Essential business preparations for COVID-19

Understandably, our clients will be concerned during these difficult times, events are moving quickly but we wanted to get in touch today, by e-mail initially to let you know we stand ready to support all our clients in every way we can.

Please do pick up the phone or reply to this e-mail if you would like to speak urgently and we will call you back as quickly as we possibly can.

Our Staff and Partners are working both remotely and in the office at this time and we are all in touch with each other. Whilst we are not scheduling face to face meetings, we are available over the phone or via video conferencing.

To help, we have put together a checklist to give help and advice on how to try and mitigate some of the potential business impact of COVID-19:

  • Consult with employees, on matters including:
    • Remote working
    • Early holidays
    • Short-time working
    • Sick pay policies
    • Health & safety policies
    • Redundancies and temporary layoffs
  • Liaise and notify customers, suppliers, contractors and trading partners of your contingency plans
  • Defer tax payments by agreement with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), for:
    • PAYE
    • NIC
    • CIS (Construction Industry Scheme)
    • VAT
    • MGD (Machine Games Duty)
  • Defer business rate payments or claim business rates reliefs, if applicable, via your local authority
  • Agree to rent and expenditure deferrals
  • Prepare new or updated bank facilities, including capital holidays
  • Consider using the Government’s business interruption loan scheme
  • Defer capital expenditure
  • Defer finance payments, hire purchase and leasing
  • Accelerate income
  • Update credit control procedures
  • Reduce stock levels
  • Review insurance policies
  • Review all contractual obligations and advanced orders
  • Review your business’s terms & conditions

Tax payments

HMRC is offering time to pay applications and may even waive interest and penalties on late payments for those struggling to make tax payments.

To help with the surge in applications it anticipates, HMRC has established a dedicated helpline manned by more than 2,000 personnel to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress, who may have outstanding tax liabilities.

Those who call the line will be offered advice, as well as other options including:

  • instalment arrangements
  • suspension of debt collection proceedings
  • cancellation of penalties and interest where a business has administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately.

HMRC lines will be open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, and Saturday from 8am to 4pm. HMRC’s helpline for advice is 0800 0159 559. 

Business rates and grants

The Government has pledged £20 billion of business rates support and grant funding to help the businesses worst-affected by the outbreak of COVID-19.

This includes:

  • Abolishing business rates for all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries in England for the next 12 months.
  • Increasing the grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief announced in last week’s Budget from £3,000 to £10,000.
  • Offering additional grants of £25,000 to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000.

This funding will be made available to local authorities to distribute in their local area.

The process for applying for grants may differ from authority to authority and most have not yet made it clear how they intend to deliver this support.

Business rates support is expected to be available from the start of next week and we will keep you updated on the process for applying for funding as the situation becomes clearer.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme 

The business interruption loans announced at last week’s Budget have been significantly extended allowing small businesses to borrow up to £5 million to pay rent, salaries, suppliers or purchase stock.

The loans will be interest-free for the first six months, thanks to a pledge from the Government to cover interest payments during this period.

The scheme will be delivered by the British Business Bank, a state-owned body tasked with supplying credit and finance to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Government has said that these loans will be accessible from next week and it will be releasing information on the process required to apply for a loan soon. More information regarding these loans can also be found here.

We are closely monitoring this situation and will let you know once the application process has been clarified.  

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The Government is making it easier for employees to claim SSP by making it applicable from the first day of absence due to Covid-19 infection or self-isolation related to the virus.

Employers with fewer than 250 employees will also be able to claim back the first two weeks’ worth of SSP, per employee. These measures will remain in place until 13 November 2020.

The Government has provided further advice to employers, which can be found by clicking here.

Non-SSP

Those not eligible for SSP, such as the self-employed, will have to seek financial support through the benefits system.

The Government has confirmed that self-employed individuals can claim from the first day of illness or self-isolation instead of waiting for seven days, but it may take several weeks for a claim to be processed under Universal Credit.

Those who are self-isolating will not be required to go to a jobcentre to begin this process.

IR35 

The Government has confirmed that the introduction of the off-payroll rules, or IR35, to the private sector will now be delayed from 6 April 2020 to 6 April 2021.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, told Parliament that the suspension was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but confirmed it would still go-ahead next year.

Insurance

Insurance firms have been told that Government advice regarding the restriction of visits to pubs, clubs and theatres etc. is sufficient for businesses to make a claim on their insurance where they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics.

Takeaways

The food industry, including pubs and restaurants, will see a temporary relaxation in planning regulations that will allow them to start providing takeaways to customers without a planning application to help support those needing to self-isolate.

Further steps 

The Chancellor said the Government is committed to protecting individuals and businesses from the effects of the global economic emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic and has made it clear that these initial measures are just the start of the Government’s plans.

The Chancellor is also seeking new legal powers in the Covid Bill to offer whatever further financial support the Government decides is needed.

Seek help now

The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis and the Government has made it clear that it may need to take further steps to contain the virus and deal with the impact it is having on the UK economy.

We can help with the majority of the points outlined in this guide and I and our team are standing by today to help you with any enquiries you may have, so please feel free to call us.