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Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the government’s plan to protect jobs and support businesses over the coming months.
With your business circumstances in mind we have highlighted the core elements of the Winter Economy Plan below.
The Winter Economy Plan
The government is introducing a package of targeted measures in response to the current economic context that will enable businesses to protect jobs and manage their finances in the face of reduced or uncertain demand with:
- support for businesses to bring people back to work and save jobs with a new Job Support Scheme and an extension to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
- help for the hospitality and tourism sectors through a continuation of the reduction in VAT
- support for over 1 million businesses to relieve pressure on their finances and cashflow through an extension to the application period for four government-backed loans schemes, and changes to the terms of repayment for Bounce Back Loans (BBLS) and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS)
- new payment schemes to ease the burden of paying deferred VAT and Self-Assessment tax liabilities.
The government is also confirming that since July a further £24.3 billion has been invested in enabling public services to respond to the virus.
Job Support Scheme
To support viable UK employers who face lower demand due to COVID-19, and to keep their employees attached to the workforce, the government will be introducing a new Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020. Employees will need to work a minimum of 33% of their usual hours. For every hour not worked the employer and the government will each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay, and the government contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month. Employees using the scheme will receive at least 77% of their pay, where the government contribution has not been capped. The employer will be reimbursed in arrears for the government contribution. The employee must not be on a redundancy notice. The scheme will run for six months from 1 November 2020 and is open to all employers with a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme. All Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) will be eligible; large businesses will be required to demonstrate that their business has been adversely affected by COVID-19, and the government expects that large employers will not be making capital distributions (such as dividends), while using the scheme.
SEISS Grant Extension
The government recognises the continued impact that COVID-19 has had on the self-employed and has taken action to provide support. The SEISSGrant Extension provides critical support to the self-employed. The grant will be limited to self-employed individuals who are currently eligible for the SEISS and are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand due to COVID-19. The scheme will last for 6 months, from November 2020 to April 2021.
The extension will be in the form of two taxable grants. The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November until the end of January. This initial grant will cover 20%of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £1,875 in total. The second grant will cover a three-month period from the start of February until the end of April. The government will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.
Easing The Burdens On Business
Since March the government has implemented a series of measures to reduce pressure on business finances, allowing firms to manage their costs over a period of reduced demand, and protect jobs. As part of this the government has spent over £13 billion in business and sector‑specific grants.
Extending The Temporary VAT Reduced Rate For Hospitality and Tourism
To continue supporting the cashflow and viability of over 150,000 UK businesses22 and to protect 2.4 million jobs,23 the government is extending the temporary reduced rate of VAT (5%) from 12 January to 31 March 2021. This will continue to apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises, supplies of accommodation and admission to attractions across the UK.
Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)
BBLS has provided £38 billion of finance through more than a million loans to UK-based small businesses,24 many of which had not previously borrowed. Loans are between £2,000 and £50,000, capped at 25% of turnover, with a 100% government guarantee to the lender to provide them with the confidence they need to support the smallest businesses. The borrower does not have to make any repayments for the first twelve months, with the government covering the first twelve months’ interest payments. Under the new Pay as you Grow options (see below), Bounce Back Loan borrowers will all be offered the choice of more time and greater flexibility for their repayments.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
CBILS has provided over 66,000 loan facilities worth £15.5 billion to eligible UK-based businesses with turnover under £45 million.25 The scheme provides loans of up to £5 million with an 80% government guarantee to the lender, giving lenders the confidence to provide finance to SMEs. The government does not charge businesses for this guarantee and also covers the first twelve months of interest payments and fees.
Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)
CLBILS has provided more than 566 facilities worth over £3.8 billion to eligible UK-based businesses with turnover above £45 million.26 The scheme provides loans of up to £200 million (to a maximum of 25% of turnover), with an 80% government guarantee to the lender, which is more generous than equivalent schemes in many other countries.
An investment scheme for innovative and fast-growing UK-based businesses, has provided loans ranging from £125,000 to £5 million which are subject to at least equal matching from private investors. Over 700 convertible loans worth £720 million have been approved.27 Businesses that have already accessed a Future Fund convertible loan cannot apply for another one.
COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility
Pay as you Grow
The government will give all businesses that borrowed under the BBLS the option to repay their loan over a period of up to ten years. This will reduce their average monthly repayments on the loan by almost half. UK businesses will also have the option to move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times), or to pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments). These changes will provide greater flexibility to repay these loans over a longer period and in a way that better suits businesses’ individual circumstances.
CBILS loan extension
The government intends to allow CBILS lenders to extend the term of a loan up to ten years, providing additional flexibility for UK-based SMEs who may otherwise be unable to repay their loans.
VAT deferral ‘New Payment Scheme’
The government will give businesses which deferred VAT due in March to June 2020 the option to spread their payments over the financial year 2021-2022. Over half a million businesses deferred VAT payments,28 a cash injection of £30 billion into the UK economy when it needed it most. Rather than paying in full at the end of March 2021, businesses will be able to choose to make 11 equal instalments over 2021-22. All businesses which took advantage of the VAT deferral can use the New Payment Scheme. Businesses will need to opt in, but all are eligible. HMRC will put in place an opt-in process in early 2021.
Enhanced Time to Pay for Self-Assessment taxpayers
The government will give the self-employed and other taxpayers more time to pay taxes due in January 2021, building on the Self-Assessment deferral provided in July 2020. Taxpayers with up to £30,000 of Self-Assessment liabilities due will be able to use HMRC’s self-service Time to Pay facility to secure a plan to pay over an additional 12 months. This means that Self-Assessment liabilities due in July 2020 will not need to be paid in full until January 2022. Any Self-Assessment taxpayer not able to pay their tax bill on time, including those who cannot use the online service, can continue to use HMRC’s Time to Pay Self-Assessment helpline to agree a payment plan.