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The Government has announced a package of measures to help businesses deal with the coronavirus. These include:

Maintaining cashflow is probably the most important issue for a business at the moment, but the details of all these measures are still being ironed out and it’s not clear yet when they will be in place. Being ready to make use of them when they are available could be invaluable.

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

The Government will pass legislation shortly to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • Eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force

We will keep you fully informed of any developments on when the repayment mechanism for employers will be finalised.

Support for businesses that pay business rates

There will be a business rates retail holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March.

We will keep you informed of these developments as and when they happen.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

Additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) has been announced by the Government. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.

If your business is eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.

Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.

We will keep you up to date with the latest news.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch shortly to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

Ellacotts has partnered with Capitalise to help source CBILS funding for businesses.

Support for businesses paying tax

All businesses and 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. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559. Please talk to us if you want our help here.

On Friday 20 March, the Government announced a further packages of measures to support businesses.

As part of the UK200Group we have access to up-to-the-minute information and can help you get access to the support you need. We’ll be keeping you informed in general terms, but please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or concerns.

If you’d like to speak with one of our Tax Advisers about the key points above, please call Ann Bibby on 01295 250401 or abibby@ellacotts.co.uk.