Advice to clients regarding the ongoing Coronavirus situation
Current as at 25 March 2020
The recent daily briefings from the Government, and emergency measures subsequently put in place, have really brought home the seriousness of the current threat to society in the UK from Coronavirus. We want to do our bit in helping our clients to become as well equipped as possible to deal with what lies ahead. Our priority is to ensure that everyone stays safe and manages to get through this as well as they possibly can, and importantly heeds the advice of the Government and medical professionals with regard to self-isolation and social distancing, which may in turn have an effect on earnings, and as a consequence the ability to fund ongoing IVA contributions.
We firstly want to ensure that our clients keep us as well informed as possible regarding their current and future employment situation, and that our self-employed clients advise us of forseen trading difficulties in light of the situation. As a flexible, non-statutory debt solution, debt management plans give room for emergency payment breaks, and if there is a need to vary the terms of the arrangement there is also a mechanism in place to do so. We fully expect ongoing co-operation and forbearance from all creditor groups in due course.
If your employment has been terminated or its terms amended, or if you have been temporarily laid off, furloughed or made redundant, and you feel that this will affect your ability to pay your DMP in the short or longer term, please let us know immediately so that we can tailor an individual solution for you. Please also ensure that you benefit from any temporary relief put in place by the Government, such as identifying what benefits you may be entitled to, and considering taking a mortgage holiday if you are a homeowner.
Your employers now have the benefit of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which serves to underwrite 80% of employee salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500. We hope that this will alleviate some of the concerns of our employed clients in the short to medium term, where employers have been forced to close businesses or reduce their workforce. Statutory sick pay has also been extended to cover day one of someone being off sick due to coronavirus for a period of two weeks, without the need for a GP sick note. If you have decided to self-isolate, then your employer is also required to pay statutory sick pay for a maximum of two weeks.
Specifically for our self-employed clients, or directors of limited companies, small businesses (turnover under £12.9 million and 250 employees or less) can now apply for loans of up to £5 million under the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. The loans are underwritten by the British Business Bank, and further details will be made available on their website as they are published – https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk. You should also look to your insurance policies to determine what (if any) business interruption cover you may hold. We anticipate that there will be further relief announced for self-employed persons over the next few days.
There will also be a one-year business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. This is automatically in place, and is being administered by the local authority you pay rates to.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The details released so far state:
- All UK businesses are eligible
- Employees will need to designate affected employees as furloughed workers and notify them of this change
- Changing the status of the employees remains subject to existing employment law and employment contract
- Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings via a new online portal (yet to be set up)
- HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed employees wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month (it is presently not clear whether this is pre or post tax)
- HMRC are working urgently to set up a system of reimbursement
- VAT Deferral scheme from 20th March to 30th Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. This is an automatic offer and no application is needed. Tax payers will have until the end of the 2020/21 tax year to repay deferred tax liabilities. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by HMRC as normal.
- Income tax self-assessment payments due on 31 July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021.
- If you are self employed, you are eligible
- This is an automatic offer and no application is required.
- No penalties or interest for late payments will be charged in the deferral period.
- Grant of £25K to businesses in the hospitality, retail and leisure sector with a rateable value of between £15K and £51k.
- Universal credit standard allowance over next 12 months will be raised by £1,000, helping 4m households
- The minimum income floor for self-employed is suspended – self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees
First and foremost, please don’t panic. If you need help or advice please feel free to contact us, as we are here to help – however do bear in mind that we are also a small business and are also affected by the ongoing situation, hence our response time may therefore be slightly longer.
We are continuing to operate in these challenging conditions, and are very mindful of our regulatory responsibilities with regard to compliance. We would therefore be grateful for the co-operation of all our clients with regard to responding to requests for information on a timely basis, in particular at the time of our annual reviews.