10/03/2021

COVID-19 Business Update – 10 March 2021

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

New COVID-19 Cases Fell to Lowest Since September

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the UK fell to its lowest level since late September on Monday.

The daily data showed 4,712 people tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the smallest total since 28 September.

By the end of Sunday, a total of 22,377,255 people had been given the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Free Rapid Tests for All Businesses

All businesses in England, including those with less than 50 employees, can now sign up for free COVID-19 rapid workplace testing.

Businesses are encouraged to register their interest by 31 March to access this free testing until the end of June. Meanwhile, all those who can work from home are still encouraged to continue to do so.

Learn more about it here.

Job Retention Scheme Extended Until End of September

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021. It will remain unchanged until the end of June, and a phased reduction in the level of funding will be implemented from 1 July 2021.

Currently, employers can claim grants equal to 80% of a furloughed employee’s reference pay. Grants for each worker are capped at £2,500 per month.

For claims starting 1 July 2021, the grant will be reduced to 70% of the reference salary and capped at £2,187.50 per month. It will be further reduced to 60% of the reference salary with a cap of £1,875 starting 1 August 2021.

You can read more about it here.

What You Need to Know About Budget 2021

Below are some of the key points announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget speech:

  • Additional £1.65 billion for COVID-19 vaccination roll-out
  • £28 million to increase the UK’s capacity for vaccine testing and support for clinical trials
  • £22 million for a world-leading study to test the effectiveness of combinations of different Covid-19 vaccines
  • £5 million on top of a previous £9 million investment in clinical-scale mRNA manufacturing
  • Extension of £500 Test and Trace support payments in England until the summer
  • Coronavirus Job Support Scheme extended to September 2021 across the UK
  • UK-wide Self Employment Income Support scheme extension to September 2021
  • Extension to the temporary cut in Stamp Duty Land Tax in England and Northern Ireland until September
  • New mortgage guarantee scheme enabling homebuyers to secure a mortgage up to £600,000 with a 5% deposit
  • £5 billion for new Restart Grants – a one off cash grant of up to £18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses in England
  • UK-wide Recovery Loan Scheme to make available loans between £25,001 and £10 million, and asset and invoice finance between £1,000 and £10 million.
  • Six-month extension of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift in Great Britain, with the Northern Ireland Executive receiving additional funding to match the increase. A one-off payment of £500 to eligible Working Tax Credit claimants across the UK.
  • Extension to the VAT cut to 5% for hospitality, accommodation and attractions across the UK until the end of September, followed by a 12.5% rate for a further six months until 31 March 2022.
  • Extension of the apprenticeship hiring incentive in England to September 2021 and an increase of payment to £3,000.
  • £7 million for a new “flexi-job” apprenticeship programme in England, that will enable apprentices to work with a number of employers in one sector.
  • Small and medium-sized employers in the UK will continue to be able to reclaim up to two weeks of eligible Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs per employee from the Government.
  • To further support the cashflow of businesses, the government is extending the loss carry back rules worth up to £760,000 per company.

A complete list of measures announced to protect jobs, strengthen public finances, and promote an investment-led recovery can be found here.

Pavement Licences Extended to Help High Streets Recover

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP announced that he intends to extend pavement licences for a further 12 months to help the hospitality industry recover once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve customers outdoors from no earlier than 12 April. The extension of provisions around pavement licences, which will be subject to parliamentary approval, will make it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to serve people outside.

Further details can be found here.

Guidance on the Reopening of Businesses

England is still in a national lockdown. However, the government has published the ‘COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021’ which will serve as a roadmap out of the current restrictions. You can check out the step-by-step plan here.

Movement Assistance Scheme Expanded to Support Organic Produce

Traders moving organic products to Northern Ireland are now eligible for support after the expansion of the Movement Assistance Scheme. Under this scheme, traders do not need to pay certain certification costs for moving agri-food goods, with the costs incurred by those certifying the products reimbursed by the government up to a set amount.

Guidance on the new scheme and moving agri-food products to and from Northern Ireland can be found here. You can also contact the Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS) helpline on 0330 0416 580 for further information.

£8 Million Government Boost for Manufacturers to Go Digital

New £8 million government funding for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them modernise, go digital, and create new jobs was launched.

The funding, part of the government’s Made Smarter Adoption programme, will support up to 1,000 manufacturers across the North West, North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands regions, in adopting digital technology.

Loan Support for Foreign Buyers of UK Goods

UK Export Finance have launched a scheme to help importers of UK goods and services obtain the finance they need to buy British products. This will help boost exports and support post-Brexit global trading.

Banks will be able to offer loans up to £30 million. Buyers will benefit from flexible repayment terms over a longer period, while exporters will get paid upfront when fulfilling a contract.

New Online VAT Deferral Payment Scheme

Businesses that deferred VAT payments last year can join the new online VAT Deferral Payment Scheme to pay it in smaller monthly instalments.

To take advantage of this new payment scheme, businesses will need to have deferred VAT payments between March and June 2020 under the VAT Payment Deferral Scheme. These businesses will be given the option to pay their deferred VAT in 2 to 11 equal monthly instalments starting in March, April, May, or June 2021, with no interest.

The new scheme will be open until 21 June 2021. Further details can be found here.

Changes to the Construction Industry Scheme Effective April 2021

On November 2020, the government published draft legislation making changed to the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) to ensure that rules apply fairly to everyone who is liable and HMRC can act quickly when rules are being broken.

You can read more about these changes here. You can also get in touch with us if you have any questions.

£20 Million SME Brexit Support Fund Launched

A £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund has been announced to help businesses adjust to new customs, rules of origin, and VAT rules when trading with the EU.

Traders will be able to apply for a grant of up to £2,000 to pay for practical support for importing and exporting. This fund will help businesses prepare for the implementation of import controls that will take effect from April and July.

More details can be found here.

Ongoing COVID-19 Business Support From the Government

After almost a year of lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, many firms in the UK are still in need of business support to stay afloat. Below is a comprehensive list of government support programmes that are available to your small business.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

Deadline: 31 March 2021

  • Loans of between £2,000 and £50,000, up to 25% of turnover
  • The government guarantees 100% of the loan with no fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year
  • You can now apply for a top-up if you initially didn’t borrow the full amount available

More information can be found here.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

Deadline: 31 March 2021

  • Offers access to loans of up to £5m
  • 80% of the loan is guaranteed by the government.
  • Government pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months
  • Available for businesses with annual turnover of up to £45m

More information can be found here.

Business Rates Holiday

Deadline: 6 April 2021

Businesses in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-2021 tax year.

More information can be found here.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Deadline: 30 April 2021

  • 80% of employees’ monthly salary covered for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500
  • Employers will have flexibility to use the scheme for employees for any amount of time or shift pattern, furloughing employees on either a full-time or part-time basis
  • No employer contribution for hours not worked, employers only have to cover National Insurance and employer pension contributions

More information can be found here.

New Deadlines for Job Retention Scheme Claims
Use this list of monthly deadlines to help you submit before it’s too late.

15 February 2021– Final date to submit claims for January 2021 by 11:59pm
15 March 2021– Final date to submit claims for February 2021 by 11:59pm
14 April 2021– Final date to submit claims for March 2021 by 11:59pm
14 May 2021– Final date to submit claims for April 2021 by 11:59pm

Corporation tax filing extension

Deadline: Apply for the extension before your normal filing deadline

You can apply for a three-month corporation tax extension to the deadline of filing your accounts, as long as your deadline falls between 27 June 2020 to 5 April 2021.

More information can be found here.

Kickstart Scheme grant

Deadline: Not specified

  • Provides funding to create new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit
  • Covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage) for 25 hours a week for a total of six months
  • Also covers National Insurance contributions
  • Employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of December 2021

More information can be found here.

Self-employed Income Support Scheme

Deadline: Fourth round yet to be announced

  • The fourth round of SEISS which will cover February-April 2021 is yet to be announced
  • The third round was calculated at 80% of three months’ average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500

More information can be found here.

Statutory Sick Pay refund

Deadline: Not specified

  • Companies with fewer than 250 employees can apply for a full refund for staff who take statutory sick leave due to Covid-19
  • You must set up PAYE in your business by 28 February 2020

More information can be found here.

Top-up grant for retail, hospitality and leisure

Deadline: Not specified

  • A one-off top-up grant has been allocated for the struggling retail, hospitality, and leisure industries
  • The grant is available to rateable businesses:
    – Small businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 and under will receive £4,000
    – Medium businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 will get £6,000

More information can be found here.

Flick us a message if you need our expert assistance on your applications and so we can help you evaluate your options.

Xero Launches Xero Verify

Xero has launched its own authentication app, Xero Verify, to give small businesses world-class data protection. The new app makes it easy for users to set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) on their Xero accounts.

It eliminates the need for codes and sends push notifications to your device for a fast and easy way to authenticate your login.

How it works

When you log in, Xero Verify will send a pop-up message to your phone. All you have to do is to open the notification and tap once to authenticate.

If you lose your device where the authenticator app is installed, you just need to turn off MFA, change your password, and then set up MFA on your new device.

How to Set Up MFA With Xero Verify

Follow these steps to set up MFA with Xero Verify on your device.

Get in touch

Contact us if you have any questions or want to discuss the next steps for your business.

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