Since our last update relevant to NI, there has been further clarifications regarding the Small Business Grant Scheme as well as new supports announced for small businesses. It is acknowledged that this is an extremely fluid and changing environment and as a result we will continue to provide further Coronavirus Updates.
The Chancellor has now set out a package of measures to support businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19
Coronavirus (COVID-19) support is available to employers and the self-employed. You may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants, whether your business is open or closed. Further information is coming through in relation to these measures and how to access them and this is being updated on Gov.UK and NI Business Info
Omicron Hospitality Payment
The Omicron Hospitality Payment will provide financial support of £40 million to the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland
Over 3,200 businesses will be eligible for a one-off grant payment under the scheme, subject to regulations. Payment levels will align with the Net Annual Value (NAV) for the relevant business property, as follows:
- £10,000 for businesses that are the primary occupant operating from a property with a Net Annual Value (NAV) up to £15,000; or businesses that are occupied as part of a property
- £15,000 for businesses that are the primary occupant operating from a property with a Net Annual Value (NAV) between £15,001 to £51,000
- £20,000 for businesses that are the primary occupant operating from a property with a Net Annual Value (NAV) over £51,000
Eligible businesses will include:
- Restaurants licensed under Article 5(1)(e) of the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996
- Unlicensed restaurants
- Coffee shops
- Snack bars
- Public houses licensed under Article 5(1)(a) of the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996
- Social clubs and private members clubs (excluding sporting clubhouses)
Land & Property Services (LPS) will contact eligible businesses who received support from the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS) directly during the week commencing 10 January 2022 for confirmation of relevant business information in order to enable payments for the Omicron Hospitality Payment to issue.
Hospitality businesses which did not receive support from the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme who would have been eligible for LRSS based on their current circumstances, will also have the opportunity to apply for support through this payment using an application portal.
Further information about the Omicron Hospitality Payment will be provided on this webpage in due course. Please check back for more details after 10 January 2022.
For more information please visit NIBusinessInfo
Apprenticeship Return, Retain and Result Scheme
What is it: The Apprenticeship Return, Retain & Result Scheme (RRR) provides incentive payments to employers to support the return, retention and result for apprentices.
This scheme is open to employers participating in the Department for the Economy funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes, who return apprentices furloughed via the UK Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to work.
The total amount payable under the scheme will be a maximum of £3,700 per apprentice, distribution as follows:
- Return - £500 per returned furloughed apprentice payable for the first full month of paid apprenticeship between 1 November 2020 and 31 March 2022.
- Retain – maximum of £2,000 available: £500 per month for up to 4 consecutive months of paid apprenticeship following the 'return' month between 1 December 2020 and 31 March 2022.
- Result - £1,200 for successful completion of all apprenticeship components by a returned furloughed apprentice.
Applications for the return element of this scheme closed on 30 November 2021. The retain and result elements may only be claimed by employers who have successfully claimed the return element.
For more information please visit NIBusinessInfo.
Recovery Loan Scheme
What is it: A loan scheme to support access to finance for UK business as they grow and recover from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can apply for a loan if your business:
- is trading in the UK
You need to show that your business:
- would be viable were it not for the pandemic
- has been adversely impacted by the pandemic
- is not in collective insolvency proceedings (unless your business is in the scope of the Northern Ireland Protocol in which case different eligibility rules may apply)
Businesses that received support under the earlier COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes are still eligible to access finance under this scheme if they meet all other eligibility criteria.
Businesses from any sector can apply, except:
- banks, building societies, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
- public-sector bodies
- state-funded primary and secondary schools
What you can get:
- term loans or overdrafts of between £25,001 and £10 million per business
- invoice or asset finance of between £1,000 and £10 million per business
No personal guarantees will be taken on facilities up to £250,000, and a borrower’s principal private residence cannot be taken as security.
Changes from 1 January 2022
At Autumn Budget 2021, the Chancellor announced that the Recovery Loan Scheme would be extended until 30 June 2022.
From 1 January 2022, the following changes will come into force:
- The scheme will only be open to small and medium-sized enterprises
- The maximum amount of finance available will be £2 million per business
- The guarantee coverage that the government will provide to lenders will be reduced to 70%
These changes will apply to all offers made from 1 January 2022.
For more information please visit NIBusinessInfo
New Apprenticeship Incentive Scheme
What is it: This scheme is open to employers who take on an apprentice participating in the Department for the Economy funded ApprenticeshipsNI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes.
As part of the application process, checks will be made to ensure that apprentices on similar pathways have not been displaced to support recruitment if this is found to be the case eligibility may be impacted.
To note – programme eligibility excludes public sector employees.
How to Access: Further information and the application form can be accessed here.
12-month rates holiday
Business rates exemption for the full financial year of 2021-22 for specific sectors hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
Those business sectors that are expected to receive the rates holiday are listed below, subject to inclusion in the final legislation:
- Hospitality - including restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, public houses.
- Tourism - including B&Bs (which pay business rates), guest houses, hotels, privately run caravan & camping sites, self-catering holiday accommodation, tourist attractions and facilities.
- Leisure - including cinemas, theatres, leisure centres and facilities, museums, sports premises, sports grounds and associated sport clubs, clubhouses, and music venues.
- Retail and retail services - shops of all types and sizes (excluding retail premises with retail floor space greater than 500m² Net Internal Area (NIA) and which is wholly or mainly used for the retail sale of food and household goods; and all off-licences). Examples of services include hairdressers, barbers, nail and beauty services, fast food outlets, garden centres, travel agencies, car showrooms, auction houses, and clothing, shoe or electrical goods repairs.
- Childcare - children's day-care and nursery premises.
- Airports - Belfast City Airport, Belfast International Airport and City of Derry Airport.
- Newspapers - premises occupied by local newspaper companies for production purposes.
- Manufacturing - businesses in receipt of Industrial Derating
The relief will be awarded automatically when rate bills issue. There is no need to apply.
Statutory Sick Pay Rebate
If you're an employer, you can use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to claim back employees' coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
This scheme will be reintroduced from mid-January 2022. Further guidance will be available as soon as possible.
For more information please visit NIBusinessInfo.
Support for Businesses Paying Tax
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.
You will be eligible if:
1. Your business pays tax to the UK Government
2. Your business has outstanding tax liabilities
Contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to discuss support available.
HMRC may suggest you pay what you owe in instalments. This is called a Time to Pay arrangement.
How you contact HMRC to make a Time to Pay arrangement depends on what your tax bill is for.
Reduction in VAT Rates for Hospitality & Tourism Sectors
What is it: As announced at budget 2021, the government will be legislating a reduction in VAT rates in the hospitality & tourism sector. Originally cut from 20% to 5% from 15 July 2020 to 30 September 2021, a new VAT rate of 12.5% is currently being applied from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.
What does it cover: The reduced VAT rate will apply to:
- Eat-in or hot takeaway food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, cafes, and pubs;
- Accommodation including hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites; and
- Attractions such as cinemas, theme parks and zoos;
In addition to administering several support schemes on behalf of the Department for the Economy, Invest NI are keen to utilise all of their existing programmes to assist Invest NI clients best respond to COVID-19 and plan for the recovery post-pandemic.
The best initial steps to explore potential supports for Invest NI clients will either be through nibusinessinfo.co.uk or through the business support line at 0800 181 4422. This contact line will then put the business in contact with the appropriate Invest NI Executive. Alternatively, you can visit their website: investni.com
For business support. Visit NI Business Info.
For FAQs see here.
The Federation of small businesses also offers a range of advice for Small businesses and the self employed. Click here for more information.