The government has used the term ‘self-employed’ to define a specific group of freelance workers; those registered as sole traders or who are members of partnerships and who invoice for payment and complete yearly tax returns.
If you’re a sole trader
If you’re registered as a sole trader or member of a partnership, you may have received support via the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
The scheme has provided grants to self-employed individuals or partnerships with less or no work due to coronavirus.
Round 4 of the scheme related to the period Feb- April 21 and covered 80% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £7,500 in total
The last date for making a claim for the fourth grant was 1 June 2021.
A fifth grant covering May- September 2021 will be open to claims from late July 2021.
The grant is taxable and will be paid out in a single instalment. To be eligible, you must have traded in 2019 to 2020 (and submitted your tax return by 2 March 2021) and 2020 to 2021
To calculate your entitlement, the government will first look at your 2019 to 2020 Self-Assessment tax return. Your trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to your non-trading income.
If you’re not eligible based on your 2019 to 2020 Self-Assessment tax return, the government will then look at the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020.
You must be currently trading but impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus or have been trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus
You must also declare that you intend to continue to trade, and you reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits due to reduced business activity, capacity, demand or inability to trade due to coronavirus
The amount of the fifth grant will be determined by how much your turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021.
Guidance about claiming the grant will be available from early July 2021. The online claims service will be available from late July.
If you’ve set up a limited company and pay yourself through PAYE
The government may be offering you support via its coronavirus job retention scheme.
All UK employers with a PAYE scheme have been able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary by placing them on furlough. Grants have been worth between 60- 80% of employee’s usual wage costs.
You can read more about how this applies to company directors and salaried members of United Limited Partnerships here.
The furlough scheme has been extended to the end of September 2021.
You can currently claim 80% of your salary, up to £2,500/month. Pension and national insurance contributions will not be covered. Claims for furlough days in June 2021 must be made by 14 July 2021.
From 1 July 2021, the Government’s contribution to your wages will reduce as follows,
July- 70% of your wages to a maximum £2187.50 for the hours that you are on furlough.
August- 60% up to £1,875
September- 60% up to £1,875
You will need to top your wages up to 80% (Overall maximum £2500)
Employers across the UK can use the scheme. You DON’T need to have used the furlough scheme before to take part. However, to claim for periods after 1 May 2021, you need to have been on your PAYE payroll on 2 March to be eligible.
You WILL be able to work part-time while on furlough. You will be responsible for paying your wages while at work, but the government will continue to contribute to hours that you remain furloughed.
You can start your claim for wages via this scheme on the Gov.UK website here.
Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) supported small and medium-sized businesses, including registered sole traders, with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years.
The scheme closed to new applicants on 31 March 2021.
If the majority of your work comes from short-term PAYE contracts
Unfortunately, you’re not covered by the self-employment income support scheme. However, you may be benefiting from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough).
The furlough scheme has been extended to the end of September 2021.
Currently, your employer will be able to claim 80% of your salary for the hours you are on furlough, up to £2,500/month. They will be expected to cover your pension and national insurance contributions.
From July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced, and your employer will be asked to contribute more towards your wages. Your employer should top up your wages so that you continue to receive 80% of your salary up to £2500.
Employers across the UK can use the scheme. You do not need to have been furloughed before to benefit and your employer DOESN’T need to have used the furlough scheme before to take part.
For periods starting on or after 1 May 2021, your employer can claim if you were employed on 2 March 2021
If you are on a short-term contract which is due to expire, this can be extended or renewed to benefit from the scheme as long as you were on the payroll on or before 30 October.
You WILL be able to work part-time while on furlough. Your employer will be responsible for paying your wages while at work, but the government will contribute to hours that you remain furloughed.
You cannot access this scheme directly; a claim must come from your employer via the Gov.UK website.
Things to note:
- Both you and your employer must agree to put you on furlough.
- You can be on any type of contract, including a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract.
- You might be expected to return to work part-time but remain furloughed for the rest of your employed hours.
- If you were ineligible to be furloughed or your employer chose not to do this, the government expects to offer you support via Universal Credit (see below)
Your rights to benefits
- Employees who are too ill to work or who are self-isolating due to coronavirus are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
- Self-employed workers who are not eligible for SSP or employees whose entitlement to SSP has run out will be able to claim contributory Employment Support Allowance. This is now available from day one, not after a week
- If you are contacted by the NHS because you are required to self-isolate OR if you are contacted by your child’s school and told they must self-isolate, you may be eligible for a £500 test and trace support payment. Separate but similar schemes are running in England, Scotland, Wales. Northern Ireland is also running a slightly different scheme.
- Universal Credit is available for those who are unemployed, self-employed or on a low income. In response to coronavirus,
- The monthly standard rate has been increased- this increase has been extended until September 2021
- For self-employed workers, the minimum income floor element of the benefit remains temporarily suspended. The income floor will gradually be re-introduced from the end of July 2021.
Turn2us is a national charity providing information and guidance around finances, including a benefit checking service.
Reducing your costs
- Mortgage payment holidays have been in place since March 2020 to assist those who were unable to pay because of the impact of coronavirus.
- Borrowers were able to request payment holiday up until 31 March 2021
- All payment deferrals need to end by 31 July 2021
- For those still struggling to pay their mortgage, lenders must now offer ‘tailored support’. What is offered will depend on your individual circumstances
- Contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your options
- Local government and housing association representatives have confirmed that no social renter should be evicted due to coronavirus.
- Private landlords can apply to evict tenants but must follow a lengthy process (4-months in England, 6-months in Scotland and Wales, 12 weeks in N Ireland)
- Renters in Wales can apply for a loan from the Welsh Government to help with rent arrears
- A similar scheme, the tenant hardship loan, exists in Scotland
If you rent privately, speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know your situation and work out a plan.
While the right to payment holidays have now ended, all banks and other high street lenders must offer ‘tailored support’ to those struggling due to coronavirus. What is offered will depend on your individual circumstances and you should contact your bank to discuss your options as soon as possible
Other regular outgoings
A range of other measures have been introduced to support people whose finances have been impacted by Covid-19. These cover things including payday loans, IVA payment plans and utility bills.
If you have any regular outgoings that are causing financial stress, you are advised to contact your provider to discuss what is possible and agree a plan.
StepChange offer useful advice and guidance around debt and other financial worries.
Check out the moneysavingexpert website for more advice and tips.
HMRC have put measures in place to assist those struggling to pay their self-assessment liabilities due to reduced income through coronavirus. If you’re concerned about your ability to pay a tax bill, contact HMRC’s coronavirus helpline as soon as possible on 0800 024 1222