Guide

Coronavirus: FAQs - employer and business questions answered

COVID-19: Managing business finance, tax, rates and insurance

Find answers to common business questions on topics including, managing finance, claiming insurance and finding help with business rates and tax payments.

FAQs: 

What support is available for businesses affected by coronavirus?

Our quick-reference guide highlights the support available, who is eligible and how to apply.

See Coronavirus: Support for businesses and employees in Northern Ireland (PDF, 545K)

You can also find more information on the individual schemes on the Coronavirus business support page.

For details on organisations providing dedicated sectoral support for local businesses managing the impact of coronavirus – see Coronavirus: Business support organisations offering advice and guidance.

I am self-employed, what support is available for me?

To find out about the help available for self-employed individuals dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 disruption to business activities - see Coronavirus: Support and advice for the self-employed.

Is there any help available with late payments?

If you are a small business (under 50 staff) who has not been paid by a business larger than you, you can contact the Office of the Small Business Commissioner or call the Office of the Small Business Commissioner on Tel 0121 695 7770 - office hours are Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm who can offer advice and offer help with late payment issues.

They also have information advice and guidance on their website on dealing with unpaid invoices which is available and relevant to all sizes of business.

If you are a business who does not meet the conditions for the Office of the Small Business Commissioner to intervene in your case, you can pursue the debt recovery through the courts. The Office of the Small Business Commissioner website tells you how to do this.

See more on:

ensure customers pay you on time
recover debt through court

What if my business is experiencing cashflow pressures?

The government has introduced a number of measures to assist businesses. See business support for those affected by COVID-19

If you think you may need additional finance, your first port of call should be your finance provider - whether that’s a bank or another lender. The sooner you approach them the better - they will help you where they can, and will point you toward alternative sources of finance who may be able to help even if your current provider can’t. See managing financial difficulty.

There are many finance providers out there, so take some time to look into alternative options and shop around. See borrowing finance for your business.

If you are seeking finance from banks and cannot find a suitable lender, there are three online finance platforms designated by the government that can seek out suitable providers. The lenders on these platforms may be able to offer you funding.

For further information, see Coronavirus: Advice if you're experiencing cashflow pressures.

I cannot afford my tax bill/ I cannot make a tax payment/ how do I contact HMRC?

If you cannot afford your tax bill or cannot make a tax payment you should contact HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) Payment Support Service helpline on 0300 200 3835, which is open Monday to Friday, 8.00 am to 8.00 pm; Saturday 8.00 am to 4.00 pm, excluding bank holidays.

For those who are unable to pay due to Coronavirus, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore

● agreeing an instalment arrangement
● suspending debt collection proceedings
● cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately

Contact HMRC if you cannot pay your tax bill on time or call the HMRC Coronavirus Helpline - Tel 0800 024 1222 (Monday - Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 8am-4pm).

What help is available for business rates?

An emergency £100 million rates package has been announced to assist Northern Ireland businesses impacted by COVID-19.

See COVID-19: Emergency rates package for businesses.

What insurance entitlements do I have against coronavirus?

Many businesses are unlikely to be covered as most business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property, which will exclude pandemics. Some businesses may have purchased a specific add on relating to notifiable diseases, but some of these will still specify damage to the building.

Some businesses may have purchased supply chain or denial of access cover which may meet their needs in this case. You should check with your insurance provider.

Can I make a claim on my business insurance?

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim as long as all other terms and conditions are met.

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemic.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has published a Q&A in relation to business insurance and COVID-19.

I am a small business, how can I get a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan?

The new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme launched on Monday 23 March, delivered by the British Business Bank. It will support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.

See Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan and find a list of accredited lenders and partners for the scheme.

For further information, see the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme FAQs for SMEs.

I am a large business, how can I get a Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan?

The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme provides a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million.

For further information see Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

How can I access the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility?

The Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) will provide additional help to firms to bridge through Covid 19-related disruption to their cash flows.

Read more on the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

How can I get the £10,000 Small Business Support Grant?

A one-off grant of £10,000 is being made available to businesses that are currently in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief. Businesses with a Total Net Annual Value of £15,000 and below, who currently benefit from Industrial Derating, are also eligible for the £10,000 grant.

The deadline to register for this grant scheme is Wednesday 20 May 2020.

For further details see Coronavirus: £10,000 Small Business Support Grant Scheme.

How can I get the £10,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties and properties with a total NAV of £1,590 or below?

A grant of £10,000 is being made available to a sole tenant renting a property, or a business owner of a property with a total Net Annual Value (NAV) of £1,590 or below.

The deadline to register for this grant scheme is Wednesday 20 May 2020.

For further details see £10,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties and Total NAV of £1,590 or below.

How can I get the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant?

A one-off grant of £25,000 is being made available to ratepayers in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors who pay rates on a property with a Total Net Annual Value of between £15,001 and £51,000.

The deadline to register for this grant scheme is Wednesday 20 May 2020.

For further details see Coronavirus: £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant.

I cannot file company accounts on time with Companies House

If Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts, you should act before your filing deadline.

See Coronavirus guidance for Companies House customers

How can I get access to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

HMRC will cover up to 80 per cent of small business staff wages, up to £2,500 per employee.

See Coronavirus: Claim for wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

How can I apply for the Bounce Back Loan scheme?

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will allow small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.

The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

For details on eligibility and how to apply - see apply for the Bounce Back Loan scheme.

For the Bounce Bank Loan scheme, what interest rate will lenders charge after the interest-free 12-month period ends?

There will be no fees, interest or repayment for the first 12 months of the loan and there will be a flat rate of 2.5% interest after that.

Borrowers will have 6 years to repay the loan.

How can I access the Future Fund?

The Future Fund will provide convertible loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.

These convertible loans may be a suitable option for businesses that rely on equity investment and are unable to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The scheme will launch in May 2020. I will be delivered in partnership with the British Business Bank.

For details on eligibility and how to apply - see Future Fund for innovative businesses.

How do I defer my VAT payments?

Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments will be deferred for 3 months.

This will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period.

See Coronavirus: Deferred VAT payments.

How do I defer my Self-Assessment payments?

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.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

See Coronavirus: Deferred Self-Assessment payments.

How can I access the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme?

This scheme allows the self-employed individuals or members of partnerships to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for three months.

For details on eligibility and how to apply - see Coronavirus: Claim a grant through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

I am self-employed, am I eligible for Universal Credit?

If you are self-employed you are able to claim Universal Credit, providing you meet the usual eligibility criteria. To support you with the economic impact of the outbreak and allow you to follow government guidance on self-isolation and social distancing, from 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for self-employed claimants who are sick or self-isolating according to government guidance.

IIf applying for Universal Credit, any assets that are used wholly or mainly for the purposes of a claimant’s trade, profession or vocation are disregarded indefinitely whilst the business is still operating. Monies received from the coronavirus financial support packages would not be considered to be income in Universal Credit, it would be capital and disregarded as a business asset.

If you are self-employed and want to know if you are eligible for Universal Credit - see nidirect guidance on Universal Credit.

if you need help with a new claim, additional telephone support is available through the Universal Credit Service Centre.

I’m self-employed, can I access Universal Credit whilst applying for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme?

Yes, self-employed people can access Universal Credit while applying for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

I’m self-employed, will I have to repay the Universal Credit once I receive payment from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme?

Self-employed people will not have to repay Universal Credit, this is because income is taken into account before universal credit payment is made and in the months preceding payment from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme they would not have access to their usual income stream.

I’m self-employed, can I apply for Employment and Support Allowance?

Self-employed people unable to work because they are directly affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) or self-isolating are eligible for Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. As announced at Budget, this is now payable from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth.

Is a company director paying themselves dividends and not using PAYE eligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme?

No. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is open to anyone who reports trading profits through Income Tax Self-Assessment. Self-employed individuals who work through a company do not report their trading profits in this way.

Also, dividends are not covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Income from dividends is a return on investment in the company, rather than wages, and is not eligible for support. It is also not possible for HM Revenue & Customs to distinguish between dividends derived from an individual’s own company and dividends from other sources.

However, SMEs can also access support through the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This supports SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.

What government support is available to export businesses?

UK businesses are eligible to secure export insurance cover to markets including the EU, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland with immediate effect, following UK Export Finance (UKEF) expanding the scope of its Export Insurance Policy.

More information can be found at: Export insurance policy.

Additionally, UKEF can help businesses facing disruption due to coronavirus (COVID-19) via the following:

● If a business is disrupted by late payments, UKEF can help ease cash flow constraints by guaranteeing bank loans through its Export Working Capital Scheme. More information can be found at: Export Working Capital Scheme.

● UKEF can also support finance for overseas buyers through the Direct Lending Facility scheme, so they can continue to buy UK goods and services.

● UKEF has over £4 billion of capacity to support UK firms exporting to China, as well as significant capacity across other markets affected by COVID-19 to help cover these risks.

A list of countries and respective cover can be found at: Cover policy and indicators.