HELP FOR INDIVIDUALS AND THE SELF-EMPLOYED
If you have any questions, please get in touch with our COVID-19 Task Force here
RELEVANT AS OF 1:00pm 30th march
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
Employees are now eligible to receive SSP (at £94.25 per week) if they need to self-isolate because of coronavirus. They will also be able to receive their SSP from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their absence from work. SSP will be payable to those staying at home on government advice, as well as those who are infected, e.g. if someone in your household is sick and you are self-isolating.
If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 online service instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor. This service was launched on 20 March.
Council Tax 2020-21 Hardship fund
As part of its response to COVID-19, the government announced in the Budget on 11 March that it would provide local authorities in England with £500 million of new grant funding to support economically vulnerable people and households in their local area.
Further details on this fund have now been provided here
Deferral of 31 July 2020 Self-Assessment payments on account for all, not just the self-employed
If you are personally within the self-assessment tax return regime and were due to make a payment on account on 31 July 2020 this can now be deferred until 31 January 2021 without incurring any interest or penalties.
This was originally announced as being only for the self-employed but it has now been extended to all taxpayers. However, the deferral is voluntary and the guidance does ask that payment is still made if you are able to do so.
The deferral is automatic and therefore no action is required.
What if I’m self-employed?
On 26 March the Chancellor announced the Coronavirus Self-employed Income Support Scheme (CSISS).
CSISS is for certain self-employed individuals (including partners in a partnership) and is in the form of a taxable grant.
The grant will be calculated as 80% of your average profits for the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 tax years (where applicable), subject to a maximum of £2,500 per month for 3 months (although the scheme may be extended in due course).
To qualify, trading profits cannot exceed £50,000 which is determined by either looking at your 2018-19 trading profits or, alternatively, an average of the position for the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 tax years. If you have only recently become self-employed, such that you did not report self-employment income in the 2018-19 tax year, you will not be able to apply for the grant.
The grant is to be paid in a single instalment (expected at the end of June) directly into your bank account.
Further eligibility criteria apply. When announcing the scheme the Chancellor made reference to the fact that the self-employed would be receiving support similar to that received by the employed, despite the fact that they made lower National Insurance contributions and that this would need to be considered in the future. Consequently, we are expecting to see significant changes to the taxation of the self-employed in the future.
Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s credit up front without physically attending a job centre. The notes available from the NHS 111 online service will also be accepted by job centres as evidence of not being able to attend.
New Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants usually need to wait seven days before being eligible for their money, but this will now not apply if they are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home. Instead it will be payable from day one.
HMRC have also relaxed the rules surrounding claiming Universal Credit to make it easier to claim during the period of the outbreak. The ‘Minimum Income Floor’ for the self-employed who have been affected by the economic impact of the pandemic will be removed, meaning they can access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to statutory sick pay.
In the meanwhile don’t forget that despite the Budget confirming that the new rules around off-payroll workers in the private sector would apply from 6 April 2020 the uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the government postponing the introduction of this legislation for a year until April 2021.
How does this affect other government benefits?
Disabled and sick claimants who cannot attend a reassessment for their Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or ESA, due to coronavirus, will continue to receive their payments while their assessment is rearranged. Claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness.
Tenants and Landlords
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that emergency legislation is being implemented to stop new evictions from both social and private rented accommodation amidst the national emergency. Landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period, and it seems that this will apply to both Section 8 and Section 21 evictions.
The government has also been working to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings. This means that prior to landlords starting proceedings to evict a tenant, there is an increased burden on the landlords to make every effort to work with tenants to try and resolve the issue privately before taking the matter to court.
The government have also recognised the additional financial pressures on landlords, confirming that the three-month mortgage payment holiday (announced on the 17th March) will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulty due to the virus.
At the end of this period, it seems that landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to create an affordable repayment plan.
Non-UK residents remaining in the UK due to the pandemic
If you are non-UK resident and have been forced to stay in the UK due to the coronavirus restrictions, HMRC may disregard up to 60 additional days that you spend in the UK for the purposes of certain tests under the Statutory Residency Test legislation on the basis that the pandemic falls under the category of ‘exceptional circumstances’. However, this will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of each case and therefore professional advice should be sought.
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