March 27 coronavirus update for businesses

Chancellor announces support for self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled the financial aid to be made available to support self-employed workers during the coronavirus pandemic. He said it was a comparable deal to that offered to employed workers.

A majority of the self-employed workforce will be entitled to claim 80 per cent of their profits - working on an average of their last three trading years - capped at £2,500 per month. The chancellor has also given those who haven't yet filed their most recent tax return an additional four weeks, which will ensure the calculations are up-to-date. It is hoped the system will be in place, and individuals able to submit claims, by June.

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:  "The chancellor’s announcement offers a lifeline to the vast majority of the UK’s five million self-employed people, many of whom have seen their livelihoods vanish overnight.

"Chambers, along with other business groups, have worked constructively with government to ensure the self-employed receive similar support to those who are employed through PAYE. We welcome the scale of this scheme and recognise the complexities involved in its design. It is now critical that the government delivers this practical support to people on the ground as soon as possible."

However, Oliver McCann of regional law firm Napthens, was more cautious with his reception. He said: "Check out the rules and the details, especially if you have only set up your business this year. The precise application of the eligibility criteria isn’t clear for these self-employed people who may not have submitted an income tax return for 2019 because they have only just created their company.

"The chancellor is saying he will give more time for those who haven’t completed a tax return for last year but I would recommend that they check if they do qualify and what they need to do quickly.

"Some individuals who run their own business but through a limited company may also be caught between this scheme and the job retention scheme announced for employees last week on the basis that typically these individuals take their earnings as employed income up to the tax free personal allowance and the rest as dividends. They will need to check the rules which may take a week or so to be communicated, similar to the period of time to do so for the job retention scheme.

"Many of these people will be caught in their own specific circumstances so they need to get advice quickly and refer to the terms of this scheme. They should also remember that they have already had a deferral of income tax for the rest of this year so that will help with cashflow."

Lancashire events cancelled and postponed

The North Lancashire Expo has been postponed. The two-day event was scheduled to take place in September and attract 2,500 visitors.

Vicky Lofthouse, chief executive of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce which organises the event, said: "We are devoting our efforts into providing support to all our member businesses, small and large, through these difficult times. We are still here, even though we will be working remotely. Our members can ring us at any time for a chat about any challenges they are facing or just for moral support.

"We continue to provide support and information on issues such as HR, employment law and health and safety, all steps that can mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers. This package of advice is available to all Chamber members as part of their membership. Meanwhile we encourage our members to use each other’s services even more during these unprecedented circumstances."

Meanwhile, the Business Network is now running its next seminar online, as is Boost's #AskForHelp service. Lovelocalexpo has moved its annual event to July 8 and the Lancashire Business Expo will now take place on September 4.

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