Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Contents

Debt, debt recovery and coronavirus

In this section you'll find information and updates related to coronavirus that are relevant to the law on debt and debt recovery.

The UK's response to coronavirus is changing regularly and often very quickly. While we'll continue to make every effort to keep this page up to date, there may be short periods where what you read here is not the latest information available. Where possible we've tried to provide links to official sources, so you can check the current situation.

Support for struggling businesses

More support is being provided by the UK government to business and self-employed individuals.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

This scheme allows you to put eligible staff on furlough leave and claim back 80% of their wages from the UK government. See our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Employment section for more on this.

Help for tenants who can't pay rent

Temporary measures have been put in place to protect commercial and residential tenants who are unable to keep up with rent payments. See our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Property section for more on this.

Deferring tax and VAT

Income tax

If you're due to make a second self-assessment payment on account on 31 July 2020, you will automatically be entitled to defer it until 31 January 2021. No interest or penalties will be charged.

Note: no announcements have been made to date to defer corporation tax payments.

VAT holiday

UK VAT-registered business can defer VAT payments due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 (other than for VAT MOSS or import VAT).

You don't have to inform HMRC if you defer payment and no interest or penalties will be charged. If you defer, those payments will become due on or before 31 March 2021.

If you know or think you won't be able to pay your income tax or VAT even if you defer, contact HMRC now.

Business rates support

This differs depending on where you are. Rate reductions should be automatically applied by the local authority covering your area.

England

Certain businesses can benefit from a business rates holiday for the 2020-2021 tax year. Currently, this means those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, and nurseries on Ofsted's Early Years Register.

You can estimate the business rate charge using the business rates calculator.

Wales

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will receive 100% business rates relief for the financial year 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, if their property has a rateable value of £500,000 or less. See their guide for more.

Scotland

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will receive 100% business rates relief for the financial year 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 (even if they have temporarily closed).

Rates relief is also available for businesses providing services to Scottish airports.

Other businesses will get a deduction of 1.6% from their business rates, which will be applied by their local council. See mygov.scot for more.

Northern Ireland

A 3-month rates holiday applies for April, May and June (excludes public sector and utility companies). Bills will be issued in June and businesses can repay by monthly instalments between June and March 2021. See nibusinessinfo.co.uk for more.

Cash grants

The following cash grants are available from your local authority. They differ depending on where your business is.

England

The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund is available for business in the sector and will be eligible to receive:

  • £10,000 for those with a rateable value of up to £15,000.
  • £25,000 for business properties with a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000.

The Small Business Grant Fund will give £10,000 for all other businesses receiving small business rates relief or rural rates relief as of 11 March 2020. See GOV.UK for more.

Wales

The following grants are available for businesses that pay business rates:

  • £25,000 for properties with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000 in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector.
  • £10,000 for all other businesses eligible for small business rates relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

The following grants were available from the Welsh Economic Resilience Fund:

  • £10,000 for small businesses who employ up to 9 people.
  • Up to £100,000 for businesses who employ between 10 and 249 people.

However, this fund has now been paused due to the scale of demand for grants.

See Business Wales for details of all available cash grants. See also the Welsh government's Development Bank of Wales for any other support that may be available.

Scotland

The following one-off grants are available:

See gov.scot for more.

Northern Ireland

  • £25,000 for properties with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector.
  • £10,000 for all other businesses who currently get small business rates relief with a rateable value of less than £15,000.

See nibusinessinfo.co.uk for more.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme is available to all UK small businesses and is backed by the government-owned British Business Bank. To qualify you must:

  • need the loan to support your UK trading activities, having been adversely affected by coronavirus (you will need to self-certify this fact);
  • have an annual turnover no higher than £45 million;
  • have a borrowing proposal a lender would consider viable, were it not for the current pandemic; and
  • want to borrow no more than £5 million.

There are over 40 approved lenders for the scheme. You can apply for a loan here.

Bounce Back Loans Scheme

On 27 April, the UK government announced a new loan scheme for small businesses. These loans are 100% backed by the government, in the hope that businesses will be able to access them quickly and more easily than some of the other loan schemes.

Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The loans are interest free for the first 12 months.

The scheme is due to launch on 4 May. See GOV.UK for details.

Grants from the self-employment income support scheme

This is a UK-wide scheme to provide support for the self-employed (including members of partnerships). The online portal is yet to open but should be available by mid-May. The scheme will be available for 3 months, but may be extended.

Qualifying for the scheme

To qualify you must:

  • be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership;
  • have submitted your self-assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-2019;
  • have traded in the tax year 2019-2020;
  • have trading profits of £50,000 or less, which are more than half of your total income for either the tax year 2018-2019 or the average of the tax years from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 (inclusive);
  • be trading when you apply (or would be except for coronavirus);
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-2021;
  • have lost trading profits due to coronavirus; and
  • confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus.

Different criteria apply if you have loans covered by the loan charge or you're a farmer claiming farmers' averaging relief.

How much can you claim

You can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

It will be calculated based on your average trading profit over the 3 tax years from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019.

Different rules apply if you have not submitted self-assessment tax returns for all 3 years.

See GOV.UK for more.

Extra Scottish government support

The Scottish government has plans to supplement the UK-wide support measures with a £100 million fund to support self-employed people who aren't covered by the UK scheme, as well as SMEs. This includes:

  • a Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund, managed by Local Authorities, which will give £2,000 grants;
  • a Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, managed by the Enterprise Agencies in partnership with Creative Scotland and VisitScotland for creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of business rates relief; and
  • a Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, managed by the Enterprise Agencies for vulnerable SME firms who are vital to the local or national economic foundations of Scotland.

More information

See the main business support pages for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

There is also a Coronavirus business support finder that you can use to find help that's available to you from all the UK jurisdictions.

Court action

Businesses can still take court action to resolve disputes during the pandemic, provided you're not a landlord taking action in response to rent arrears. It's likely claims will take longer than normal.

If your claim is already in progress, it is likely to be handled differently.

England & Wales

Her Majesty's Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is making use of phone and video hearings. If a particular hearing can't be carried out in this way and it's urgent, it'll be held in a priority court and tribunal building (i.e. one that's not been closed due to the pandemic).

You can still find the relevant court in relation to your hearing here.

HMCTS published and will continue to update additional guidance for all court and tribunal users during the pandemic. There are also regular operational updates.

Scotland

All claims under the simple procedure (i.e. those where you may be due a sum of money of up to £5,000) have been paused during the pandemic. New claims can be registered but won't be progressed. See Civil Online for more information, and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website for information on court arrangements generally.

Northern Ireland

For the situation in Northern Ireland see Judiciary NI.

Copyright © 2020 Epoq Group Ltd. All trademarks acknowledged, all rights reserved

This website is operated by Epoq Legal Ltd, company number 3707955, whose registered office is at 2 Imperial Place, Maxwell Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 1JN. Epoq Legal Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number 645296).