The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in so many ways, from the impact it has had on businesses to pressures of home schooling and wellbeing concerns. In order to help navigate some of these issues we have invited professionals from various sectors to provide their own expert advice and support, covering topics including finances, marketing, home schooling and mental health.
Here we hear from Amy Kensett, Partner at Sheen Stickland Chartered Accountants, on some of the financial support available for businesses at this time…
I am writing this after returning home from my first visit into Chichester since temporarily closing our offices at the beginning of the lockdown. I had already been planning to start working from home as I needed to look after my daughter due to her school’s closure and I fortunately have not needed to leave the house since.
It got to the point however where it was necessary for me to visit my office to pick up some post and other bits and pieces. The office was empty of course, with home‐working having become the new “normal” for us.
Many like me will also find themselves in the position of not only learning how to be productive working from home, but also with the added challenge of having our children at home with us 24‐7. However, I am beyond grateful and count myself lucky to firstly have my daughter home safely with me, but also to have the ability to keep working from home.
There are countless businesses across the country, and many here in Chichester, who do not have that luxury. Our high street shops and cafes will particularly be suffering, as well as many other small businesses across the city.
The government has come out with a range of measures to support businesses such as these, who are already beginning to suffer financial hardship as a result of the lockdown.
The most prominent of these measures, and one I am certain many businesses around Chichester are already making use of, is the Coronovirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). With this scheme, businesses are able to retain one of their most vital assets, their staff. These workers will be significantly important for companies to rebuild their businesses once the country begins to return to some semblance of normality.
The scheme allows businesses to ‘furlough’ staff who were employed on or before 19 March 2020 (and notified to HMRC in an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020) for a minimum of three weeks, and HMRC will reimburse 80% of that person’s wage cost, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
For those small owner managed businesses out there with hands-on directors currently unable to work as a result of the lockdown, there is some good news. Salaried company directors are able to be furloughed by the company and can therefore receive support from this scheme to pay those salaries. Again this is subject to the cap of £2,500 per month and the director must not perform any work for that, or any related company during the period of furlough. What they are able to do however is perform duties that are required of them under Company Law, such as tax returns and filings with Companies House for example.
For more detailed information on the scheme and how it could apply to your businesses, please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
HMRC are also allowing automatic deferrals of VAT payments that would have been due during the period from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. Remember to cancel your direct debit if this applies to you, to ensure the payment is not automatically taken. Any deferred payments will need to be made by 31 March 2021.
In the Budget, the Chancellor announced that HMRC would scale up its Time to Pay service, giving businesses and the self‐employed the chance to defer tax payments. I know from experience that getting a hold of HMRC at the moment is challenging to say the least, as they are understandably being inundated with Time to Pay requests, but please do keep trying if this applies to you.
Crucial for many Chichester businesses are the measures that have been announced in relation to business rates, which are a substantial cost to many. All shops, cinemas, restaurants, music venues and business operating in the leisure and hospitality sectors will have no business rates to pay in 2020/21.
There will be a flat £10,000 cash grant for each business based in England that already benefits from zero or reduced business rates because of small business rate relief.
For nursery school businesses based in England, there will be a business rates holiday for 2020/21.
For those rent‐paying businesses amongst you, commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID‐19 are being protected from forfeiture of their business property if they miss a payment up until 30 June 2020.
This is just a snapshot of the support currently being offered by the government, and I would urge you to visit https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business‐support for all the up to date guidance. This guidance is being reviewed and updated regularly by the government, so it is worth checking back.
I wish everyone out there good health. Stay safe and I look forward to seeing you all out and about in our wonderful city again soon.