COVID-19: assistance for businesses
Although there is still much uncertainty about what is to come, a number of measures have been introduced by the Government and other organisations to help support businesses through these unprecedented times. The following provides a summary:
Financial Assistance for businesses during Covid-19
There have been a number of schemes, grants and financing facilities introduced by the Government to help support businesses through the financial effects of COVID-19. These are the measures at present (as of 26 March 2020):
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This UK-wide scheme will help businesses affected by coronavirus to gain access finance of up to £5 million;
- Business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure;
- Cash grant for retail, hospitality and leisure. Businesses in one of these sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year;
- Coronavirus job retention scheme. Under this scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis;
- Small business grant funding. Additional funding is being provided by the Government for Local Authorities to support small businesses that already pay little to no business rates because of small business rate relief, rural rate relief and tapered relief;
- Statutory sick pay rebate This will allow small and medium-sized businesses to reclaim statutory sick pay paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus;
- Time to pay. All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through this service;
- Covid-19 corporate financing facility. This new facility means that the Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies;
- Business rates holiday for nurseries;
- VAT deferral. VAT payments will be deferred for three months; and
- Income tax deferral for the self-employed. The Self-Assessment payment on account, that is usually due to be paid by 31 July 2020 may now be deferred until January 2021.
For more information about these measures including eligibility and how to apply, please visit https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/ and click on the relevant scheme.
Filing accounts to Companies House during Covid-19
Companies House announced on 25 March 2020 that companies affected by COVID-19 can apply for a three-month extension for filing their annual accounts. In order to get an extension, applications must be made online through a fast-tracked online system. Applications that cite COVID-19 as an issue will be granted immediately and automatically. An application must be made before the company’s filing deadline to avoid a penalty. At the same time as announcing the extension, Companies House also updated its guidance on seeking more time to file company accounts to include information on applying for the extension.
Companies House have also stated that they are experiencing delays in processing paper forms due to the impact of COVID-19. They are asking those that need to file do so online where possible.
Companies House have also suspended all same-day services until further notice.
Royal Mail update during Covid-19
Royal Mail have been updating their website on a regular basis throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Their update of 24 March 2020 states that they remain open for business. There have been changes to a couple of services:
- letters or parcels requiring a signature will no longer receive a physical signature. Instead Royal Mail will log the name of the person accepting delivery; and
- Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1pm is no longer guaranteed to be delivered by 1pm the next working day. Royal Mail states that Special Delivery letters and parcels will be prioritised and that they will aim to deliver before the end of the day. The Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9am service remains unchanged.
Stamp Duty changes in response to Covid-19
HM Revenue and Customs announced on 25 March 2020 that changes were being made temporarily to the processes of stamping stock transfer forms and of paying stamp duty. The changes state that:
- stock transfer forms and other transfer instruments should no longer be posted to HMRC for processing, but should be sent by email to email@example.com instead. This also applies to form SH03 (relating to share buybacks by companies). HMRC will accept e-signatures on forms or instruments while this measure is in in place and those who are unable to get forms or instruments signed and dated should email HMRC. Those that have already sent forms or instruments by post are being asked to resubmit them electronically to avoid delays. HMRC are advising that if forms are not resubmitted, the instruments will not be assessed or returned until the temporary measures end; and
- payment of stamp duty must be made electronically (using either Faster Payment, BACS or CHAPS). The details of the transaction must be sent to HMRC by email (at the address above) rather than by post. HMRC state that payments made by cheque will not be banked until the temporary measures end.
Employment law guidance during Covid-19
Our colleagues in the employment team at Rix & Kay have provided the Top 10 Employer Questions on Covid-19
The above is a brief overview of the measures in place at the time of writing on 26 March 2020.
Should you need any assistance with any of the above or with matters of corporate and commercial law generally, please do not hesitate to contact Kathryn Paisley e. firstname.lastname@example.org ; t. 01825 744 447, or any other member of the corporate and commercial team.