COVID-19: Arrangements for continued provision of services by CGA

We know that this is a time of unprecedented uncertainty for businesses across all sectors and we at CGA will continue to work with all clients to update, advise and provide support during this time.

We are sending out regular updates via email, sign up here.

The team are currently working from home, with Chelle and Claire popping into the office occasionally.  All team members can be reached by email and the office landline is the first point of telephone contact.

The office is closed to visitors. We are contacting clients to rearrange meetings to either an alternative communication option or a revised date – we apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause but are fairly sure you will be 100% supportive of this action.
 
As ever Claire and I will be available on our mobiles, however, it has quickly become apparent that the mobile networks are under some pressure with the numbers of homeworkers having increased, so emails may be the best form of getting in touch.

Business support: new Government website

A full range of business support measures have been made available to UK businesses and employees. With frequent updates and information in different places, it can feel overwhelming at this time. A new government website has launched to help businesses find out how to access the support that has been made available, who is eligible, when the schemes open and how to apply.

Find out about the Government schemes here

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

We have therefore taken the guidance as published by the government and added more specific detail to each section and will continue to update each section as more information is provided with regard to how the package of support offered by the Government will be distributed/accessed. 
 
The links below will take you to the relevant pages on our website, which we will keep updated on a regular basis: 

To receive regular government updates as they are issued, sign up here.

COVID-19: Three-month mortgage payment holidays are available for those who are struggling

On Tuesday 17 March, banks agreed with the Chancellor that they will offer ‘forbearance’ (tolerance and help) on mortgages.

This means they all should offer those struggling a three-month ‘holiday’, allowing customers a temporary break from having to make mortgage payments during this time.

While we await final confirmation of the details it should be noted that many banks will help those struggling to repay personal loans.

Here’s what different providers told Martin Lewis they were doing before the Chancellor’s announcement at around 5pm on Tuesday 17 March. He hopes to update this table again today.

Coronavirus: Buy-to-let payment holiday and eviction ban announced

Payment holidays for landlords with buy-to-let mortgages are among a package of measures introduced by the government today in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The payment holidays, for up to three months, will be offered on the understanding the benefit is to be passed on to the tenant. The move follows extensive lobbying on the issue from both the NLA and RLA.

It has also announced it will also suspend the eviction process, with no new possession proceedings to start during the crisis, with emergency legislation to be taken forward so landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for a three-month period.

At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account the tenant’s individual circumstances.

What has the government said?

Making the announcement today Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: “We are in extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are worried about paying their rent and mortgage. 

“The last thing anyone needs to worry about at a time like this is losing their home.

“The government is clear – no renter who has lost income to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord be left with unmanageable debts.

“These changes will protect both renters and landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need.”

COVID-19: Insurance

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim.

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.

GOV.UK Guidance
COVID-19: Insurance

COVID-19: Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.

GOV.UK Guidance
COVID-19: Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A bit more info from CGA

At Budget 2020 on Wednesday 11 March, the Chancellor announced a ‘Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’, and that it would become available ‘over the coming weeks’.

This has been brought forward, and we now expect the new scheme to become available in week commencing 23 March 2020.

As well as loans, there are many other types of finance supported by the programme, depending on the provider.

It will be provided by the British Business Bank through participating providers, and will offer more attractive terms for both businesses applying for new facilities and lenders, with the aim of supporting the continued provision of finance to UK businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed guarantee against the outstanding facility balance, potentially enabling a ‘no’ credit decision from a lender to become a ‘yes’. NB – the borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.

The Government will also cover the first 6 months of interest payments, so businesses will benefit from lower initial repayments. The business remains liable for repayments of the capital. The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5 million pounds (the original announcement suggested a maximum value of £1.2 million.)

CBILS SUPPORTS A WIDE RANGE OF BUSINESS FINANCE PRODUCTS, INCLUDING:

  • Term facilities
  • Overdrafts
  • Invoice finance facilities
  • Asset finance facilities

TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR SUPPORT VIA CBILS, THE SMALL BUSINESS MUST:

  • Be UK based, with turnover of no more than £41 million per annum
  • Operate within an eligible industrial sector (a small number of industrial sectors are not eligible for support – see below)
  • Be able to confirm that they have not received de minimis State aid beyond €200,000 equivalent over the current and previous two fiscal years
  • Have a sound borrowing proposal, but insufficient security to meet the lender’s requirements

Full eligibility criteria will be published shortly

Nevertheless, CBILS is not a grant.  It is a loan, and companies will have increased debt as they (hopefully) emerge the other side.  Directors will need to be comfortable that their businesses can sustain this additional debt over the medium to long term.

COVID-19: Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

We will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

• this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
• employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
• employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
• employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
• eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
• the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

GOV.UK Guidance
COVID-19: support for businesses

CGA have added a bit more detail to the above info taken from the Gov.UK website in respect of SSP and those who are self-employed or paid under the lower earnings limit and therefore not entitled to SSP  

Sick Pay Entitlement

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is the minimum entitlement and is available to all employees who earn at least £118 per week (length of time employed is not applicable).

SSP is paid at a rate of £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks.

Waiting days have been temporarily suspended – SSP will therefore be payable from the first day of sickness (rather than from day 4).

The Government will reimburse small businesses (those who have less than 250 employees) any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) they have to pay to their workers for the first 14 days of illness.

These provisions relate to employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and also cover those that self-isolating under written notice from either a GP or NHS 111.

We don’t have any information as to whether SSP will be extended to any future forced coronavirus lockdown.

Processing and claiming

In your payroll software process SSP as you would do normally so that this is clearly recorded – guidance will be found in your payroll software.

If you are paying employees an enhanced sick pay amount, add this as usual so that the gross pay is the required amount – but the SSP and enhanced amounts are recorded separately.

While existing systems are not designed to facilitate such employer refunds for SSP, the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.  It may be that

Self-employed or paid under the Lower Earnings Limit and not entitled to SSP.

The government recognises that self-employed people and employees below the Lower Earnings Limit are not entitled to SSP.

The recent Budget announced further support by making it quicker and easier to receive benefits:

  • A ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day
  • People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments where they are directly affected by COVID-19 (or self-isolating), without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre
  • For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the minimum income floor in Universal Credit will be temporarily relaxed for those directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for the duration of the outbreak, ensuring self-employed claimants will be compensated for losses in income.
  • For further advice you should contact Jobcentre Plus Telephone: 0800 169 0350

Spring Budget 11 March 2020

In the face of Brexit uncertainties and the recent Coronavirus outbreak the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was faced with falling economic indicators, the need to boost NHS services and was consequently limited in his options to spend on plans to improve business confidence and fund infrastructure projects.

Interestingly, there were a number of measures that will directly benefit those affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak and these are reported in this update.

Details of other changes for 2020-21 – for individuals and businesses – are set out in our Budget Summary below.

Personal Tax and miscellaneous matters

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

SSP will be temporarily payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals and will include those infected and those self-isolating, who are not infected.

Those who cannot claim SSP, the self-employed for example, are to be provided with easier access to Universal Credits and the Contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

Local Authority Hardship Fund

Government is providing a new £500m Hardship Fund so local authorities can support economically vulnerable people and households.

Most of this funding will probably support the extension of council tax relief.

Personal Tax allowance

The personal Income Tax allowance for 2020-21 is maintained at £12,500 (2019-20 £12,500).

Income Tax bands, rates and the dividend allowance

The Income Tax bands for 2020-21 have also been maintained at 2019-20 levels. They are:

Consequently, the higher rate threshold will stay as £50,000 from April 2020. There is no change in Income Tax rates, and the tax rates applied to dividend income.

Changes to these Income Tax bands apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish parliament now set their own Income Tax bandings.

Earlier payments of Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

As previously announced, from April 2020, UK residents will be required to make a payment on account for CGT due on a chargeable residential property sale. For example, the sale of a buy-to-let property. A formal computation of any gains and payment of CGT due on the disposal will have to be made within 30 days of the property disposal.

The changes have applied from April 2019 for non-UK residents.

Capital Gains Tax Private Residence Relief changes

From April 2020, the government is making two changes to the private residence relief:

  1. The final exempt period will be reduced from 18 months to 9 months, with no change to the 36 months available for those disabled or in care homes, and
  2. Lettings relief will be reformed so that it only applies in certain circumstances where the property owner is in shared occupancy with the tenant.

CGT Entrepreneurs’ relief

One of the significant announcements in the budget speech was the reduction of the lifetime allowance for this relief from £10m to £1m. This will apply to all relevant business disposals on or after 11 March 2020. The Chancellor has avoided the abolition of the relief but has restricted lifetime claims to £1m.

Special provisions may apply to disposals contracted for sale before 11 March 2020, but when the sale was not completed at that date.

Business owners and their advisors will need to consider other options to reduce CGT on business sales in excess of this £1m limit.

CGT annual allowance

The annual tax-free allowance is to be increased to £12,300 for 2020-21 (£12,000 2019-20).

The equivalent allowance for trustees is £6,150 (£6,000 2019-20).

Tax benefit charges for low CO2 vehicles

In an attempt to support new regulation in this area, the listed benefit rates will be cut by 2% for vehicles that qualify for the new standard (Worldwide harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) for all new cars registered from 6 April 2020).

Tobacco Duty Rates

All tobacco products will see an increase in duty by 2% above the current rate of inflation.

Hand-rolling tobacco will see an increase of 6% above the rate of inflation.

These changes will impact prices from 6pm, 11 March 2020.

Vehicle Excise Duty

Rates are due to be increased in line with the Retail Prices Index from April 2020.

Fuel Duty

Is frozen for another year.

Alcohol duty rates

Alcohol Duty rates remain unchanged for 2020-21. This will be welcome news for pubs and bars.

ISA limits 2020-21

Adult savings limits remain unchanged at £20,000.

Junior ISA limits are increased to £9,000.

Zero-rating of VAT for women’s sanitary products

This measure is to be introduced from 1 January 2021.

Bank support from mortgage lenders

Although not a budget announcement, a number of banks and other mortgage lenders are offering a moratorium on mortgage repayments to those directly affected by the Coronavirus. This is welcome support for individuals whose income may be diminished by absence from work. At least one High Street lender has committed to a three-month moratorium.

Banks are also considering increasing credit card limits and cash withdrawal limits.

Business Tax changes

National Insurance

It was confirmed that the tax threshold for National Insurance Contributions will rise to £9,500 from April 2020 (was £8,632). This should save £100 a year in National Insurance contributions for some 31 million people.

Relief for Statutory Sick Pay payments

Small and medium sized businesses, those with less than 250 employees at 28 February 2020, will be able to reclaim any approved SSP payments. The actual method for making a claim is yet to be agreed as current payroll processes cannot accommodate this type of refund.

Watch this space as this is a welcome cost saver for smaller businesses.

Business Rates Retail Discount Scheme

The government has already announced that, for one year from 1 April 2020, the business rates retail discount for properties with a rateable value below £51,000 in England will increase from one third to 50% and will be expanded to include cinemas and music venues.

To support small businesses, in response to COVID-19, the retail discount will be increased to 100% and expanded to include hospitality and leisure businesses.

The government previously committed to introducing a £1,000 business rates discount for pubs with a rateable value below £100,000 in England for one year from 1 April 2020. To further support pubs, in response to COVID-19, the discount will be increased to £5,000.

Affected businesses should receive amended rates bills for 2020-21 from their local authority. Regional variations may apply.

One-off grant for small businesses

The government is to provide a £3,000 grant to businesses that presently qualify for the Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.

Businesses that think they may be eligible should contact their local authority.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The government will launch a new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.

Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 million in value. This new guarantee will initially support up to £1 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.

HMRC’s Time To Pay Scheme

HMRC are expanding the number of operatives that manage calls from taxpayers that are unable to pay their taxes on time. If readers are concerned about meeting tax payments call the dedicated help-line 0800 0159 559.  

Corporation Tax

The previously announced reduction in Corporation Tax from 19% to 17% – from April 2020 – has been scrapped. Corporation Tax rates are to remain at 19% for the financial year beginning 1 April 2020.

Structures and Buildings allowance

The annual writing down rate is to be increased from 2% to 3% from April 2020.

Digital Services Tax

Despite opposition from various quarters it looks as if the new Digital Services Tax of 2% will be applied to digital businesses from April 2020.

This will be a major revenue raiser for HMRC.

Capital loss restriction from 1 April 2020

For accounting periods ending on or after 1 April 2020, companies making capital gains will only be able to offset up to 50% of those gains using carried-forward, allowable capital losses.

Employment Allowance

The present £3,000 relief that reduces employer’s NIC contributions is to be increased to £4,000 from April 2020. From 6 April 2020, you will only be able to claim if your Class 1 NIC bill was below £100,000 in the previous tax year.

Car and van benefits charges

Van benefit charges and car and van fuel benefit charges will be increased to account for inflation from April 2020.

R&D expenditure credit

This “Above the line” expenditure credit is currently 12% of qualifying R&D expenditure. This is to be increased to 13% from 1 April 2020.

Zero-rating of e-publications

From 1 December 2020, e-books, e-newspapers, e-magazines and academic e-journals will be zero-rated for VAT purposes.

VAT reverse-charge for the construction sector

A reminder that the domestic reverse charge process will apply to the construction sector from 1 October 2020.

Affected contractors that are still unsure of the changes they will need to make are invited to call so we can help you set up the relevant systems.

VAT registration threshold – no change

The present VAT registration limit (£85,000) and deregistration limit (£83,000) will continue to apply for a further two years; until 31 March 2022.

Clamp-down on tax evaders

As is usual, the budget includes a number of provisions to reduce the successful application of tax avoidance strategies.

Bank support for small businesses

In concert with the flexibility being offered to individuals, banks are looking at relaxing their criteria that would allow small businesses affected by Coronavirus disruption to obtain loans on favourable terms.

Climate issues

The government will also invest in the natural environment: planting enough trees to cover an area the size of Birmingham, restoring peatlands and providing more funding to protect the UK’s unique plants and animals.

The government will also go further to tackle the scourge of plastic waste by introducing a Plastic Packaging Tax, as well as providing further funding to encourage producers to make their packaging more recyclable.

Loans to directors and staff

If a company makes loans to its employees (including directors) there may be tax consequences. The same may also apply to loans extended to their family members.

For example, the employer will have an obligation to report a beneficial loan to HMRC (and pay Class 1A NIC) and the deemed benefit would be a taxable benefit in kind for the relevant employee.

A beneficial loan is one that is interest free or the rate charged is below the “official rate” and the benefit is the difference between these interest rate charges.

Fortunately, not all loans create a tax problem, certain loans are exempt from this reporting obligation. These could include loans employers provided:

  • in the normal course of a domestic or family relationship as an individual (not as a company you control, even if you are the sole owner and employee),
  • with a combined outstanding balance due from an employee of less than £10,000 throughout the whole tax year,
  • to an employee for a fixed and never changing period, and at a fixed and constant rate that was equal to or higher than HMRC’s official interest rate when the loan was taken out – the current rate is 2.5%,
  • under identical terms and conditions as those provided to the public (this mostly applies to commercial lenders),
  • that are ‘qualifying loans’, meaning all the interest charged to the loan account qualifies for tax relief.

Loans written off will also create a National Insurance Class 1 charge for the employee. They must be reported on a P11D and the employer has an obligation to deduct and pay Class 1 NIC, from the employee’s salary, on the amount written off for tax purposes.

And finally, loans by a company to its directors or shareholders may create additional corporation tax charges.

If you are contemplating loans to employees (or director/shareholders) or have current loans outstanding can we suggest that we undertake a review to ensure any tax consequences are minimised.

Don’t fall for this scam

The Insolvency Service has issued a warning that fraudsters have been contacting investors in insolvent schemes claiming to be from the Official Receiver’s office or to have been appointed by the Official Receiver to help recover funds for a fee.

These approaches are always fraudulent.

Official Receivers or any agent legitimately instructed to act on their behalf will never ask you to pay a fee to get some or all of your investment back.

The Official Receiver can only make a return to you as a creditor in failed schemes if it is possible to identify and sell any remaining assets owned by the liquidated company you bought your investment from. All too often businesses of this nature have few if any, assets left to repay creditors and it can take several years to undertake complex asset recovery work and complete a liquidation.

Paying a fee will not make you a priority creditor, meaning you get paid faster or increase the chance of you getting any money back.

If you are asked to pay a fee to get your money back someone is attempting to scam you.

The Official Receiver does not charge investors a fee to get money back and does not employ anyone else to do this on their behalf.

You should report all fraudulent contact from individuals, stating they can get your lost investments back for a fee, to the Official Receivers. You can also report these approaches to Action Fraud.

Pay-back to save tax

At first sight, company car drivers whose private fuel costs are met by their employers may seem to be onto a good thing, but there is a nasty tax hit…

Enter, the Car Fuel Benefit charge.

Let’s say the following circumstances apply:

  • list price of your car when new was £30,000
  • your employer pays for all your private fuel
  • CO2 emissions are 147 g/km, and
  • the car has a diesel engine, 2000 cc.

The 2019-20 benefit in kind charge for the use of the car (this is added to your taxable income for the year) is £9,900. This would cost a standard rate taxpayer £165 a month in Income Tax.

But then the provision of private fuel would trigger an additional Car Fuel Benefit charge of £7,953. This would cost a standard rate taxpayer an extra £133 a month.

As the title of this article suggests it is possible to reimburse your employer for private fuel provided and avoid this Car Fuel Benefit charge completely. Here’s what you would need to do:

  • First of all, calculate your private mileage for the 2019-20 tax year. Estimates won’t do, you will need to create evidence, a mileage log for example.
  • Multiply this private mileage by HMRC’s Advisory Fuel Rate. The present rate per mile for a 2000 cc diesel car is 11p.

Armed with this information you can now do the sums. In the above example, if the driver’s private mileage was 5,000 miles during 2019-20, the amount that needs to be repaid to the employer is £550. That’s just £46 per month.

Which means, for an effective outlay of £550, the car driver – if a basic rate tax payer – will save £1,593 in tax (£7,953 x 20%). That’s an overall cash saving of £1,043.

If you are receiving private fuel from your employer, or indeed providing private fuel for your employees, it is well worth crunching the numbers to see if there is a cash advantage to repaying any private fuel.

There are deadlines to consider and we can help you with the math and the reporting processes required.

Final planning note for employers

The Car Fuel Benefit Charge not only creates a tax charge for the employee, it also creates a National Insurance charge for the employer. And so, allowing employees to repay their private fuel costs will also reduce your NIC costs. A classic win-win outcome.