For small businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has created an environment of severe uncertainty and financial hardship that is constantly changing.
The modern world has never faced a crisis like this before, nor one on this scale, making it difficult for businesses to know what to do to stay afloat. Luckily, there are a number of support options available for SMEs, and more support is being announced all the time.
At the time of writing, some of the most useful and wide-ranging support options are:
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is a government initiative which has been set up in tandem with a number of the UK’s biggest banks and lenders. Under the scheme, businesses can apply directly to lenders for loans, overdrafts and other financial products, with a guarantee from the government to the tune of 80% of the cost of the loan in the event that the business cannot pay it back.
- Up to £5m facility. Businesses are able to borrow up to £5m under the scheme, on repayment terms of up to six years.
- 80% guarantee. Although businesses are 100% liable for the debt, the government will guarantee up to 80% should they not be able to pay it back.
- Limited fees. There is no guarantee fee for SMEs and lenders will pay a fee in order to access the scheme.
- Interest and fees paid by the government for 12 months
- No personal securityrequired. At the discretion of the lender, the scheme may be used for unsecured lending for facilities of £250,000 and under.
To be eligible for the scheme, a business must:
- Be UK-based with an annual turnover of less than £45m
- Provide a borrowing proposal that would be considered viable by the lender if not for the coronavirus pandemic
- Prove to the lender that the loan will help them to survive during the crisis
There are more than 40 accredited lenders signed up to the scheme so far, and businesses should apply to their own bank or lender first, before looking at other lenders.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is designed to help UK employers who work under a PAYE system to access support that will enable them to pay workers wages. The idea behind the scheme is that employers will be able to retain staff that they otherwise would have had to make redundant due to the coronavirus crisis.
The scheme is designed to benefit employees who have been asked to stop working in order to stop the spread of the virus, but who remain on the payroll (otherwise known as ‘furloughed workers’). HMRC have agreed to pay 80% of an employee’s monthly wage costs, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, and wages will be backdated to March 1st if applicable.
This scheme applies to all employers in the UK with a PAYE scheme that was started on or before 28 February 2020, including:
- Recruitment Agencies
- Public Authorities
How To Apply
You need to work out which of your employees you want to retain and designate them ‘furloughed workers’. All employees should be notified of this change as soon as possible, and existing employment law still applies when changing the status of employees.
HMRC are still working on the online portal which will be used to set up and pay these grants. Once it is up and running, you can submit information about your furloughed employees and their earnings here, and HMRC expects the first payments to go out by the end of April.
Deferring VAT And Income Tax Payments
The government has agreed to support businesses during this time of financial hardship by deferring VAT payments. At the time of writing this support allows for any VAT payment to HMRC that would ordinarily have been due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 to be deferrable up until 31 March 2021.
For the self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system are now due in January 2021.
All UK businesses are eligible.
How To Apply
This is an automatic offer which means that there is nothing that you need to do in order to take advantage of it.
Small Business Grant Funding
The government has agreed to provide additional funding to Local Authorities so that they are able to support small businesses in their area. The businesses that will benefit are the smallest businesses, that already pay little or no business rates because of business rates relief, rural rate relief and tapered relief.
Local Authorities can use this funding to provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help them to continue to meet their business costs.
In order to access this grant, businesses must:
- Be based in England
- Be in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief as of 11 March 2020
- Be a business that occupies property
How To Apply
Your Local Authority will write to you if you are eligible for this grant, with details on how to claim it. If you have any questions about the grant, business rates relief or eligibility, you should contact your Local Authority directly.
Reclaim Statutory Sick Pay
Emergency legislation has been announced which offers small and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which has been paid out for sickness absence due to COVID-19
To benefit from this legislation, businesses must:
- Have fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020
- Have a record of staff absences and payments of SSP. Employees are not required to provide a GP fit note in this instance
- Eligible period commences the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force.
The refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. At the time of writing, the scheme is still being developed, so it is worth keeping an eye on the HMRC website for further details of how to apply.
Whilst this is a difficult financial time for all businesses, the government is dedicated to providing as much support and advice as possible to help companies to stay afloat and ensure that businesses can bounce back after the pandemic.
Get in touch
We would encourage all businesses that are eligible to apply for the funding they are entitled too as soon as possible. Nobody knows how long this situation will continue so ensuring you have adequate funds in your business should certainly be a priority.
Accessing the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) does require a formal application, and depending on your circumstances you may be asked for various pieces of documentation such as business plans, financial forecasts, management account and the like.
The team at An Accounting Gem Limited can help you get this documentation ready for your application and assist you in putting your best foot forward to maximise your chances of success.
Please get in touch on 01473 744 700 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.