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COVID 19 - what does this mean for business
BiZHUB member, accountant and Whitehill & Bordon Town Councillor, Andy Tree has kindly agreed to let us publish his email to clients and associates about the coronavirus.

If you would like to contact Andy about your small business, please see his contact details at the bottom of this post.

COVID-19: an accountant's view...

We have entered an unprecedented period of time.

HMRC has set up a helpline for businesses and self-employed people who are concerned about paying their tax due to COVID-19. 

The number is: 0800 0159 559. I understand this line is extremely busy from feedback that I have had today.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP has said: "We must do anything it takes we can do to support our economy to help millions of businesses."

In the last few days, the UK Government has made major announcements about help for small businesses and individuals affected by coronavirus. Below is a summary of the significant points, although details are still awaited as to how some of these schemes may be accessed/applied for. I have been asked  questions about such schemes today and will be updating as-and-when further information is made available.

The following measures were announced in the Budget:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to be paid from the 1st day of absence, not the 4th, 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.
  • Businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress will be able to negotiate 'time to pay' arrangements with HMRC without incurring late payment penalties.

At a press conference on Tue 17th March, the following additional measures were announced:

  • Any business that needs access to cash to pay their rent, salaries, suppliers, or to purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan on "attractive terms." (As of now, these terms are not yet available.)
  • Support will be delivered to small and medium businesses via the new Business Interruption Loan Scheme (announced at the Budget), which will now provide loans of up to £5 million, with no interest due for the first six months. The scheme will be up and running by the start of next week.
  • All retail, leisure and hospitality companies will be exempt from business rates for a whole year
  • All businesses (not just those with a rateable value of less than £51,000, as previously announced), will pay no business rates for 2020-21.
  • Businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 will also be eligible for an additional cash grant of up to £25,000 (i.e. cash payment from the government) per business, to help them through this period. This means that every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant , etc. will pay no business rates whatsoever for 12 months and, if they have a rateable value of less than £51,000, they can now get a cash grant as well. The large number of businesses that are already eligible for 100% business rates relief will receive a grant of £10,000 (not  £3,000, as previously announced) to help with business costs.
  • For those individuals in financial difficulty due to coronavirus, mortgage lenders will offer at least a three-month mortgage holiday, so that people will not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage while they get back on their feet. (Tenants struggling to pay their rent owing to the impact of coronavirus must be dealt with "sympathetically" by landlords, the The Residential Landlords Association has said.)


Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday 17th March, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay MP said: "The government is postponing the reforms to the off-payroll working rules, IR35, from 6 April 2020 to 6 April 2021."

My personal view is it would have been absurd to change the IR35 rules for flexible contractors at any time (let alone at this time) and so this change - whilst a little late - is very welcome!

Firms thinking of firing staff due to the coronavirus crisis should consider the support available to them first, the new Bank of England boss has said today. Andrew Bailey urged UK firms to "stop, look at what's available, come and talk to us [or] the government before you take that position". He added that his "big message" for firms and citizens was that "we will be there to support your needs".

We understand that banks are advised to be sympathetic to debt owed and we suggest you speak to insurance about what is/is not covered, including areas such as key person insurance.

We understand other fund pots may be available. For example: Facebook has announced a $100 million grant program for small businesses. Applications are not open yet, but the company says this will include both ad credits and cash grants that can be spent on operational costs e.g. paying workers and paying rent. It will be available to up to 30,000 businesses in the 30-plus countries where Facebook operates.

Contact Andy Tree:
Top Branch Partners