Coronavirus: Support and advice for the self-employed

News article

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: Grants to self-employed individuals whose businesses have been impacted by coronavirus. The scheme has been extended to cover periods November 2020 to January 2021 (third grant) and February 2021 to April 2021 (fourth grant).

The third grant is worth 80 per cent of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months' worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total. HMRC will set out further details regarding the fourth grant in due course.

Eligibility: Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

How to access: The online service to claim the third grant is open. If you're eligible, you must make your claim for the third grant on or before 29 January 2021.

VAT payment deferral

Support available: If you deferred VAT between 20 March and 30 June 2020 and still have payments to make, you can: pay the deferred VAT in full on or before 31 March 2021; opt-in to the VAT deferral new payment scheme when it launches in 2021; or contact HMRC if you need more help to pay

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: If you want to pay your deferred VAT in full by 31 March 2021. You do not need to contact HMRC.

If you want to opt-in to the new payment scheme - this means that instead of paying the full amount by the end of March 2021, you can make up to 11 smaller monthly instalments, interest-free. All instalments must be paid by the end of March 2022. The online opt-in process will be available in early 2021. You must opt-in yourself, your agent cannot do this for you.

See Coronavirus: Deferred VAT payments.

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 without penalties 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.

See Coronavirus: Deferred Self-Assessment payments.

Help with your tax

All self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

This allows businesses and individuals to pay off their debt by instalments over a period of time. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

You are eligible if your business:

  • pays tax or duties to the UK government
  • has outstanding tax liabilities

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.

See Support for businesses paying tax.

Business rates relief

Support available: A number of measures are available to assist Northern Ireland businesses impacted by COVID-19 with rate payments:

  • 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.

See COVID-19: Emergency rates package for businesses and Rates support for businesses.

Additional relief: Businesses can also avail of the Small Business Rate Relief and the Hardship Rate Relief scheme for non-domestic ratepayers affected by exceptional circumstances.

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:

You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • has an annual turnover of up to £45 million

You need to show that your business:

  • would be viable were it not for the pandemic
  • has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus

If you want to borrow £30,000 or more, you also need to confirm that your business wasn’t classed as a business in difficulty on 31 December 2019.

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 is open to until 31 January 2021.

Apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme - for small and medium-sized businesses.

Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS)

Support available: The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000.

The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

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: The lenders participating in the scheme include many of the main retail banks. You should approach a suitable lender yourself via the lender’s website.

The scheme is open to applications until 31 January 2021.

Apply for the Bounce Back Loan scheme.

Further financial support

New and extended local business support measures were announced on 23 November. Financial assistance will be developed for the recently self-employed who have been excluded from previous support. More details will follow.

Help to claim benefits

If you're getting less work or no work because of coronavirus, you can also:

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.


First published 19 March 2020