Minister announces new Covid-19 response schemes by Invest NI

Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced two new support schemes to help businesses bounce back from the impact of Covid-19.

A new £1million Digital Selling Capability Grant to help retailers and wholesalers generate business online, and a £5million Equity Investment Fund targeted at early stage and seed stage SMEs, will open for applications on 9 September 2020.

The schemes, operated by Invest Northern Ireland, are the first of a number of new initiatives being developed by the agency to help companies respond to a new business environment in the wake of Covid-19.

Covid-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant
Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund

The Covid-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant is specifically aimed at helping retail and wholesale businesses better access consumer demand and grow online sales. For the retailer, taking business online is one of the ways it can adapt to any current limitations and continue to sell to their customers. Going online will also open up opportunities to reach new markets and new consumer demand.

The Covid-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant will provide a maximum grant of £20,000 to eligible small and medium-sized retailers to support 50% of eligible costs. Projects must have a minimum eligible expenditure of £10,000. Full details on the scheme and eligibility criteria are available on www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/dscg

The Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund will provide access to finance for high growth potential SMEs. The funding landscape has changed since Covid-19 and brought with it many challenges for early stage businesses. This equity fund will support their growth and will stimulate other investors to ensure we continue to create new businesses and drive our economy forward.

The Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund will provide matching equity investment or convertible loan notes of up to a maximum of £700,000 for technology and innovative businesses. The scheme is typically focussed on the sectors of advanced manufacturing, materials and engineering, digital and creative technologies, life and health sciences, cyber security, precision medicine, big data, internet of things and analytics. Full details on the scheme and eligibility criteria are available on www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/ceif

Kevin Holland, CEO, Invest NI, said: “These two new recovery schemes are part of a range of solutions we are putting in place to help businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.”

“We are confident that the Digital Selling Grant will provide exactly the sort of practical support that will help retailers to develop new ways of doing business and support them to remain viable and competitive for the longer term.”

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the Northern Ireland economy, and the Equity Investment Fund will provide early stage SMEs with access to vital investment to develop their business.”

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our website.

Eat Out to Help Out Scheme – How to claim money back

If you have registered your establishment for the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme and offered scheme discounts to diners on Mondays to Wednesdays between 3 and 31 August, you can:

  • claim back the discount given on food and non-alcoholic drinks
  • submit weekly claims for August until 30 September

HMRC’s online claims service to submit claims is now live. HMRC has also updated its guidance on how to submit claims which is available here and summarised below:

When you can claim : You can make a claim after seven days from the date of your registration. You can only claim for scheme discounts you offered on or after the date you registered.

What you will need to make the claim: You will need the records you have kept for each day you have used the scheme, including the:

  • total number of diners (covers) who have used the scheme, including children;
  • total amount of discount you have given; and
  • period you are claiming for.

If you are making a claim for more than one establishment, you will need to have the records for each establishment and overall total value of the claim for all establishments ready before you claim.

How to claim: Claims are made via the following link through your HMRC government gateway – https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/eat-out-to-help-out/claim. You can make up to five claims before 30 September. You cannot claim after that.

Examples on how to work out the total amount of discounts can be found here

Once you have claimed, you will get a claim reference number. HMRC will then check your claim is correct and pay the claim amount by BACs into the bank account you gave when you registered, within five working days.

Keeping Record: To show the link between the number of diners who got the discount and the total value of scheme discount being claimed for in each claim period, for each day, you must keep is a record of the:

  • total number of diners who have used the scheme discount in your establishment
  • total value of all eat in food and non-alcoholic drink sold where the scheme discounts were given
  • total value of scheme discounts you have given and claimed for

Paying tax: You will still need to pay VAT based on the full amount of your customer’s bill before the scheme discount is applied. This amount needs to be reflected in the correct VAT return for the period the transaction took place.

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our website.

Job Retention Bonus Update

The Job Retention Bonus is a one-off payment to employers of £1,000 for every employee who they previously claimed for under the scheme, and who remains continuously employed through to 31 January 2021.

Further information has been released on the scheme including confirmation on eligibility and when you will be able to claim.

Eligibility

Employers will be able to claim for employees who:

  • were furloughed and had a CJRS claim submitted for them that meets all relevant eligibility criteria for the scheme;
  • have been continuously employed by the relevant employer from the time of the employer’s most recent claim for that employee until at least 31 January 2021;
  • have been paid an average of at least £520 a month between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021 (a total of at least £1,560 across the 3 months). The employee does not have to be paid £520 in each month, but must have received some earnings in each of the three calendar months that have been paid and reported to HMRC via RTI;
  • have up-to-date RTI records for the period to the end of January 2021; and
  • are not serving a contractual or statutory notice period, that started before 1 February 2021, for the employer making a claim.

Employers can claim the Job Retention Bonus for all employees who meet the above criteria, including office holders, company directors and agency workers, including those employed by umbrella companies. The above criteria must be met regardless of the frequency of the employee’s pay periods, their hours worked and rate of pay.

Claiming

From February 2021, employers will be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus through GOV.UK. More details about this process will be published in guidance by the end of September 2020.

What should you do now if you intend to claim the Job Retention Bonus

Employers should ensure that their employee records are up-to-date, including accurately reporting their employee’s details and wages on the Full Payment Submission (FPS) through the Real Time Information (RTI) reporting system. Employers should also ensure that all of their CJRS claims have been accurately submitted and any necessary amendments have been notified to HMRC.

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our website.

Making Tax Digital programme to be extended

HMRC has announced that the Making Tax Digital programme will be extended to firms with turnover below the VAT threshold of £85,000 from April 2022.

Taxpayers who file self-assessment returns for business or property income of more than £10,000 a year will be brought into the programme the following year.

A new ambitious plan to digitise tax administration will extend compulsory MTD filing to all VAT-registered traders from April 2022 and to most self-employed traders and individual landlords from April 2023.

On 21 July the Treasury set out a first draft of the government’s ten-year plan to modernise the tax administration system. This includes restarting the making tax digital (MTD) program which had ground to a halt in the face of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

MTD for VAT

Currently the MTD regime is compulsory for VAT registered traders who are required to be VAT registered as they have taxable turnover of over £85,000. An estimated one million VAT registered businesses with lower annual turnover are not required to enter the MTD regime as they are automatically exempt on the basis of their low VATable sales level.

The Treasury, confirmed that all VAT registered traders will have to use MTD compatible software to file their VAT returns with effect for VAT periods starting on and after 1 April 2022. They will also be required to keep the VAT records in a digital format.

MTD for income tax

The MTD programme was originally planned to start with quarterly reporting for income tax, but this was delayed.

The revised plan now sets a goal of April 2023 for micro self-employed businesses and unincorporated landlords to commence quarterly reporting through MTD software, and to keep digital records. Around four million unincorporated businesses and landlords with annual turnover exceeding £10,000 per year will be drawn into MTD.

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our website.

Job Retention Bonus

The Chancellor announced the introduction of the Job Retention Bonus.

This is a one-off payment of £1,000 to employers that have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for each furloughed employee who remains continuously employed until 31‌‌‌ ‌January 2021. The bonus will provide additional support to retain employees.

To be eligible, employees will need to:

  • earn at least £520 per month (above the Lower Earnings Limit) on average for November, December and January
  • have been furloughed at any point and legitimately claimed for under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • have been continuously employed up until at least 31‌‌‌ ‌January 2021.

Employers will be able to claim the bonus from February 2021 once accurate RTI data to 31‌‌‌ ‌January has been received. More information about this scheme will be available by 31‌‌‌ ‌July and full guidance will be published in the Autumn.


Other new measures announced

The Chancellor also announced other measures, including:

  • the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme – during August, diners can get 50% off Monday to Wednesday on meals and non-alcoholic drinks, up to £10 per person, when eating at participating restaurants, bars, cafes and other establishments that have registered
  • VAT reduction – from 15‌‌‌ ‌July until 12‌‌‌ ‌January 2021, the UK government will cut VAT from 20% to 5% on any eat-in or hot takeaway food and drinks from restaurants, cafes and pubs, excluding alcohol. This VAT reduction also applies to all holiday accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites, as well as attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos
  • an increase in the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) threshold in England and Northern Ireland – increasing the threshold under which no SDLT is paid on the purchase of a main home from £125,000 to £500,000, with immediate effect until 31‌‌‌ ‌March 2021.

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our website.

Changes To The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Changes announced by the Chancellor stated that in June and July the furlough scheme will continue as before, but employers will be asked to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions in August.

By September, businesses will pay 10% of wages for furloughed staff, and in October 20%, the UK chancellor said.

This means the subsidy will taper off from August, with businesses expected to pay a greater share of their staff salaries, starting with covering National Insurance and pension contributions.

From September the government will cover only 70% of salaries, to a cap of £2,190 and from October it will pay 60%, to a cap of £1,875. Employers will make up the shortfall to get salaries back to 80% of pre-Covid lockdown levels.

After that, the scheme will close.


Flexible Furloughing of employees

From 1 July, employers can bring back to work employees that have previously been furloughed for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim CJRS grant for their normal hours not worked. When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week.

The scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full 3-week period prior to 30 June.

This means that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June, in order for the current 3-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June. Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June.

Further guidance on flexible furloughing and how employers should calculate claims will be published on 12 June.

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

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our websit.

NI Micro-business Hardship Fund

The fund was launched on Friday to assist NI based micro-businesses and social enterprises unable to access the £10,000, £25,000 and Covid-19 Childcare Support grant schemes.

The level of the Hardship Fund grant will be:

  • up to £10,000 for businesses which pay business rates on premises; and
  • up to £5,000 for those that do not pay business rates.

In order to ensure that the £40 million budget is not exceeded, the final amounts awarded will depend on the number of successful applications. The fund is now open for applications (click here) and will close on 12th June.

The online application process takes approximately one hour to complete, you can save your application and return to it at any time.

Payments will be made after the scheme has closed, and the number of successful applications is determined.

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our websit.

Covid-19 Updates and support

We are continuing to provide advice and support on the package of measures set out by the Chancellor to support our clients through this period of disruption. Currently these include:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Confirmation that the scheme will continue until the end of October this year, with no changes to the scheme until the end of July. From August the Scheme will be revised to allow furloughed staff to undertake some work. Importantly, the Chancellor indicated that from the start of August, employers will “share with the government the cost of paying salaries”. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. Further details will be released at the end of the month.


Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

The scheme is now open for applications, click here to apply. Once a claim has been submitted, HMRC will advise straight away if the grant is approved and the full three month grant will be paid within 6 working days.


Bounce Back Loan Scheme

Confirmation the scheme is open for applications and guidance on how to make an application. Please contact your bank for their application process.


Small Business Grant scheme

Reminder that the 20 May 2020 deadline for registering for the £10,000 or the £25,000 grant schemes is fast approaching


Temporary VAT zero rating for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The government has announced a change to UK VAT law to introduce a temporary VAT zero rate which comes into effect from 1 May to 31 July 2020.


Credit Insurance Guarantee

Support for businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance in the form of the government temporarily guaranteeing business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market.


Temporary income tax and National Insurance (NIC) exemption where employers reimburse employees’ personal expenditure on home office equipment

Which comes into effect for the 2019-20 tax year (from 16 March 2020 only) and 2020-21 tax year.


R&D Tax Credit

HMRC have switched resources so that they can make tax repayments quickly to help businesses struggling in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to keep you updated on any further developments through email newsletters, social media and our website.

Bounce Back Loans

The government has rolled out Bounce Back Loans, a digital loan scheme, to support small businesses with their cashflow in the immediate future.

Launched on Monday 4 May, the scheme fast-tracks funding to SMEs with loans that are 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders. The government will also pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months (no repayments will be made within this time).

Links to application forms

At this time not all our local banks have released their application process but here are the application forms of those providers who can.

Providers are mainly only accepting (or prioritising) existing customers first.

What we know so far

Here are the key pieces of information:

  • Borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 (up to 25% of a business’ turnover)
  • Repay over 6 years, 2.5% interest rate, no early penalty
  • Personal guarantee is not required
  • As with CBILS, loans will be interest free for the first 12 months.
  • 12 month capital repayment holiday is automatically applied at the start of the loan
  • Businesses can apply online through the 7 question forms above
  • Once approved, the cash will be available in days

If businesses need more than £50,000 then they should consider applying for a CBILS loan instead.

As with CBILS the borrower always remains fully liable for the debt.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme eligibility criteria

Businesses from all sectors can apply for a facility with few exceptions. The business must self-certify to its lender the following:

  • Confirm it is UK-based in its business activity, and established by 1 March 2020
  • Confirm it has been adversely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Confirm it is not currently using a government-backed Coronavirus loan scheme (unless using BBLS to refinance a whole facility)

Confirm it is not in bankruptcy, liquidation or undergoing debt restructuring

COVID-19 Self Employed Income Support Scheme

Accountants can’t claim SEISS for clients

HMRC have announced today that the self-employed cannot ask their accountants to make the claim on their behalf.

To make a claim self-employed must have a government gateway : CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE GATEWAY

Warning :

If you receive texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or a tax refund and asking you to click on a link or to give personal information, it is a scam. You should email it to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and then delete it.

How to Claim :

The online service you will need to use to claim is not available yet. HMRC is aiming to contact you by mid-May 2020 if you’re eligible, to invite you to claim using the GOV.UK online service. Payment will be made early June 2020 if your claim is approved.

Do not try to contact HMRC now as this may delay the scheme.

HMRC will check claims and take appropriate action to withhold or recover payments found to be dishonest or inaccurate. We expect HMRC to carry out follow up checks and investigations on these, especially after the crisis is over.

When you make your claim

You’ll only need your:

  • Self Assessment UTR
  • National Insurance number –
  • Government Gateway user ID and password – if you do not have a user ID, you can create one when you check your eligibility online
  • bank account number and sort code you want us to pay the grant into (only provide bank account details where a Bacs payment can be accepted)

You’ll have to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus.

If you claim the grant HMRC will treat this as confirmation you’re below the state aid limits.