The Latest Measures to Support SMEs

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has outlined the latest measures to support SMEs and the UK’s ailing businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The list that follows summarises his announcements, in the order they were announced:

The Latest Measures to Support SMEs

Loans and Liquidity

The Treasury are making available £330bn of loan guarantees. These guarantees will underpin government backed bank loans on attractive terms. The loans can be used to support businesses through financial difficulties during the COVID-19 crisis.

Note they are loans. At some point interest will be charged and repayments will have to be made. The Chancellor confirmed that if this level of support was insufficient, further guarantees would be forthcoming.

Support for liquidity to larger firms will be provided by low-cost, easily accessible commercial paper. Support for smaller firms will be accessed via the Business Interruption Loan Scheme previously announced. The initial loan ceiling of £1.2m is to be increased to £5m and no interest due for the first six months. Both of these schemes are due to be up and running by the start of next week.

The £3,000 grants to smaller business, announced last week, are to be increased to £10,000.

A three month mortgage repayment holiday has been agreed between Mortgage lenders and government for individuals disrupted by the Coronavirus.

The Chancellor also hinted that there would be further support for incomes and jobs. Perhaps an increase in statutory sick pay or increased access to State Benefits. Watch this space.

Leisure and Tourism

Further measures are to be introduced to support airlines. No details as yet.

Businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors who have made claims for business interruption from their insurers due to government interventions, may have had difficulties making a claim. Government have now intervened and the insurers have agreed to pay up in appropriate cases.

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value below £51,000. These will also receive – in addition to the 100% rates relief previously announced – a cash grant of up to £25,000 per business.

In the same sector, the 100% rates reduction will be applied to all business irrespective of rateable value.

To clarify, the previous two bullet points means that all businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector – shops, pubs, theatres, music venues, restaurants etc – will have NO RATES TO PAY FOR 2020-21. And, if the rateable value of their property is below £51,000, they may also be able to claim a cash grant of up to £25,000.

How to Claim for The Latest Measures to Support SMEs

What is not clear yet is how we claim for the various loans and grants on offer. We offer the following suggestions but please note that the actual processes finally agreed may differ from these:

Rates reductions should be made automatically and revised statement sent by local authorities in the coming weeks for 2020-21. Contact your local rating department to clarify that this is so.

It is not clear how qualifying businesses will claim the grants mentioned in the above list – those that range between £10,000 to £25,000 – could be applications need to be made to local authorities or another government department. We will confirm as soon as details are released.

We assume that you will need to apply to your bank for the guaranteed Business Interruption Loan. It is likely that your bank will need up-to-date figures to back up your application. Please call if you need help preparing these.

At the time this update was composed, the government had still not confirmed how employers can claim back the 14-day cost of Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees. Again, we will publish details as soon as they are released.

Deferral of IR35

Although not part of the Chancellor’s presentation, Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Barclay, made a further announcement to parliament on 17 March 2020.

The government are postponing the roll-out of draconian IR35 measures to the private sector. This would have affected the tax status of many incorporated contractors across the UK. This a welcome change as it will defer much disruption in this sector until the worst aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak have passed. The new rules are now stated to come into effect from 6 April 2021, a year later than planned.

Our best wishes to all who are directly affected by this unprecedented outbreak. And please get in touch with us at Jones Harris if you need more information or support.

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