The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlined a raft of measures earlier in the week to support the UK’s ailing businesses, those affected by the forbidding COVID-19 outbreak. The list that follows summarises his announcements in the order they were announced:
• The Treasury is making available £330bn of loan guarantees. These guarantees will underpin Government-backed bank loans on attractive terms. The loans can be used to support businesses through financial difficulties during the COVID-19 crisis. Note they are loans. At some point, interest will be charged and repayments will have to be made. The Chancellor confirmed that if this level of support was insufficient, further guarantees would be forthcoming.
• Support for liquidity to larger firms will be provided by low-cost, easily accessible commercial paper. Support for smaller firms will be accessed via the Business Interruption Loan Scheme previously announced – the initial loan ceiling of £1.2m is to be increased to £5m and no interest due for the first six months. Both of these schemes are due to be up and running by the start of next week.
• Further measures are to be introduced to support airlines. No details as of yet.
• Businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors who have made claims for business interruption from their insurers due to Government interventions, may have had difficulties making a claim. The Government have now intervened and the insurers have agreed to pay up in appropriate cases.
• Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value below £51,000, will also receive – in addition to the 100% rates relief previously announced – a cash grant of up to £25,000 per business.
• In the same sector, the 100% rates reduction will be applied to all business irrespective of rateable value.
To clarify, the previous two bullet points mean that all businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector – shops, pubs, theatres, music venues, restaurants etc – will have no rates to pay for 2020-21, and if the rateable value of their property is below £51,000, they may also be able to claim a cash grant of up to £25,000.
• The £3,000 grants to smaller business, announced last week, are to be increased to £10,000.
• Mortgage lenders have agreed with the Government that individuals disrupted by the Coronavirus can have at least a three-month holiday from making mortgage repayments.
The Chancellor also hinted that there would be further support for incomes and jobs. Perhaps an increase in statutory sick pay or increased access to State Benefits. Watch this space.
What is not clear is how we claim for the various loans and grants on offer. We offer the following suggestions although the actual processes finally agreed may differ from these:
• Rates reductions should be made automatically and revised statement sent by local authorities in the coming weeks for 2020-21. Contact your local rating department to clarify that this is so.
• It is not clear how qualifying businesses will claim the grants mentioned in the above list – those that range between £10,000 to £25,000 – could be applications need to be made to local authorities or another Government department. We will confirm as soon as details are released.
• We assume that you will need to apply to your bank for the guaranteed Business Interruption Loan. It is likely that your bank will need up-to-date figures to back up your application. Please call if you need help preparing these.
• At the time this update was composed, the Government had still not confirmed how employers can claim back the 14-day cost of Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees. Again, we will publish details as soon as they are released.
Although not part of the Chancellor’s presentation, Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Barclay, made a further announcement to parliament last night (17 March 2020). The Government are postponing the roll-out of draconian IR35 measures to the private sector that would have affected the tax status of many incorporated contractors across the UK. This a welcome change as it will defer much disruption in this sector until the worst aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak have passed. The new rules are now slated to come into effect from 6 April 2021, a year later than planned.
Our best wishes to all who are directly affected by this unprecedented outbreak. And please get in touch if you need more information or support.