Budget 2021: COVID support measures
Measures to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus
The Chancellor began the Spring Budget by setting out further measures to provide support for businesses and individuals suffering from the financial effects of the pandemic.
The monetary amount of these items, as set out in the Budget forecasts, is far greater than the impact of most tax announcements.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
The CJRS will continue to reimburse employers with the salaries of furloughed employees until 30 September 2021. The employee should
receive at least 80% of normal pay for hours not worked.
Until 30 June, the employer will only be required to contribute employer’s National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions (as at present). In July, the employer will have to contribute 1/8 of the remaining cost (i.e. 10% of normal salary), rising to 1/4 (20% of normal salary) in August and September.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
For the time being, small and medium-sized employers across the UK will continue to be able to reclaim up to two weeks of eligible Statutory Sick Pay costs per employee, where the absence is coronavirus-related. The Government will set out steps for closing this scheme in due course.
Self-employed people with profits up to £50,000 have been able to claim grants under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). There have so far been three grants under the SEISS, each covering three months; two amounted to 80% and one amounted to 70% of average monthly profits up to limits of £2,500 and £2,187.50 respectively per month.
A fourth grant, covering February to April 2021, will be claimable from late April at 80% of three months’ average profits capped at £7,500 in total. Claimants must have filed a 2019/20 tax return to be eligible for this grant.
People who began self employment in 2019/20, who did not have a record of earnings, could not claim the first three grants, but may be able to claim the fourth grant if they have filed a 2019/20 return by midnight on 2 March 2021.
A fifth grant, covering the period from May to September 2021, can be claimed from late July. This will be targeted at those who need it most as the economy reopens.
Those whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more will be eligible for the full grant, which will be 80% of three months’ average profits capped at £7,500. The fact that the grant covers a five-month period appears to allow for the likelihood that the business will be reopening in that time. Those whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will receive a 30% grant, capped at £2,850. Further details will be published in due course.
The Budget confirms that SEISS grants will be treated as taxable income of the business in the tax year in which they are received.
There have been complaints of unfairness from certain categories of people who fall outside these support schemes. These include:
- Those whose profits were previously just over £50,000 (who are not eligible for any support);
- Those working through their own company (who can claim the furlough grant, but that will not replace profits previously paid out as dividends).
The Budget does not extend any reliefs to people in these categories.
The uplift of £20 per week on Universal Credit will be extended to the end of September. Some other easements in the calculation of the benefit will continue for the time being. For those claiming Working Tax Credit, a one-off payment of £500 will be made to provide equivalent support over the next six months.
Loans and grants
There have been several Government-backed loan schemes to support businesses through the pandemic. Some of these are coming to an end on 31 March 2021. However the Chancellor announced a new ‘Recovery Loan Scheme’.
This will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on eligible loans between £25,000 and £10 million to give them confidence in continuing to provide finance to UK businesses. This will be open to all businesses from 6 April 2021. This includes those who have already received support under the existing COVID-19 loan schemes.
The Chancellor also announced ‘Restart Grants’. As they reopen after the present lockdown, non-essential retail businesses can claim up to £6,000 per premises. Hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses can claim up to £18,000 per premises. The Government is also providing £425 million to local authorities to use for discretionary grants to businesses.
Eligible retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery properties in England have enjoyed 100% business rates relief in 2020/21. This will be extended to 30 June 2021. There will be a further 66% relief for the period to 31 March 2022. This is capped at £2 million per business for properties that were required to be closed on 5 January 2021, or £105,000 per business for other eligible properties.