Weekly Digest – 3 March 2021

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

More than 20 Million Gets First Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine

Official data showed 20.09 million people across the UK have now received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, almost 800,000 have received their second dose.

The UK has suffered the highest death toll in Europe, but the pace of the vaccination rollout has raised the prospect of a gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions between now and the end of June.

Free Rapid Testing for Students’ Families

As schools are set to reopen from 8 March 2021, free COVID-19 rapid tests will be offered to the families of all students across England. They will also be available to adults who work with schools, such as bus drivers and after-school club leaders.

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.

Things to Watch Out for From the Budget Speech

Rishi Sunak is scheduled to lay out the UK government’s tax and spending plans on Wednesday. Here are some of the key points to look out for, according to this BBC article:

Support for Jobs and Workers

As unemployment hovers at five-year high and 4 million workers are on furlough, the chancellor said he’s preparing a Budget that supports people.

The extension of the furlough support scheme until the end of September is set to be announced, with employers expected to contribute 10%, increasing to 20% in August and September.

Until the furlough scheme ends, employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked. He’s also tipped to extend a £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit for six months.

Will Business Rates be Cut?

Sunak may have promised grants of up to £18,000 to get businesses back on track, but the more important question is what he’ll do about business rates.

Reports suggest that he will extend business rates holiday beyond its current end date of 31 March and into the summer to support shops.

Will Taxes be Increased?

According to reports, Sunak is likely to announce some tax increases. Some believe he will raise corporation tax from its current level of 19% to 23%– a move that will bring in £12 billion.

There are also rumours that he’ll freeze the personal income tax allowance, netting HMRC about £6 billion.

Vision for a Post-COVID economy

According to the Financial Times, the Chancellor is preparing to announce the locations of special economic zones with low taxes that would help stimulate regional growth.

Stamp Duty Holiday Extension

The stamp duty tax holiday introduced last year is up at the end of March, and reports suggest that Sunak will extend it.

The government mortgage guarantee scheme will also offer 95% mortgages for houses worth up to £600,000.

Ahead of this speech, Sunak has announced an extra £1.6 billion for UK’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout and a £5 billion scheme for High Street shops and hospitality firms in England. These grants will be worth as much as £18,000 per firm.

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.

Digital Payment Options Worth Considering

Digital payment methods are increasingly becoming relevant amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from the safety of contactless transactions, digital payments are undoubtedly more convenient.

Below are some payment methods that you can adopt for your small business:

  • PayPal– One of the most popular platforms for online payment, PayPal supports sending and receiving invoices and recurring transactions. It also offers PayPal Here credit card reader that you can install in your physical store.
  • Payoneer– A digital wallet that supports over 150 currencies, Payoneer is ideal for global transactions because of its low transaction fees and competitive conversion rates.
  • Google Pay– Google Pay is a platform that supports peer-to-peer transactions through mobile and offers an easy checkout process for online shopping. It is available in both iOS and Android, and can also be used via Gmail.
  • Shopify– It covers everything from ecommerce to secure mobile payments and POS systems. Shopify supports Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other popular payment methods.
  • Square– Square is an affordable option perfect for small businesses and startups. You can use it to set up an online store free of charge and sell from there. You can also use it as a store window and redirect customers to your own site. Aside from allowing payments through its mobile app, Square also offers credit card readers for in-person payments.

Get in touch

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

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