended as the economic situation develops.  

Self-employed

  • The support will be 80% of monthly profits, averaged over three years 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19;
  • It will be capped at £2,500 per month for three months (i.e., up to £7,500 in total), but this may be extended;
  • It is only available if average annual taxable earnings are below £50,000;
  • The majority of income has to be from self-employment;
  • Unlike furloughed employees, the individual can continue to operate the business;
  • Those who started self-employment after 5 April 2019 are excluded;
  • HMRC will contact those eligible and then ask them to apply online;
  • HMRC is allowing those who have yet to file their tax return for 2018/19 an additional four weeks to file and get up to date; and
  • The scheme will be available from the beginning of June 2020, effectively back-dated three months to 1 March 2020, and paid in one lump sum.

Companies House filing extensions

Companies House have issued the following guidance for companies.
 
If, immediately before the filing deadline, it becomes apparent that your accounts will not be filed on time due to your company being affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19), you may make an application to obtain an immediate and automatic 3 month extension to the filing date.
 
The application needs to completed online via the Companies House online filing system.
 
To complete the application you will need: 

  • The entity’s Companies House number;
  • An email address for correspondence with Companies House;
  • Reasons for the extension; and
  • If necessary, any documents supporting your application.

 However, companies that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, may not be eligible for an extension.
 
If you do not apply for an extension and your accounts are filed late an automatic penalty will be imposed by Companies House.


Other measures

  • Universal Credit will be increased by £1,000 per annum for the next twelve months. The Working Tax Credit will be boosted by the same amount. This will bring both into line with Statutory Sick Pay.
  • The self-employed were left largely unsupported by the new support initiatives with only the Universal Credit of £94 per week for them to fall back on.
  • Support for rental costs will be paid through Universal Credit.
  • The IR35 changes planned for implementation on 6 April 2020 have been deferred for a year.
  • In a further effort to support pubs and restaurants, planning rules will be relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak.

Self-assessment

  • The self-assessment payment due by 31 July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021;
  • No penalties or interest will be levied in this deferral period; and
  • No claim will be necessary, this will happen automatically and will apply to all taxpayers who are due to make a payment in July 2020.

Statutory Sick Pay

  • Paid from the first day of absence, not the fourth, where people have the virus or have to self-isolate, or care for such people.
  • Support through Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance for self-employed people and others not entitled to SSP.
  • Full funding of the cost of two weeks’ SSP for small and medium-sized employers whose workers have claimed SSP as a result of coronavirus.

HMRC guidance

The firsts link below gives detail of all the various initiatives which have been announced.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses


Useful links

Better Business Finance provides impartial information and support to businesses and entrepreneurs looking to develop and grow; whether the business is seeking finance, or starting out or exporting abroad, BBF is here to help.  

http://www.betterbusinessfinance.co.uk/

Covid-19 support from UK Finance, a collective voice for the banking and finance industry. 

https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/policy-and-guidance/guidance/lets-talk-business-covid-19

NACFB – find a regulated broker

https://www.findsmefinance.co.uk

Covid-19 Fraud issues – visit Take Five for business to learn more

https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/


Our thanks to Simon Littlejohns, Tax Partner at Friend Partnership Limited who contributed to this article. Email: simon.littlejohns@friendllp.com

Garages should contact their existing professional advisers with any queries or follow-up questions.