New ‘top-up’ grants available for left-out firms

The government has made an extra £617m available to a range of businesses not previously covered by business rates holidays or support grants.

The new discretionary ‘top-up’ fund caters for small businesses with ongoing fixed property costs. The kinds of businesses that may now qualify for help include those in shared workspace offices, regular market traders and small charities, along with bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates.

To receive the grants businesses must have fewer than 50 employees and be able to show a significant drop in income due to coronavirus restriction measures.

The maximum grant size will be £25,000, with an option for £10,000 or other payments depending on local circumstances, the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy said.

Local authorities will have full discretion to allocate funds and make payments to other businesses not specifically mentioned in guidance if need be.

As of the time of writing, no further details are available as to how to claim nor when claims will be paid, so, it’s another case of “wait and see” pending further announcements. You may wish to keep checking your local authority website or email them to ask for more details.

HMRC Webinars for Self Employed Income Support Scheme

HM Revenue & Customs are running webinars on applying for the Self-employed Income Support Scheme #SEISS, you can sign up here:

ICPA Update re Self Employed Support Grant

A short YouTube video from the ICPA giving details of how the self employed can check and claim their self employed support grant

As you’ll see from this video, the self employed must make their own claims via their own personal Government Gateway/Personal Tax Account, and that HMRC are not providing any facility for accountants to do it, nor are they allowing accountants to use their clients personal tax account login details!

The Forgotten

The ForgottenLtd

These are the faces of the small businesses owners shut out of Government support packages all across the UK. Our thanks to Lee Climpson and Transmission Productions for producing this powerful film

Posted by ForgottenLtd on Thursday, 30 April 2020
A video to try to put pressure on the government to provide support to those business owners who have fallen through the cracks (credit Forgotten Ltd)

Covid 19 – Bounce Back Loan Scheme Announced

Small businesses will benefit from a new fast-track finance scheme providing loans with a 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders, the Chancellor announced today (Monday 27 April).

Rishi Sunak said the new Bounce Back Loans scheme, which will provide loans of up to £50,000, would help bolster the existing package of support available to the smallest businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme has been designed to ensure that small firms who need vital cash injections to keep operating can get finance in a matter of days, and comes alongside the £6 billion awarded in business grants, supporting 4 million jobs through the job retention scheme and generous tax deferrals supporting hundreds of thousands of firms.

The government, which has been consulting extensively with business representatives about the design of the new scheme, will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan and pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.

The loans will be easy to apply for through a short, standardised online application. The loan should reach businesses within days- providing immediate support to those that need it as easily as possible.

Covid 19 – Self Employment Income Support Scheme

Use this scheme if you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership in the UK and have lost income due to coronavirus (COVID-19). This scheme DOES NOT apply to those trading via a limited company.

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month. It will be available for 3 months, but may be extended.

The grant will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance contributions but does not need to be repaid.

You can make a claim for Universal Credit while you wait for the grant. You should record the grant as part of your self-employment income, and it may affect the amount of Universal Credit you get. This will not affect Universal Credit claims for earlier periods.

If you receive the grant you can continue to work or take on other employment including voluntary work.

The online service you’ll use to claim is not available yet. HMRC will aim to contact you by mid May 2020, and will make payments by early June 2020.

Who can claim

You can claim if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

  • have submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019
  • traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
  • are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
  • have lost trading profits due to coronavirus

You will need to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. HMRC will as usual use a risk based approach to compliance.

You will only be able to claim using the GOV.UK online service. If you receive texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, offering financial help or a tax refund and asking you to click on a link or to give personal information, it is a scam.


We will continue to support our clients by email and online systems, but for the foreseeable future, our office is closed and we are working from home. Please allow a little extra time for us to respond to your queries as lots of clients are asking for our help at the moment.

15/4/20 HMRC have updated their guidance re Furlough which now show the qualification date has changed from 28 February 2020 to 19 March 2020 so the scheme will now include workers who had a payroll data reported to HMRC up to 19 March 2020. It also confirms that firms can temporarily re hire workers who left after 20 February 2020 in order to pay them under the furlough scheme. Unfortunately no change in the Government’s stance that directors of single person companies can only furlough themselves if they do NO chargeable or productive work for their company, so they have to “moth ball” their company to claim furlough, and that the 80% furlough continues to be on PAYE salary only and not dividends.

8/4/20 A template for an agreement to temporarily send home an employee because there’s no work (‘furlough’). Free to download and use from the ACAS website.

8/4/20 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.

4/4/20 HMRC have updated the position of directors who furlough themselves on the website – directors are not allowed to “do work of a kind they would carry out in normal circumstances to generate commercial revenue or provides services to or on behalf of their company” so that basically limits to them basic company administration duties etc. Still restricted to 80% of wages paid under PAYE and nothing based on dividends.

4/4/20 If you are not sure whether your business has a rateable value or not, check on here ( webpage). Then check with your local council to make sure they know you are at that address. Obviously if you know you’ve got a rates bill (or SBRR) you don;t need to. This is for those who are unsure.

3/4/20 The lack of clarity from HMRC is continuing to cause anxiety and stress for small businesses. As an example of how little information is being provided, this is the HMRC compliance handbook section re Covid-19 – “This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000”. How helpful is that??

2/4/20 Advice on Furlough from the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (ACCA)

2/4/20 Advice from ACAS re CoVid19.

2/4/20 Further advice from The Institute of Chartered Accountants confirming their opinion that directors can furlough themselves

1/4/20 Furloughed Limited Company Directors – It would appear that HMRC are back-tracking on their initial guidance that limited company directors could only furlough to claim 80% of their PAYE wages if they did absolutely nothing for their company, i.e. make it officially dormant. Now, Martin Lewis (financial journalist) is saying he’s had confirmation from HMRC that they will allow company administration work as long as the director isn’t generating income nor providing services to their customers/clients. Whilst obviously this would be welcome news, we still have to wait for official confirmation from HMRC.

31/3/20 Those who feel left behind by the self-employed income protection scheme can send an outline of their situation to to help FSB feed in as wide a range of examples to the government as possible.

Are you SELF EMPLOYED, I’ve bashed out a quick briefing on the new Coronavirus Income Support scheme – who qualifies, freelance issues, agency workers, limited companies and more.Now including subtitles… NOTE: I missed one point in the video, if your avg income's over £50,000 you can't get it.Feel free to share with anyone it is relevant for

Posted by Martin Lewis on Friday, 27 March 2020
A good summary of help for self employed from Martin Lewis (Money Saving Expert)

FreeAgent have produced a summary of self employment income support scheme for sole traders and business partners.

Here is a petition requesting that small limited company directors are treated the same as the self employed and the employed.

The ICAEW have also published furlough guidance which explains how the 80% job retention scheme may apply to limited company directors. It is also suggesting that directors will be entitled to 80% of their wages paid via payroll/PAYE scheme as at February 2020, only if they do absolutely no work at all for their company (extending to no administration, marketing etc), and that they’ll get no support based on dividends drawn. Obviously, it’s only current interpretation of the guidance/detail issued so far, and like all things related to Covid19 changes and confirmations are expected in due course. has now publshed detailed guidance on the Job Retention Scheme. This confirms that eligible employees can not undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue – this would appear to prevent a director from performing administration work or marketing etc.

The Government’s Self Employment Income Support Scheme has now been announced. This applies only to sole traders and partners in businesses, NOT to those trading through their own limited companies (see the furlough scheme mentioned above). Guidance states that HMRC will contact the self employed in due course who they think are eligible to claim, but it could be June before payments are made.

SCAM WARNING: Looks like the scammers are active at the moment – lots of people reporting receiving emails and texts purporting to be from HMRC or Govt telling people they’re due a refund or grant and asking you to click a link to claim. Please follow long standing advice NOT to click on any links in unexpected emails nor texts, and certainly don’t enter your bank details etc. If you think you’re due a refund or grant, make a claim via the official or local authority website.

Business Grants – for those businesses occupying commercial premises who are eligible for small business rates relief, our local council, Lancaster City Council, now have a webpage for you to enter your business bank details in order that your grant can be paid directly when funds start to flow. If you’re not in the Lancaster City Council area, I’m sure other local authorities are doing the same, so please check your own local authority website.

ICPA Covid19 Update – ICPA have put together this update with as many useful links as possible, and those links will refresh every time you use them. We’ve also some articles which we hope you will find useful.

Summary of measures announced to help small businesses from FreeAgent

Further businesses and premises to close Restaurants, cafes, pubs, hair & beauty, car showrooms, hotels, B&Bs are instructed to close. Food shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, home & hardware shops, laundrettes, garages, pet shops, corner shops, newsagents are allowed to stay open for the time being.

A full range of business support measures have been made available to UK businesses and employees.

Article from The Guardian – As it stands on the morning of 23rd March the hoped for intervention by the government on behalf of the millions of Self-employed we all, I believe, hoped for has not happened. That is not to say it won’t but at the moment
it has not and here is the best article that spells out what little is available to them. 

TAX TV YouTube Video – Government Help in relation to CVID-19

GOV.UK Latest – Support for businesses

GOV.UK Latest – Guidance for employers

New HMRC helpline launched to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

ACCA Factsheet – Claiming SSP for a SME self-employed director

ACCA Factsheet – Immediate support for SMEs

ACCA Factsheet – What is the priority for employers?

For local clients, Lancaster City Council has allocated £2million in emergency funding to support the district’s most vulnerable people and struggling local businesses. Any small businesses that have not already done so should register with the council’s economic development team by email to, for details of the financial support packages that are available to them.

How to ask Companies House to extend your filing deadline if an unplanned event stops you filing your accounts.

IR35 – Private Sector Reform Delayed by 1 Year

It has been announced that due to the Coronavirus, the proposed private sector reforms to IR35 will be delayed by 1 year. Instead of coming into force on 6 April 2020, it will now be deferred until 6 April 2021.

The official announcement can be viewed via Twitter:-

This means that we go back to the pre-existing rules which require the contractor themselves to “self assess” whether they are caught by IR35 or not, and where they are responsible for calculating and making “deemed payments” in their own payroll as necessary.

The new reforms were designed to transfer that obligation to the client/agency who would have become responsible for deciding whether IR35 applied and, if so, deducting tax and NIC from their contractors invoices. This system is already in existence for public sector contracting since April 2018 and the latest announcements don’t appear to change the public sector rules.

Whether contractors have or havn’t already moved to PAYE or umbrella companies, there may still be time for them to contact their clients and agencies to explore whether they can continue to contract via their personal service companies for another year.

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Trade Slowing Down & VAT

If your business is not making sales but you are still incurring costs, HMRC may refuse to repay the input VAT on purchases and ask you to cancel your VAT registration voluntarily as there are no business activities. This is a drastic solution as you will lose your VAT number. If your trade picks up again later, you will have to reregister for VAT and be allocated a new VAT number. There may also be VAT liabilities to pay if you have reclaimed VAT on large building costs under the capital goods scheme.

As an alternative to deregistering altogether, you could keep your business within the VAT system and retain its VAT number by joining the VAT flat rate scheme (FRS). You cannot reclaim input VAT while you are within the FRS although there is an exception for VAT on purchases of capital goods which cost £2,000 or more.

A business can join the FRS at the beginning of the VAT period after submitting its FRS application unless HMRC agree an earlier date. You can leave the FRS on any day, even in the middle of a VAT period, so joining the FRS could be a temporary solution to your stagnant trade problem.

Where Entreprenneurs Relief Falls Short

When you sell your business, you can expect to pay capital gains tax (CGT) on any gains your make.

Currently CGT is payable at 10% (if within your basic rate band for income tax) or 20% on such gains. But the 10% rate can also apply to gains of up to £10m if entrepreneurs’ relief (ER) applies.

To qualify for ER the business must have been trading for at least two years before the sale date. A business is trading when most or all of its activities relate to a trade rather than to investments.

The focus for ER is on the effort put in to produce the trading or investment income, rather than the proportion of turnover which is generated by the investments compared to the trade.

For example, a cash-rich company may receive much of its income from passive investments but the directors spend all of their time trying to drum up new sales leads. As long as the majority of the activities of the company (expenses and time spent) relate to the trade, the company will be considered to be trading even if most of the income arises from the passive investments.

By contrast, a company which owns a let property that the directors spend some time managing will not be considered to be a trading company unless there is some other activity within the company which can be classified as a trade. Letting a property is only regarded as a trade if there are considerable activities around receiving and catering for those who pay the rent.

Furnished holiday accommodation let on a commercial basis is regarded as a trade, as is a bed and breakfast business or a hotel. However letting an industrial unit is not generally treated as a trading activity.

If you are thinking of selling your business, ask us to check whether ER will apply before you agree the terms of the sale.