Coronavirus: Support and advice for the self-employed
Overview of the support and help available to self-employed individuals during the COVID-19 disruption
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business activity and created uncertainty for those who are self-employed. The following measures have been designed to provide help and support to them during these challenging times.
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
Support available: The scheme provided grants to self-employed individuals whose businesses have been adversely affected by coronavirus. The first grant was worth 80 per cent of profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The first grant closed on 13 July 2020. The second grant covered 70 per of profits, up to a cap of £2,190 per month. The second grant closed on 19 October 2020.
The service is now closed. You can no longer make a claim for the second grant.
Eligibility: The grants were open to those who were trading in the financial year 2018-2019, and the following year, and who planned to continue doing so, but whose business has been hit by coronavirus.
This scheme is being extended. Find out more about the extension to the scheme. This guidance will be updated as soon as possible.
VAT payment deferral
Support available: Businesses who deferred VAT due from 20 March to 30 June 2020 will now have the option to pay in smaller payments over a longer period. Instead of paying the full amount by the end of March 2021, you can make smaller payments up to the end of March 2022, interest free.
Eligibility: All UK VAT registered businesses are eligible, including all legal entities as well as self-employed sole traders that are UK VAT registered.
How to access: You will need to opt-in to the scheme, and for those who do, this means that your VAT liabilities due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 do not need to be paid in full until the end of March 2022. Those that can pay their deferred VAT can still do so by 31 March 2021.
More information on the scheme will be available in the coming months.
Self-Assessment payment deferral
Support available: If you're self-employed, the Self-Assessment payment on account that is ordinarily due to be paid to HMRC by 31 July 2020, may now be deferred until January 2021.
Eligibility: You had the option to defer your second payment on account if you were:
- registered in the UK for Self Assessment and
- finding it difficult to make that payment by 31 July 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus
How to access: Deferred Self-Assessment payment is an automatic offer. You do not need to apply. The deferment is optional.
You can pay your deferred July 2020 payment on account any time up to 31 January 2021 using the online service. You’ll not have interest or late payment penalty as long as you pay in full by that date.
Help with your tax
You can call the HMRC's coronavirus (COVID-19) helpline if you have difficulties paying your taxes on Tel: 0800 024 1222. Opening times for this service are Monday to Friday 8:00 to 16:00.
HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:
- agreeing an instalment arrangement
- suspending debt collection proceeding
- cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately
Business rates relief
Support available: A number of measures are available to assist Northern Ireland businesses impacted by COVID-19 with rate payments:
- Delay in rate bills - to avoid placing financial pressure on ratepayers affected by COVID-19, rate bills were postponed until August 2020.
- Rates holiday for business ratepayers, excluding public sector and utilities - no rates will be charged for April, May June and July 2020. This amount does not need to be paid back.
- Rates relief for specific sectors - the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic will pay no rates for the full financial year up until 31 March 2021.
Grants: Eligible ratepayers were also able to apply for the £10,000 Small Business Support Grant, the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant and the £10,000/£25,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties. Applications for these schemes closed on 20 May 2020.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) for SMEs
Support available: Financial support to smaller businesses (SMEs) across the UK that are losing revenue, and seeing their cashflow disrupted, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Eligibility: To be eligible, you must:
- be UK-based in your business activity
- have an annual turnover of no more than £45 million
- have a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, were it not for the current pandemic
- self-certify that your business has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19)
- not have been classed as a 'business in difficulty', if applying to borrow £30,000 or more
From 25 September 2020, guidance around the classifications of businesses in difficulty has changed. Find out more about the changes.
How to access: Over 50 lenders are participating in the scheme, including all the main retail banks. You should approach a suitable lender yourself via the lender's website.
This scheme has been extended until 30 November 2020.
Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS)
Support available: The scheme provides financial support to businesses that are losing revenue and seeing their cashflow disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and that can benefit from £50,000 or less in finance.
Eligibility: The scheme is open to most businesses, regardless of turnover, who meet the eligibility criteria and who were established on or before 1 March 2020.
How to access: You must find and approach a BBLS accredited lender, ideally via its website.
This scheme has been extended until 30 November 2020.
Help to claim benefits
If you're getting less work or no work because of coronavirus, you can also:
- Apply online for Universal Credit - additional telephone support is available via the Universal Credit Service Centre if you need help with a new claim. See further guidance on claiming Universal Credit when you are self-employed.
- Apply for New-Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), if you're unable to work due to an underlying health condition, are self-isolating or have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Contact the ESA Centre for support with your application.
Help to manage your cashflow
If you're experiencing financial difficulties, talk to your existing finance provider to see what they can do to help you manage existing debt.
If you have an existing loan or asset purchase (for example a lease or HP agreement), you could ask for a repayment holiday. You may also need a new or increased overdraft facility, or to secure additional finance. Talk to your customers, especially large customers, and ask if they can pay your invoices more quickly.
Find more information on organisations who can provide advice on managing debt.
Depending on the nature of your work and sector, it is likely that the business activities will be disrupted. If you're able to work during COVID-19 pandemic, or if it is feasible for you to resume some business activity as the lockdown measures ease, it’s important that you do this safely. See Workplace safety guidelines and social distancing.
First published 19 March 2020