Your rights to benefits
If you’re facing financial hardship you may be entitled to some financial support via the benefits system. Turn2us are the best people to advise you:
- Self-employed workers who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be able to claim contributory Employment Support Allowance. This will now be available from day one, not after a week
- Universal Credit remains available for self-employed workers. In the recent budget, it was announced that there will be a temporary halt to the minimum floor element of this benefit, which will have a positive impact on self-employed applicants
Your employment status
We’re following the government’s response to the crisis, particularly in relation to those who are self-employed.
If you have a contract in place or insurance, you should review this to see whether or not the current situation is covered by this, bearing in mind that unfortunately, in this unique situation, is might not be clear.
If you’re a member of BECTU or another union, you should also speak to them to see what support they can offer.
The government has used the term self-employed to define a specific group of freelance workers – those registered as sole traders.
If you’re a sole trader
If you’re registered as a sole trader, the government expects to offer you support via its self-employment income support scheme.
The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of your profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month for 3 months.
HMRC will use profits from your 2018-19 tax return OR the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. It’s not yet clear how they will decide which measure to use. The grant will count towards taxable income.
You don’t have to do anything to apply for this grant as HMRC will contact you if you’re eligible.
Things to note:
- At least 50% of your earnings for the period must have come from work as a sole trader
- Individuals showing trading profits of over £50,000 will not be eligible to apply
- You must have submitted a 2018/19 tax return. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 will have an additional 4 weeks from this announcement to do this. We strongly recommend you do this asap
- The grant will be paid in a lump sum in June 2020. If you’re facing financial hardship before this, you’re entitled to claim Universal Credit and may also be able to apply for a coronavirus business interruption loan
If you’ve sent up a limited company and pay yourself through PAYE
The Government may offer you support via its coronavirus job retention scheme.
All UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary. HMRC will pay employers a grant worth 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage.
This scheme will be accessed via an online portal, which is expected to go live in April. You will need to:
- Designate yourself (as the employee of your company) as a ‘furloughed worker’
- Once the new online portal is live, submit information to HMRC about your earnings
Things to note:
- There has been a lot of discussion about whether the government will allow single director limited company freelancers to furlough themselves. The latest information we have is that this will be allowed but we are waiting for more clarification
- You must have begun paying yourself via the PAYE scheme before 28th Feb 2020
- You will only be able to claim 80% of your salary, not your dividends
- The scheme will be backdated to March 1st and will initially be open for 3 months
- If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a coronavirus business interruption loan
If the majority of your work comes from short-term PAYE contracts
Unfortunately, you’re not covered by the self-employment income support scheme.
If you’re currently under contract for a job that has been postponed or is likely to be postponed, you may benefit from the coronavirus job retention scheme if your employer treats you as a ‘furloughed worker’.
If you were recently made redundant, you’re eligible for the furlough scheme (if rehired) so long as you were on payroll on 28th February 2020 and made redundant after 1st March. This applies even if you had worked only a day or two of the contract.
If your contract ended before 1st March you would not be eligible for furlough.
If you’re ineligible to be furloughed, the government expects to offer you support via Universal Credit.
Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme
The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) supports 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 government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.
The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the Government-owned British Business Bank.
There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.
- All homeowners will be able to claim a 3-month break from their mortgage repayments if they are unable to pay because of coronavirus
- Emergency legislation in place to protect renters and prevent evictions from social or privately rented accommodation. You should speak to your landlord and come to an agreement. We can provide legal advice if you’re concerned about your landlord’s response
Banking and bills
- Some banks are offering customers the opportunity to temporarily increase their credit limits and access cash in fixed savings accounts.
- Some utility companies have said that they will take steps to ease the burden on
clients by offering increased flexibility and support
- HMRC have indicated that they may relax the rules on tax liabilities during this period. If you’re concerned about your ability to pay a tax bill, contact HMRC’s coronavirus helpline as soon as possible on 0800 015 9559
If you’ve accessed all other forms of support available to you…