COVID-19 RELATED SUPPORT MEASURES FOR UK BUSINESSES
The Treasury is to continue the two existing major support schemes in an attempt to hold back a significant increase in unemployment rates as business owners grapple with the effects of COVID-19 disruption. Details are set out below.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
This scheme, nicknamed the Furlough Scheme, was due to end 30 April 2021. It is now being extended to 30 September 2021.
In more detail:
For employees, there will be no change to the terms – they will continue to receive up to 80% of their salary, for hours not worked, until the scheme ends.
Employers will be asked to contribute 10% towards wages for hours not worked from July 2021, rising to 20% in August and September 2021.
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
There has been much criticism of this scheme as it has not been possible for self-employed businesses that commenced trading during 2019-20 to claim.
To counter this, the following changes to SEISS have been announced.
All qualifying self-employed businesses can continue to claim SEISS grants if they continue to be adversely affected by COVID lockdown measures. The present scheme was due to end 30 April 2021. This has now been extended to 30 September 2021.
Businesses previously excluded from claims because they commenced during the 2019-20 tax year will now be eligible to claim the fourth and fifth SEISS grants as long as their tax return for 2019-20 was filed by midnight 2 March 2021.
For the fifth grant claims can be made from July 2021. Self-employed persons whose turnover has fallen by more than 30% will continue to qualify for the 80% grant. Those with decreases in turnover of less than 30% will be restricted to a 30% claim.
These will support businesses obliged to close during much of lockdown. The grants will consist of:
A one-off grant of up to £18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses in England.
Non-essential retail that have tended to open first, can apply for a one-off £6,000 grant.
Business rates holiday continued
This year, government will continue with the 100% business rates holiday for the first three months of the 2021-22 financial year, in other words, through to the end of June 2021 for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.
For the remaining nine months of the year, to 31 March 2022, business rates will still be discounted by two thirds, up to a value of £2 million for closed businesses, with a lower cap for those who have been able to stay open.
A new Recovery Loan Scheme
The Recovery Loan Scheme ensures businesses of any size can continue to access loans and other kinds of finance between £25,000 and up to £10 million per business once the existing COVID-19 loan schemes close. This will provide further support as businesses recover and grow following the disruption of the pandemic and the end of the transition period.
Once received, the finance can be used for any legitimate business purpose, including growth and investment.
The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender to ensure they continue to have the confidence to lend to businesses.
The scheme launches on 6 April 2021 and is open until 31 December 2021, subject to review. Loans will be available through a network of accredited lenders.
Stamp duty holiday
The present £500,000 threshold for paying Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) was increased on a temporary basis and was due to end 31 March 2021.
The nil rate band will continue to be £500,000 for the period 8 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021 until 30 September 2021, the nil rate band will be £250,000. The nil rate band will return to the standard amount of £125,000 from 1 October 2021. This applies to England and Northern Ireland only. The devolved administrations have not announced any further extension beyond 31 March 2021 when this summary was written on Budget Day.
Many of the tax changes announced are for a fixed period, generally, from April 2021 to April 2026. This does provide welcome certainty for businesses. Announcements made include:
Income Tax 2021-22 to 2025-26
The basic rate threshold is increasing to £37,700 for 2021-22 (2020-21: £37,500) and then frozen until April 2026. For the same period, the personal tax allowance is set at £12,570 (2020-21: £12,500) and will apply to all regions of the UK.
Taxpayers who will benefit from annual increases in their earnings up to April 2026 may find themselves paying tax at the higher rates if these increases breach the £37,700 annual basic rate limit.
Capital Gains Tax
Any attempt to align CGT rates with Income Tax rates seems to be off the table for the time being. Apart from anti-avoidance changes, the only announcement on this tax that has general relevance is capping the annual exempt amount. This will be fixed at £12,300 from April 2021 to April 2026 for individuals, personal representatives and some types of trusts for disabled people; and £6,150 for trustees of most settlements.
As expected, there will be increases in Corporation Tax, but not yet and only for larger companies. Company owners will be relieved that there are no imminent increases in CT rates until April 2023.
From 1 April 2023, there will be two rates of CT.
- Taxable profits up £50,000 will continue to be taxed at 19% under the new Small Business Profits Rate
- Taxable profits in excess of £250,000 will be taxed at 25%
- Profits between £50,000 and £250,000 will be subject to a marginal tapering relief. This would be reduced for the number of associated companies and for short accounting periods.
Carry back of trading losses
The present provisions that restrict the carry back of tax losses is being relaxed, temporarily, extending the period over which incorporated and unincorporated businesses may carry-back trading losses from one year to three years.
This extension will apply to a maximum £2,000,000 of unused trading losses made in each of the tax years 2020-21 and 2021-22 by unincorporated businesses. The £2,000,000 maximum applies separately to unused trading losses made by incorporated companies, after carry-back to the preceding year, in relevant accounting periods ending between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 and a separate maximum of £2,000,000 for periods ending between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022.
The £2,000,000 cap will be subject to a group-level limit, requiring groups with companies that have capacity to carry back losses in excess of £200,000 to apportion the cap between its companies. Further detail on the group limit will be published in due course.
R&D tax credit cap to be introduced
For accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2021, the amount of SME payable R&D tax credit that a company can receive in any one year will be capped at £20,000 plus three times the company’s total PAYE and National Insurance Contributions liability, in order to deter abuse.
Major new investment reliefs
A new “super-deduction” and a 50% first year allowance are to be introduced that will allow companies to increase the tax relief they can claim for qualifying investments in plant and other equipment. It will apply to expenditure between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2023.
This does seem somewhat unfair to us, as the wording at the moment excludes sole traders and partnerships.
The super-deduction will mean that assets will qualify for tax relief based on 130% of the actual cost of expenditure incurred.
Assets that qualify for the special rate relief will qualify for the 50% first year allowance.
The existing Annual Investment Allowance £1m limit will continue to be available until 31 December 2021.
Pick of other announcements
Help to Grow schemes
Two new Help to Grow schemes are set to launch by the autumn to help support 130,000 small and medium sized businesses. The Help to Grow: Management scheme will help small and medium sized businesses get world-class management training with the government contributing 90% of the cost.
In addition, the Help to Grow: Digital scheme will help small businesses develop digital skills by giving them free expert training and a 50% discount on new productivity-enhancing software, worth up to £5,000 each.
Single contactless payments (just good to know)
Our final comment on the Budget seems to anticipate a coming consumer spending bonanza. The legal limit for single, contactless payments is increasing from £45 to £100.