MPs have received the following briefing from our Treasury team about the measures announced yesterday by the Chancellor to assist self-employed people during the coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus Update – Our Package for the Self-Employed
The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. Our message to the public is clear: you must stay at home, in order to protect the NHS and save lives.
The Government said we would do whatever it takes to protect people’s jobs and incomes – and we meant it. We know many self-employed people are deeply anxious about the support available for them.
That is why the Chancellor has announced a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme – helping many of our country’s self-employed workers: the musicians, the sound engineers, the plumbers, the electricians, the taxi drivers, the hairdressers, the childminders, the driving instructors, and many others.
Through this scheme, the Government will pay self-employed people a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month – that’s unlike almost any other country and makes our scheme one of the most generous in the world.
We know there are challenging times ahead, but we are confident that the measures we have put in place will support millions of people, businesses and self-employed workers to get through this, and emerge on the other side both stronger and more united as a country. And we will get through this together.
The scheme the Chancellor has announced today is fair. It is targeted at those who need it the most. And crucially, it is deliverable:
- We are launching the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, to make sure people who work for themselves are getting the financial support they need. The Government will pay self-employed people across the whole UK who have been adversely affected by coronavirus a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month, for three months – but we will extend it for longer if necessary.
- We will make it simple for self-employed people to get the financial support they need. Self-employed people who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC directly, asked to fill out a simple online form, and HMRC will pay the grant directly into their bank account. We expect people to access the scheme by the beginning of June.
- We are ensuring our support reaches those self-employed people who are most in need of it. The scheme will only be open to those with trading profits up to £50,000, leaving 95 per cent of people who are majority self-employed eligible for the scheme. HMRC will also ask people to demonstrate that the majority of their income comes from self-employment, and, to minimise fraud, only those who are already in self-employment, and who have a tax return for 2019, will be able to apply.
This builds on the support that is available to self-employed people:
- For self-employed people who are struggling now, we’ve also made sure that many will be able to access loans through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme. This scheme provides loans of up to £5 million, which will be interest free for twelve months.
- Supporting people through the welfare system so that nobody is penalised for doing the right thing. We will make it quicker and easier to access benefits. Those on contributory ESA will be able to claim from day 1, instead of day 8. And we are relaxing the requirement for anyone to physically attend a jobcentre – everything can be done by phone or online.
- Suspending the minimum income floor for twelve months – meaning self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate that is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.
- Deferring income tax self-assessment payments for July until the end of January 2021.
We have introduced unprecedented measures to support our country through this time:
Protecting our public services:
- We have pledged that whatever resources the NHS needs, it will get. We will provide any extra resources needed by the NHS and other public services – starting with an initial £5 billion fund so the NHS can treat Coronavirus patients; councils can support vulnerable people; and ensure funding is available for other public services.
- Lifted the incomes of over four million households with a £7 billion boost to the welfare system. We are increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months – a cash injection of nearly £7 billion in the welfare system.
- Introduced three month mortgage holidays and £1 billion more support for renters. The mortgage holiday will be available for those who are in difficulty due to coronavirus. We are also providing nearly £1 billion of support for renters, by increasing the generosity of housing benefit and Universal Credit, so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30 per cent of market rents in local areas.
- Making Statutory Sick Pay available for people diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are self-isolating, helping people with their finances. We have already set out that SSP will be available from day one for people who have COVID-19. But the Budget sets out that this will now cover those who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate as well as for people within the same household who display symptoms. Those who are advised to self-isolate will able to obtain a doctor’s note via NHS 111 as medical evidence for SSP.
- Promised to pay 80 per cent of the wages of furloughed workers for three months. Any employer in the country who promises to retain their staff, can apply for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off. Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – above the median income. The cost of wages will be backdated to 1st March and will be open initially for at least three months – and we will extend the scheme for longer if necessary.
- Deferred more than £30 billion of tax payments until the end of the year. We are deferring the next three months of VAT tax, a direct injection of over £30 billion of cash to businesses, equivalent to 1.5 per cent of GDP. That means no business will pay any VAT from now until the end of June, and they will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.
- Agreed nearly 17,000 Time to Pay arrangements for businesses and individuals, helping businesses and self-employed workers with their tax affairs.
- Made available £330 billion of loans and guarantees – that’s equivalent to 15 per cent of our GDP. And if demand is greater than the initial £330 billion, we will go further and provide as much capacity as required. That means any business, small or large, in financial difficulty who needs access to cash to pay their rent, pay suppliers, or purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan, on attractive terms.
- Abolished business rates altogether this year for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. All businesses in this sector are exempt from business rates for 12 months – that’s every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant, and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors.
- Introduced cash grants of up to £25,000 for small business properties in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. Any business with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can now get access to a government grant.
- Covered the cost of statutory sick pay for small business. We are supporting small and medium-sized businesses to cope with the extra costs of paying Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) by refunding eligible SSP costs. The refund will be limited to two weeks per employee who has claimed SSP as a result of Covid-19.
Q: Why are you making this change now?
We have already announced unprecedented measures to support people and businesses. These include the Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme set out at the Budget, and last week we announced £330 billion of loans and guarantees for businesses and a £7 billion boost to our welfare system, among others.
We have been working with the Federation of Small Businesses, the association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, and the Trades Union Congress. Now we will give assurance.
Providing such unprecedented support for self-employed people is operationally very challenging. The self-employed are a very diverse population. They have a wide mix of different levels of income, which even in normal times can vary hugely from month to month.
Q: Support not available until June?
HMRC are working day and night to get this scheme up and running. HMRC are also delivering other key schemes to a similar timescale, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Statutory Sick Pay rebate for employers. The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme also allows late tax filers a month to get their 2018-19 tax returns in within 4 weeks of the announcement of the scheme, which also creates some delay.