There has been an important update on the mechanism for claiming the “furlough” grants under the Job Retention Scheme, and that is covered below, along with some other updates.

Job Retention Scheme (JRS)

The Government’s guidance has previously been that the claims system for the JRS will be available towards the end of April. HMRC have now issued a bulletin to payroll agents and others that they are shortly going to be issuing detailed information on the way in which the claims will be made. They have said that the portal will be available on Monday 20 April and that it has been tested up to a level of 450,000 claims per hour.

Importantly the information will have to be entered by the employers themselves, and those that use payroll bureaux will not be able to rely on them to make the claims on their behalf because the bureaux’s agent permissions are not sufficient to allow this. It will therefore be up to the employers to collate the information required and the nature of that information has been changed since the last guidance was published. Previously it was stated that only the total amount of the claim and the period covered would be needed, but HMRC now say that details of each employee and the make-up of their individual claims will be required. Fuller details of what will be required is to be published shortly and we will provide a further update then.

We will provide assistance to our clients where requested, both as to what can be claimed and how to calculate it. It should be every employer’s aim to have the information available to input accurately on 20 April when it is likely that the website will be under a great amount of pressure. My diary is clear that day anyway, apart from a reference to the Albion playing Liverpool at the Amex……..

The sooner the claim is made the sooner it is likely that the grants will be paid (directly into the employer’s bank account that will be designated as part of the claim). We understand that HMRC are indicating that the first payments will be made on 30 April.

We have been hearing that there is confusing messaging coming out on the matter of how much should be paid to employees who take annual leave during a furlough period. The latest has been that HMRC have indicated in a reply to a query,  that annual leave days must be paid at the full salary rate. This is of course particularly pertinent at the moment with the two public holidays this weekend. Further clarification is expected and we will provide an update as soon as there is a definitive answer.

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

The introduction of Mr Sunak at the press conference on Wednesday evening raised hopes that there was to be an announcement about plugging the well-publicised gaps in the SEISS, and in the JRS for director/shareholders. However,  the reverse turned out to be the case – in answers to questions he highlighted the difficulties in designing support schemes which are reasonably protected from fraudulent claims, and that if anybody had slipped through the net then that was unfortunate and they would need to depend on the benefit system. I believe that this interpretation of his comments to be correct, although I hope that the door is not completely closed at this stage. In the meantime those affected must explore the less generous support that is available under the Universal Credits system and benefits associated with it. Parents should not lose sight of the fact that if they have suspended their child benefit payments because of the clawback under the “high income” provisions, they will be able to reinstate them if their income for the year is likely to fall below the limits for this year.

Vat Deferment

HMRC have extended the availability of the Vat deferral scheme to those who pay on account under the annual payment scheme. They have confirmed that the instalments due during the deferral period (up to 30 June 2020) can be deferred interest free until 31 March 2021.

New Funding for Ambitious Technologies

The Government has set up a fund to support innovative businesses that intend to use ambitious technologies to develop products and systems which will provide support for the long term effects of the Coronavirus, or in possible similar future circumstances. £20 million is being made available for grant funding of up to £50k, and this scheme will be administered by Innovate UK. More details are here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/20-million-for-ambitious-technologies-to-build-uk-resilience-following-coronavirus-outbreak

Small Business Grants and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Sector Grants

Brighton and Hove Council has started to make payments to eligible businesses, with the first grants having been made on Wednesday 8th April. The Council has previously stated that it would be placing a portal on its website for businesses which occupy property in the city and think that they should qualify for a grant but have not yet been contacted, or have been asked to provide further details. The portal can be found here:

https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/council-tax-and-business-grants-covid-19-business-or-organisation

Businesses with properties in other areas should go to their local authority website to find out how they are dealing with the grants.

Date 11 April 2020
Author: Peter Hedgethorne, Director