COVID-19 measures for Businesses in N.I. Summary Guidance:

A package of measures to help protect public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19 has been created in N.I.

This note provides a summary of what these are, with links to the relevant official pages/updates.

1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS):

Unfortunately, as at the time of writing, there is still limited information available on the specific details of the scheme.

The broad announcement is that businesses will receive government grants worth up to 80% of wages to keep workers in jobs. The grant will pay up to £2,500 per worker each month. The employer will continue to pay the (reduced) wage and reclaim as a grant from HMRC. See link: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme .

2. The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS):

The scheme will be delivered though the British Business Bank and the loans made available by the participating lenders listed on their website.

It is intended to provide loans of up to £5m, with no interest due for 12 months.

In broad terms, the scheme provides the lender with a government-backed guarantee potentially enabling a ‘no’ credit decision from a lender to become a ‘yes’.

The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt. See links: the Business Interruption Loan Scheme and British Business Bank.

3. Northern Ireland Executive grant support for businesses

Businesses in Northern Ireland can access the following grant schemes which will be administered by Department for the Economy (DfE) and Invest NI (InvestNI) working with the Department of Finance (DoF’s) Land and Property Services:

3.1. COVID Small Business Grant

Small business grant of £10,000 to be issued immediately to all small businesses who are eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (i.e. with a NAV up to £15,000)

3.2. Hospitality, Tourism and Retail Sectors Grant

An immediate grant of £25,000 will be provided to companies in these sectors with a rateable value up to £51,000.

The ratings system will be used as the mechanism to identify eligible businesses in NI and last year’s rating list will be the basis for payment.

Payments will be made directly into the bank accounts of eligible businesses. Bank details are held for just over 9,000 of small businesses who qualify. Payment can be expedited to those companies and an online web portal will be set up this week for the remaining eligible businesses to register their details.

The immediate focus has been on putting in place a system for issuing the £10,000 grant and additional processes are underway for the £25,000 grant for the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors.

Official updates, when they are available on the grant scheme, will be made on the NI Business Info page at this link: Information on these schemes will be made available at NI Business Info.

Invest NI have provided practical advice for business online here

4. VAT Support Scheme

Basically, no business will pay any Valued Added Tax (VAT) for the next three months.

Businesses who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank – and do so in sufficient time so that HMRC do not attempt to automatically collect on receipt of your VAT return

The deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

All UK businesses are eligible and will not need to make a VAT payment during this period.

This is an automatic scheme with no applications required.

Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period.

VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

See link: VAT payments for the next quarter will be deferred

5. Rates Scheme NI

All NI businesses will pay zero rates for the next three months (April, May, June).

This applies to all businesses and does not need to be repaid.

LPS are also deferring the issuing of rates bill from April until June to help businesses with short-term cash flow.

6. Sick Pay Support Scheme

This scheme allows small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • the refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note

from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website

· eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force

· the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

See link: Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

Business support helplines

HMRC tax helpline HMRC has set up a helpline for businesses and self-employed people who are concerned about paying their tax due to COVID-19. Call 0800 0159 559 for help and advice.

Invest NI helpline Get help with your business online, or by calling the Invest NI Helpline. Telephone: 0800 181 4422

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