Self-Employed Income Support Scheme SEISS – March 2021 Update

The fourth grant will be available from Late April 2021 until 31st May 2021.  If you are eligible then HMRC will contact you in mid-April to give you your personal claim date.  There will be further guidance to follow.  There are some amendments to the basis for claiming and the income calculations, more HMRC information can be found here.

There is also an important change for those traders who started their business in the 2019/2020 tax year (these were previously excluded from the grant), however applying for the grant may not be straight forward for some of these traders, as HMRC are writing a group of these new traders (around 100,000 traders) asking for confirmation of identity and proof of trading.  If you receive such a request from HMRC and do not respond then you will be denied access to the grant – you will be required to complete a pre-verification check and you must complete all 7 steps to make a successful claim – these steps are as follows:

Step 1: Open the letter

Receive and read the HMRC letter which should arrive between 10 March and mid-April.  The list of genuine HMRC contacts has recently been updated to include reference to the SEISS letter to first time tax return filers, so this might provide some comfort to taxpayers that the HMRC letter should not be ignored.  

Step 2: Answer call from HMRC

Up to two weeks after the letter is sent an HMRC officer will call the contact number given on the taxpayer’s 2019/20 tax return. If the agent’s number was shown as the contact point HMRC will ask the agent to pass on their client’s telephone number.

The taxpayer needs to answer HMRC’s call although it will be shown as coming from an “unknown number”.

HMRC will make only three attempts to call between 8am and 5.30pm. If none of those three attempts are successful the taxpayer will have failed the pre-verification. It is therefore essential that HMRC has the taxpayer’s correct telephone number.

The taxpayer can correct the number held by HMRC by calling: 0800 024 1222. This number is only set up to update taxpayers’ telephone contact details; the call-handler can’t deal with further queries about the SEISS.

Step 3: Supply email address

When the taxpayer does speak to HMRC they must confirm or supply their email address. They must also agree to receive a link to a Dropbox account to that email address.  

Step 4: Find email from HMRC

The taxpayer must receive and open an email from HMRC that includes the Dropbox link. This is another point where the system could break down, as the HMRC email could easily be automatically sent to the taxpayer’s junk folder.  

Step 5: Digital copies

The taxpayer needs to make digital copies of a form of their ID (eg their photo-card driving licence, or current passport) plus three months of their UK business bank statements from 2019/20. This information is needed to demonstrate that the new business has been active in 2019/20.

If the business has been run without a UK bank account HMRC will accept other documents, but the taxpayer must agree what is acceptable in their call with HMRC.  

Step 6: Upload documents

Taxpayer has only two days to upload the digital copies of their ID and bank documents to the HMRC Dropbox. After two days the Dropbox link will expire and the taxpayer will fail the pre-verification. 

Step 7: Apply for the grant

The online portal to apply for the next SEISS grant will open in late April, HMRC hasn’t confirmed exactly when. All the above steps need to be completed before the taxpayer attempts to claim the SEISS grant. Tax agents cannot claim SEISS grants on behalf of their clients.  

Concerns

There are some obvious concerns around this system, particularly in respect of those that may simply not have the facilities to comply, the timescales involved and of course the fact that this looks like a scam.  Without prior warning you may dismiss the initial call as a scam, loading documents into a Dropbox has a particularly suspicious feel to it and sadly it is highly like that scammers will copy this procedure to launch attacks.

As your agent we cannot make the claim on your behalf but we should be able to assist in confirming the validity of any request and to advise if such a request for information would be relevant to you.