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.
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
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
What is it: Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers can access grants to continue paying part of their employees’ salaries. The scheme has recently been extended until 30 April 2021. Employers can claim 80% of an employee’s usual salary up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
On 5 November 2020, the Government released the third iteration of the CJRS. Key changes to this version of the scheme were:
- Extension of the scheme to 30 April 2021;
- Removal of tapering to 70% of an employee’s salary;
- Employees required to be on the payroll before 30 October 2020 to be eligible (this opens the scheme up to a group of employees who would not have been eligible previously); and
There is no requirement for either employers or their employees to have availed of the scheme previously to be eligible
Flexible Furlough: Previous guidance outlined that furloughed employees should not undertake work for employers while they are furloughed. Revised flexibility measures mean that from 1 July 2020, furloughed workers are permitted to work part time for their employers.
Employers can choose the hours/shift patterns these employees work and will be responsible for paying the employees for the number of hours worked. The government will ‘top up’ salaries as required to ensure employees continue to receive 80% of their salary up to £2,500 per month.
The period claimed under flexible furlough must be a minimum of 7 calendar days. Employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once.
Employer contributions: From 1 August 2020, the Government contribution no longer covers an employer’s NIC and pension contributions and employers must cover this element of the cost.
For what period: The scheme is due to close on 30 April 2021.
Who is eligible: Changes to eligibility criteria announced by the Government on 5 November 2020 mean that more employees will now be eligible than would have been under the original CJRS Scheme.
To be eligible for both full furlough and flexible furlough, employees must have been on their employer’s payroll on 30 October 2020, meaning that the employer must have made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC notifying a payment of earnings for that employee. Employees do not need to have been furloughed previously.
All employers with a UK, Isle of Man or Channel Island bank account and UK PAYE schemes can claim the grant.
How to access: Full guidance in respect of the application process is provided on Gov.uk. Claims must be submitted online by 11.59pm 14 calendar days after the end of the month you are
claiming for (or the next working day where this falls on a weekend or bank holiday).
HMRC have outlined that claims will be checked with payments withheld or repayment required if dishonest or inaccurate information is provided. Employers are advised to ensure payroll systems and personnel files are maintained for a minimum of 5 years.
For more information: Click Here
Job Retention Bonus
What is it: Payments under the Job Retention Bonus Scheme were expected in February 2021, however this payment date was withdrawn by the Government on 5 November 2020, following the extension of the CJRS.
An announcement in relation to revised dates for this scheme is expected in late January 2021.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - Additional Grants
What is it: The UK Government announced a package of support to protect the jobs of self-employed workers across the UK.
Two SEISS grants have been issued to date and applications for these two initial grants have now closed. However, on 5 November 2020, the Government announced an extension in the form of an additional two grants, each available for three-month periods covering November 2020 to January 2021 and February 2021 to April 2021. The first of these additional SEISS grants will comprise a taxable lump sum calculated at 80% of 3 months average trading profits, capped at £7,500 in total. Details of the second additional grant (i.e. covering February 2021 to April 2021) will be announced in due course.
Recipients of the Income Support Grant Scheme can continue their normal trading activity or take on other employment including voluntary work & retain their entitlement to the grant.
Who is eligible: To be eligible for this extended support self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, must:
- Have been previously eligible for the SEISS first and second grant (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants);
- Declare that they intend to continue to trade and either:
- are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus; or
- were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to Coronavirus.
To have been eligible for the initial two grants (and therefore eligible for the extended grants), individuals and members of partnerships must have met the following criteria:
- Trading profits of less than £50,000 in 2018/19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 tax years;
- Using the individual’s tax returns, HMRC will calculate their trading profits by taking turnover less any allowable business expenses and capital expenditure (e.g. capital allowances, flat rate expenses, qualifying care relief and business expenses deducted through the trading allowance). HMRC will not deduct any losses carried forward from earlier years from your trading profits;
- More than half of their income in these periods must come from self-employment;
- They must have traded in the 2019/20 tax year, are continuing to trade when they apply for the scheme (or would be except for COVID-19), intend to continue to trade in the 2020/21 tax year and they have lost trading profits due to COVID-19; and
- They must have submitted an Income Self-Assessment Tax Return for 2018/19 tax year.
Individuals who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by this scheme.
How to access: Eligible individuals can claim the third SEISS grant online from 30 November 2020 using their Government Gateway login. Application dates for the fourth SEISS grant will be announced in due course.
For more information click here.
Newly Self-Employed Support Scheme
What is it: The NSESS is aimed at supporting newly self-employed individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19. The scheme opened on 3 December 2020 and, as announced in January 2021, the application window has been extended to 5 February 2021 to allow applicants the opportunity to include evidence from their 2019/20 HMRC tax return.
The NSESS is supported by the NI Department for the Economy and provides financial support to newly self-employed individuals (sole traders and those in partnerships) whose business has been
adversely impacted by COVID-19 and who were not able to access support from the UK Government’s SEISS.
It comprises a one-off taxable grant of £3,500.
Who is eligible: Newly self-employed individuals are eligible if:
- They commenced trading as self-employed between 6 April 2019 and 5 April 2020 and their business has been adversely impacted by COVID-19; and
- Their trading profits for 2019/20 are below £50,000.
Under the original criteria, at least 50% of the individual’s income must have been from self-employment however this has since been amended. If the individual can demonstrate that they moved from paid employment to self-employment later in the financial year, then income from previous employment will be disregarded.
How to access: Application for the scheme is via the Invest NI website, which can be accessed here. Applications close on 5 February 2021.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
What is it: A temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank and 23 participating lenders in Northern Ireland, aims to support primarily SMEs to access bank loan and overdraft facilities. On 17 December 2020, the Government announced that the CBILS will be extended until 31 March 2021.
What does it include: The loan scheme will support businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the Government providing lenders with a government-backed guarantee of 80% of each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The Government will not charge fees to businesses or banks. The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.
What does it cover: A wide range of business finance products are supported, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance. The Government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments. Finance terms are up to 6 years for term loans and asset finance facilities. For overdrafts and invoice finance facilities, terms will be up to 3 years. Applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms, extending the number who can benefit. However, the Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge.
Security: Banks will be banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or properties when borrowing up to £250,000. Following a recent update to the terms of the scheme, insufficient security is no longer a condition to access facilities over £250,000.
Who is eligible: To be eligible, businesses must:
- Be UK-based in its business activity;
- Have annual turnover of no more than £45 million per year;
- Have a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, were it not for the current pandemic;
- Self-certify that it has been adversely impacted by COVID-19;
- Not have been classed as a “business in difficulty”, if applying to borrow more than £30,000*.
- Larger firms with a turnover of up to £500m will also be eligible for more help – with state-backed loans of up to £25m available to firms with revenues of between £45m - £500m, who are unable to secure regular commercial financing.
*Note that as of 25 September 2020, there have been changes around the classification of businesses in financial difficulty.
If the business has already received a Bounce Back Loan, they can still apply for the CBILS however will be required to settle the Bounce Back Loan and then extend the CBILS Loan by the same amount.
How to access: The scheme is now available through 23 participating lenders in Northern Ireland.
It is recommended that if you are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to cashflows that you talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them. The scheme is due to close on 31 March 2021.
For more information: Click Here
Bounce Back Loan Scheme
What is it: The Bounce Bank Loan Scheme was announced on 27 April 2020 and is a fast track finance scheme designed to help small and medium sized businesses affected by COVID-19 to apply for loans of up to £50,000. The scheme is open to applications until 31 March 2021.
Businesses who already have a Bounce Back Loan but borrowed less than they were entitled to can top up their existing loan to the maximum amount. Top-up applications are also open until 31 March 2021.
What does it cover: Loans of between £2,000 - £50,000 are available with the Government guaranteeing 100% of the loan. No repayments, fees or interest will be payable during the first 12 months. Interest rates have been fixed at 2.5% with terms of up to 6 years.
Who is eligible: To be eligible, businesses must:
- Be based in the UK;
- Have been adversely affected by COVID-19; and
- Have been established before 1 March 2020.
If the business was classed as a business in difficulty on 31 December 2019, confirmation that it is complying with additional state aid restrictions will be required.
If the business has already received a loan under the CBILS, it can transfer the balance into a Bounce Back Loan.
How to access: The scheme is delivered through a network of accredited lenders with the loans easy to apply for through a short, standardised online application with loans reaching businesses within days.
For further information click here.
Coronavirus: Localised Restrictions Support Scheme
What is it: The Localised Restrictions Support Scheme provides financial support to certain businesses which have been required to close or severely limited their operations under Health Protection Regulations put in place by the NI Executive.
What does it cover: There are three levels of support available for businesses who are eligible and whose application is successful. The level of support is based on the Net Asset Value of the property from which the business operates:
Level of support (£)
£800 per week of restrictions
£1,200 per week of restrictions
£1,600 per week of restrictions
The scheme is designed to support the occupying business in a property, not the landlord or letting agent. Applications must be submitted by an authorised representative for the business which operates the in the premises. If a business occupies more than one eligible premises, they may apply for support in respect of each one; this will require separate online applications for each property.
Eligibility Criteria: Eligibility for the LRSS is linked to Health Protection Regulations published by the Department of Health and is subject to change based on the requirement to close certain sectors periodically in response to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The most up-to-date list of eligible sectors can be accessed here.
How to Access: Applications are to be submitted online via the Department of Finance’s website.
If a business has previously submitted a successful application, and localised restrictions are extended or reinforced, further payments will be issued automatically. There is no need to reapply.
Further information can be accessed by clicking here.
Reduction in VAT Rates for Hospitality & Tourism Sectors
What is it: VAT rates in the hospitality & tourism sector are to be cut from 20% to 5% from 15 July 2020 to 31 March 2021 (note the extension to the original reduction, which was due to end on 12 January 2021).
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;
For what period: 15 July 2020 to 31 March 2021
What is it: Rates holiday for businesses
What does it cover: In Northern Ireland, ALL business ratepayers, excluding public sector and utilities, benefitted from a 4-month rates holiday from April – July 2020. Furthermore, on 31 March 2020, the Finance Minister announced a 12.5% reduction in the regional rate for 2020-21.
Additional measures are available for businesses in specific sectors or circumstances:
12-month rates holiday
Businesses may be eligible for a 12-month rates holiday for the full financial year from 1 April 2020 until 31 March 2021. Businesses in the following sectors may be eligible:
- Hospitality, tourism and leisure;
- Retail services (excluding certain supermarkets and off-licences); and
Hardship Rates Relief
This relief is available for non-domestic ratepayers who have been affected by exceptional circumstances. Its purpose is to provide short-term assistance to businesses that are suffering unexpected hardship to the extent that the viability of the business would be threatened if an award were not made. If An applicant is successful, then an element of rates already paid may be remitted.
How to Access: The 4-month rates holiday was applied automatically and monthly Direct Debit payment plans will be automatically updated to collect payments between July 2020 and March 2021. In contrast, the 12-month rates holiday and Hardship Rates Relief Schemes must be applied for separately. Eligibility is assessed by Land & Property Services. Businesses must apply for both reliefs separately to be considered for both.
For more information: Click Here
HMRC Time to Pay Arrangements
HMRC has a set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
The helpline allows any business or self-employed individual who is concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus to get practical help and advice. Up to 2,000 experienced call handlers are available to support businesses and individuals when needed. If you run a business or are self-employed and are concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for help and advice: 0800 024 1222.
For those who are unable to pay due to coronavirus, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:
- agreeing an instalment arrangement
- suspending debt collection proceedings
- cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately
Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm. The helpline will not be available on Bank Holidays
Self Employed / Individuals Supports
- The minimum income floor for access to Universal Credit has been suspended for self-employed people affected by the economic impact of coronavirus until 30 April 2021.
- Universal Credit standard allowance increasing by £1,040 for the 2021 tax year (6 April 2020 – 5 April 2021).
- Self-assessment income tax payments for the self -employed initially due by 31 July 2020 can be deferred to 31 January 2021.
- Interest rate reduced to 0.1% from March 2020.
Support For Businesses Who Are Paying Sick Pay to Employees
What is it: The Government brought forward legislation to allow employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of an employee’s absence. This will cover up to 2 weeks of SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. Eligibility criteria has been updated to include employees who have been advised by letter to shield because they are clinically vulnerable, or those who have received a self-isolation notification from the Public Health Association due to close contact with a confirmed case.
Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note as alternative means of certification will be considered acceptable in these circumstances. SSP is available in respect of employees earning an average of £118 per week and is payable at a rate of £94.25 a week.
Who is eligible: Businesses must:
- Have already paid for the employee’s sick pay;
- Be small or medium-sized UK based business employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020; and
- Have a PAYE payroll scheme that started before 28 February 2020.
How to Access: Employers can claim back SSP online using their Government Gateway login. Records relating to SSP claims must be kept for a minimum of 3 years.
For more information: Click Here
InterTradeIreland Emergency Business Supports
What is it: InterTradeIreland, the cross-border trade body established under the Good Friday / Belfast Agreements, is offering two supports for businesses to help them respond to the
COVID-19 pandemic. These two supports are the Emerging Business Solutions and the E-Merge Programme.
Under the Emergency Business Solutions Programme, InterTradeIreland provides emergency, fully funded business support to the value of £2,000/€2,250 (including VAT) to ensure businesses can avail of essential support to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In respect of the E-Merge initiative, this programme offers fully funded support to the value of £2,500/€2,800 (including VAT) to help SMEs to develop online sales and ecommerce solutions.
What does it cover: In respect of the Business Solutions Programme, specific areas for consideration include:
- Guidance and direction to relevant Government Supports and help in applying, where feasible;
- Emerging guidance: cashflow/people/supply chain;
- Completion of lending applications for loan supports;
- HR and People related issues (covering employment, contracts, redundancy advice and other legal aspects);
- Helping businesses change production to offer other products or services to mitigate immediate risk; and
- Support in rapidly repositioning business strategy
In respect of the E-Merge Programme, areas of support include:
- E-Marketing- How to promote and sell online;
- Website updates/ design;
- Promotion through social media;
- SEO optimization;
- Identification of sectoral e-markets; and
- Advice on online payment systems/ retail/ billing/ security.
Who is eligible: InterTradeIreland have extended this support with applications invited from SMEs from the manufacturing and tradeable service sector (including the construction sector) registered on the island of Ireland (North or South), no previous involvement with ITI is required. To qualify for support, businesses must trade cross border on the island of Ireland, i.e. have customers or suppliers in the opposite jurisdiction from where they are based; have a satisfactory trading history (min. 18 months & established turnover); have the capacity to deliver the project; and have less than 250 employees and annual turnover of less than £40m
How to access: In respect of Emergency Business Solutions, click here to complete the online application form
In respect of E-Merge Programme, click here to complete the online application form.
Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme (WPBSS)
What is it: The WPBSS is a new support launched by the Department for the Economy. It provides supports to wet pubs whose premises were required to close or cease trading during the period from 4 July 2020 to 23 September 2020.
The scheme opened on 11 January 2021. Eligible businesses will receive a one-off payment that covers the full weeks they were closed during the 12-week period specified.
Who is eligible: The scheme is open to businesses who are ‘wet pubs’. Under the scheme, a wet pub is defined as:
- One which only serves drinks and does not offer food as a main meal; and
- It was required to close during the period between 4 July and 23 September 2020.
Furthermore, the following eligibility criteria will also apply:
- The business is named within the Health Protection Regulations 2020;
- The business is eligible for the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS);
- The business was closed for at least one full week during the specified period;
- Wet pubs with an attached off licence business are also eligible if the wet pub element was closed;
- Businesses must have been actively trading before they were forced to close due to COVID-19 lockdown/restrictions.
- Businesses who operated at a reduced capacity (e.g. serviced takeaway service) will not be eligible.
How to access: There is no requirement to apply for the scheme, the Department for the Economy has worked with Land & Property Services to identify eligible businesses in the ‘wet pubs’ industry. Potentially eligible businesses will be contacted via email and will be supplied with a supplementary information form. It is anticipated that all such emails will be issued by 22 January 2021.
The supplementary form must be completed and returned within 5 days of issue.
Further information, including what to do if you expected to be eligible for the scheme but didn’t receive an email, can be accessed by clicking here.
COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme (CRBSS)
What is it: Invest NI is administering the COVID Restrictions Business Support Scheme (CRBSS) Part A and Part B on behalf of the Department for the Economy. The scheme is in place to compensate businesses who have been forced to close or have been severely impacted as a result of the increased Health Protection Regulations.
The first round of applications for Parts A and B of the scheme initially closed on 16 December 2020. However, Diane Dodds, Minister for the Economy, announced that the scheme was to reopen from 7 January 2021.
CRBSS Part A is aimed at businesses required to close or cease trading under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, but who are not eligible for the Local Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS).
CRBSS Part B is aimed at businesses who have not been forced to close but are part of the supply goods and services (either directly or indirectly) to a business which has been forced to close under the Health Protection Regulations 2020.
What does it cover: Businesses eligible for Part A will receive a grant of up to £600 for each week that the relevant Health Protection Regulations are in place. Part B will be divided into those paying business rates and those who aren’t. For businesses paying rates, the grant will be determined based on the net asset value of the property and will range from £400 - £800 per week. Businesses not paying rates will receive a grant of £300 per week.
Who is eligible:
CRBSS Part A is open to businesses who meet the following criteria:
- The business was named within the Health Protection Regulations 2020 as required to close but is not eligible for the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme;
- The business operates in Northern Ireland and was trading on 16 October 2020; and
- The income lost as a result of the business having to close is the main source of income (i.e. accounts for more than 50% of total income).
CRBSS Part B is open to businesses who meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Must supply goods or services to a business named in the Health Protection Regulations (directly or indirectly);
- Must be dependent on a business named in the Health Protection Regulations being open and fully operational, eg. a business that supplies services to wedding venues would be impacted by these venues being closed due to the restrictions in place.
Businesses who are eligible for the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme will not be eligible for the CRBSS.
How to Access: Businesses who were eligible for the first round of the CRBSS do not need to reapply to the reopened scheme. They will automatically receive an additional payment to cover the extended period of the restrictions while they are required to stay closed.
For new applicants, eligibility can be assessed via Invest NI’s online eligibility questionnaire which can be accessed here for Part A and here for Part B. Once businesses are satisfied that they are eligible, they can also submit their applications via these links.
Applications for both schemes are expected to close on 5 February 2021.
Universities & Regional Colleges - Northern Ireland
What is it: The Department for the Economy is funding over 3,000 places on short courses provided by the local further and higher education providers. Universities and Regional Colleges across Northern Ireland are offering several supports to businesses.
A range of accredited courses are available to include courses in hospitality, customer service, leadership and management.
A tailored delivery plan will be created, implemented and delivered and will enable the company, and its employees, to introduce new skills to their workforce.
Separate to the courses discussed above, Regional Colleges are working with Invest NI as Knowledge Provider Partners as part of the Innovate Voucher Programme. Vouchers of up to £5k are available to SMEs to work with an expert from the College to help the business innovate, develop and grow.
What does it cover: The fund will support organisations highlighted above in meeting their on-going costs to include rent/lease, utility bills, insurances and essential maintenance etc.
Who is eligible: Eligibility for the free short courses differs based on the institution offering the training and the course being applied for. Eligibility can be confirmed by visiting the educational institution’s own website.
To be eligible for the Innovation Vouchers Scheme, applicants must be an NI registered SME and have not been in receipt of R&D grants in the last 5 years.
How to access: For further information on short training courses click here. Prompt application is advised as some courses will commence in early 2021.
For further information on Innovation Vouchers, click here. Applications will reopen from 18 January 2021 to 5 February 2021.
New Apprenticeship Incentive Scheme
What is it: This scheme is open to all employers who support the recruitment of new apprentices.
The employer will be eligible for up to £3,000 for each new apprenticeship opportunity created between 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021. The bonus applies to all new apprenticeship opportunities and includes apprentices who have been made redundant.
- Payment 1: £2,000 after 90 days retention following start of new paid apprenticeship; and
- Payment 2: £1,000 after 200 days retention following start of new paid apprenticeship.
Who is eligible: The scheme is open to employers who take on an apprentice participating in the Department for the Economy funded AppenticeshipsNI or Higher-Level Apprenticeship. The application process will seek to confirm that there has been no displacement of existing apprentices to support recruitment of new apprentices.
How to Access: Further information and the application form can be accessed here.
Limted Company Directors Support Scheme (LCDSS)
What is it: The Limited Company Directors Support Scheme (LCDSS) is designed to provide financial support to company Directors who have personally been adversely impacted by COVID-19.
The LCDSS will provide a one-off taxable grant of £3,500 to eligible
company directors. Whilst applications are permitted for individuals
who hold more than one directorship, only one grant will be issued
Who is eligible: The Director must meet all of the following criteria:
- Resident of NI;
- Must be a Person with Significant Control (PSC) for the company/companies listed in the application;
- Must work in the company/companies named in the application;
- At 31 March 2020, at least 50% of their income must have
come from their director’s remuneration and dividends and
they must have been paid remuneration or dividends
exceeding £4,375 by the company/companies listed in the
- Their projected remuneration and dividends from the company for the 2020/21 financial year must be 40% lower than it would have been in the absence of COVID-19. This should include any furloughed income received; and
- Total taxable income for 200/21 must be less than £50k.
The company in which they are an eligible director must:
- Be currently trading but impacted by COVID-19, or previously trading but temporarily unable to due to COVID-19;
- Be based and operating in NI;
- Have been trading at 1 March 2020; and
- Intend to continue trading.
The scheme is not open to individuals who are eligible for the Newly Self-Employed Support Scheme.
How to Access: Online applications will open on 21 January 2021; an eligibility checker will also be published on this date. These can be accessed here
In addition to the LCDSS and 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
Other Relevant Business Related Supports
COVID-19: R&D Tax Credits repayments HMRC have improved their resourcing so that they can make tax repayments quickly to help the cashflows of businesses struggling in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest sources of tax repayments is claims for R&D tax credits. This applies to all sizes of businesses, small as well as big.
Making Tax Digital extension: HMRC have announced a one-year extension of Making Tax Digital (MTD) to facilitate a VAT soft landing period in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. HMRC are providing all MTD businesses with more time to put in place digital links between all parts of their functional compatible software. This means that all businesses now have until their VAT Return period starting on or after 1 April 2021 to put digital links in place.
Three month extension of filing of accounts: From 25 March 2020, businesses were able to apply for a three-month extension for filing their accounts. On 26 June 2020 the Temporary Modifications in relation to filing requirements were signed into law and came into force on 27 June 2020. The measures introduced by the regulations relieved the burden on businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, allowing them to focus all their efforts on continuing to operate. Private company and LLP filing deadlines that fall any time between 27 June 2020 to 5 April 2021 are extended from 9 to 12 months. PLCs are extended from 6 to 9 months. This is a temporary measure and it will not automatically extend any filing deadlines that fall on 6 April 2021 or later.
Cycle to Work Scheme: The UK Government has been promoting the benefits of the Cycle to Work Scheme, which allows commuters to pay for bikes via salary reductions from pre-tax income.
Holiday pay accruals: The UK Government has announced that all workers will be allowed to carry over up to 4 weeks of unused leave into the next two leave years. In addition, the Government has also confirmed that they will relax the requirement on businesses to ensure that workers take the statutory amount of leave in any one year.
Universal Credit: Help to claim benefits - Changes have been made to Statutory Sick Pay and how Universal Credit supports self-employed claimant. This is to make sure people in work can take the necessary time off to stay at home if they are suffering from coronavirus or to prevent its spread. New claims to Universal Credit can be made online - additional telephone support is available via the Universal Credit Service Centre if you need help with a new claim.
Childcare sector support: Two separate schemes have been established;
- The Childcare Sustainability Fund (CSF) is an £8.5m funding package which aims to assist with additional costs of compliance with Health Regulations imposed by COVID-19. Deadline for applications is 5 February 2021. More Information can be accessed here.
- The Childcare Temporary Closure Support Fund (CTCSF) is designed to provide financial assistance for COVID-19 related closures in the childcare sector between 1 September 2020 and 31 December 2020. Deadline for applications is 5 February 2021. More information can be accessed here.
Commercial Tenants The Government announced an extension to the protection of Commercial tenants from eviction from 30 June 2020 to 31 December 2020 for no payment of rent. This is not a rent holiday.
Working Tax Credit (WTC): The basic element of Working Tax Credit (WTC) has been increased by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021.
Stamp Duty Land Tax: A temporary increase to the Nil Rate Band of Residential Stamp Duty Land Tax (Stamp Duty) came into force at on 9 July 2020. This means that there will be no stamp duty payable on the first £500,000 of all property sales
Applicable from 9 July 2020 – 31 March 2021.
Northern Ireland Fishing Package: DAERA launched a package to help the NI Fishing Fleet cover its fixed costs for 3 months. This was followed by a further allocation of £1.7m announced on 5 October 2020. The package is based on vessel size and the monthly payments to cover the fishing fleet fixed costs. DAERA will inform eligible vessel owners about how to apply for the scheme and provide further details including appeals.
Film & TV Production Restart Scheme (FTPRS): Scheme Aimed at assisting TV shows and films get back into production. Compensation will be provided for additional costs incurred due to COVID-19 restrictions, delayed productions and abandoned productions. Registrations must be submitted by 30 April 2021 and claims must be made by 30 November 2021. For more information click here.
Sport Sustainability Fund (SSF): £25m fund aimed at assisting the sports sector to address the economic consequences of COVID-19. Applications will be accepted from a recognised governing body of sport. Clubs and entities should apply for funding through their relevant governing body. The deadline for applications is 20 January 2021. For more information click here.
FCA updates to COVID-19 repossession guidance: Updates to guidance on mortgages and consumer creditor repossessions during the pandemic have resulted in the easing of some of the FCA’s previous restrictions. Current guidance means that firms should not enforce repossessions before 31 January 2021 unless in exceptional circumstances, however the FCA has proposed extending this guidance to apply until 1 April 2021. Comment from the FCA confirming this is expected in due course.
Job Support Scheme
With the announcment on 5 November about the extension of the Job Retention Scheme until end March 2021, with a review due in January 2021, the Job Support Scheme has been postponed.
What is it:
The Job Support Scheme has been extended to provide financial support to businesses required to close as a result of coronavirus, protecting jobs and enabling businesses to reopen quickly once restrictions are lifted.
What does it cover:
In respect of businesses whose premises are legally required to shut for some period over winter as part of local or national restrictions, grants to pay the wages of staff who cannot work will be made available.
Eligible businesses will be able to claim for two thirds of each employees' salary (or 67 per cent), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.
Employers will not be required to contribute towards wages however will be asked to meet national insurance contributions (NICs) and pension contributions.
Businesses will only be eligible to claim the grant while they are subject to restrictions and employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days.
For what period:
The scheme commences on 1 November 2020 for 6 months.
For more information: Click here.
The Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations
The Stability and Renewal Programme is part of the £29 million Executive allocation that was made to Department for Communities to support the arts, culture, heritage and language sectors which have been severely impacted by Covid-19.
Grants of up to £500,000 will be available to organisations working in the arts and cultural sector to help them respond to the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including help with re-opening, adapting and stabilising their organisations in the long-term
Who can apply?
Constituted organisations/companies whose primary purpose relates to the categories below and which carry out the majority of their work in Northern Ireland.
Arts, cultural and community venues’ main use must be for one of the categories below, and may include arts, cultural and community centres, theatres, galleries, grassroots music venues, comedy venues.
The Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations is open to arts, culture and community organisations whose primary role is to create, present or support one (or more) of these categories:
- Music and Opera
- Traditional Arts
- Visual Arts
- Performing arts and theatre
- Festivals and cultural events
- Participatory Arts
- Cross Art form
- Community Arts
- Creative Industries in the following segments:
- Independent Cinema
- Product Design, Fashion Design, and Graphic Design;
- TV, Video, Photography, Film, and Radio;
How to apply?
You must apply using the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's online system. And will not accept applications in hard copy or by email.
Online applications may be edited, saved, and returned up to the closing date.
The Stability and Renewal Programme for Organisations opened at 2pm on 28th October for online applications and will close on Friday 27 November 2020 at 12noon.
For more information visit the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Website here.
Film and TV Production Restart Scheme
What is it?
The Film and TV Production Restart Scheme helps film and TV shows struggling to get insurance for COVID-related risks to get back into production.
The scheme makes direct compensation available to eligible pre-existing and new productions that incur costs caused by coronavirus-related losses, such as abandonment or filming delays from illnesses amongst the cast and crew.
Eligible productions will receive compensation for costs caused by coronavirus delays up to a value of 20 per cent of the production budget, with abandonment of productions due to coronavirus to be covered up to 70 per cent of the production budget. There will be a total cap of £5 million on claims per production.
Who can apply?
The funding is available to all productions made by companies where at least half of the production budget is spent in the UK.
For more information, read the Film & TV Production Restart Scheme - Scheme Rules and Film & TV Production Restart Scheme - Explanatory Notes.
How to claim?
You must make an applications via the appointed third party administrator, Marsh Commercial.
The deadline for productions to register for the scheme and restart shooting is 28 February 2021. Claims made under the scheme can be backdated to 28 July 2020.
HMRC New Payment Schemes
What is it: New Payment Schemes to support business who deferred their VAT bills or self assessment tax will be introduced.
What does it cover: Businesses due to pay deferred VAT liabilities in March 2021 will be offered the option to make 11 smaller interest-free payments during the 2021-22 financial year.
In addition self-assessment taxpayers can avail of a 12-month extension from HMRC on the “Time to Pay” self-service facility. This means that self assessed tax payments which were deferred from July 2020 and those due in January 2021, will now not need to be paid until January 2022.
Northern Ireland Executive - Additional Financial Supports
In addition to the supports announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the finance minister of the Northern Ireland Executive also announced further supports to include:
- An additional £29m for cultural recovery.
- In excess of £29m to be provided for a range of business interventions including support for the tourism industry and a Holiday at Home voucher scheme as well as investment in skills and youth training and further business support.
- £40m to ensure local councils can continue to provide essential services and support those in need.
- Support for capital projects to include £14.8m for the A6 Flagship and £15m to NI Water to accelerate a number of projects.”
Local Council Rural Business Development Grant Scheme
Local councils across Northern Ireland have announced a new Rural Business Development Grant scheme under the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Programme (TRPSI) which will open for applications on Monday 3 August 2020.
The new programme is designed to support the sustainability and development of micro rural businesses across Northern Ireland by providing a small capital grant. It is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and administered and managed by the 11 Councils across Northern Ireland.
Support For Larger Firms Through The Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility
What is it: This facility will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy.
By purchasing short-term corporate debt – known as commercial paper – the scheme provides a quick and cost-effective way to raise working capital for companies who are fundamentally strong but are experiencing severe disruption to cashflows, helping businesses across a range of sectors to pay wages and suppliers.
This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.
Who is eligible: All non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.
How to apply: The scheme will be available early in week beginning 23 March 2020.
For more information: Click Here
Charities Aid Foundation – Coronavirus Emergency Fund
What is it: In this time of national crisis, Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has launched a rapid response Fund to help smaller charitable organisations affected by the impact of Covid-19. Grants of up to £10,000 will help them to continue to deliver much needed support to communities across the UK.
It is intended as a rapid response fund, and the aim to make payments to selected organisations within 14 days of application.
What does it cover: Unrestricted funding for core costs, staffing, volunteer costs, supplies and equipment, communications or other critical charitable areas. You must be able to describe how an emergency grant will improve the situation for your organisation and community.
Please make only one application. Multiple applications will slow the process down and only one grant is possible for any organisation.
Please remember that this is intended as an emergency fund to enable your charitable activities to continue at the moment in whatever way is needed; it is not designed to replace other lost income in the longer term.
Who is eligible: Smaller Charities. A high number of applicants are anticipated and unfortunately it is likely that CAF will not be able to offer a grant to all eligible applicants.
How to access: Click Here
Clothworkers’ Emergency Capital Programme
What is it: The Clothworkers' Foundation is designating £300,000 to help small and medium charities responding to the COVID 19 outbreak with capital grants of up to £5,000 each.
What does it cover: The Clothworkers’ Emergency Capital Programme (CECP) will award small capital grants of up to £5,000 for essential capital items to adapt or increase services in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Priority will be given to organisations supporting vulnerable and ‘at risk’ groups within specific programme areas during this period.
Who is eligible: Small and medium charities.
How to access: Click Here
UK’s Charity Sector Coronavirus (Covid-19) Support Package
What is it: On the 8th April 2020 UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak MP announced a £750m package of support to the UK Charity Sector to ensure they can continue their vital work during the Coronavirus period. The package is divided into a number of elements:
- £750m pot for frontline charities across the UK – including Hospices and those supporting domestic abuse victims
- £360m direct from Government Departments and £370m for smaller charities, including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF)
- The Government will match donations to National Emergencies Trust as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraiser later this month – pledging a minimum of £20m
Where charitable services are devolved, the UK Government will apply the Barnett Formula in the normal way.
What does it cover: In respect of the UK wide package of £360m direct from Government Departments this would be directly allocated by Government Departments to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the crisis. With respect to the £370m for small and medium sized charities this will support those organisations at the heart of local communities which are making a big difference during the Coronavirus outbreak, including those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice.
Who is eligible: In respect of the £360m package those eligible will include:
- Hospices to help increase capacity and give stability to the sector
- John’s Ambulance to support the National Health Service
- Victims Charities, including domestic abuse, to help with potential increase in demand for charities providing these services
- Vulnerable Children’s charities, so they can continue delivering services on behalf of local authorities
- Citizens Advice to increase the number of staff providing advice during this difficult time
How to access: Government Departments will now work at pace to identify priority recipients, with the aim for charities to receive the money in the coming weeks. Similarly applications for the National Lottery Community Fund grant pot are expected to be operational within a similar period of time.
Stamp Duty Land Tax
What is it: A temporary increase to the Nil Rate Bank of Residential Stamp Duty Land Tax (Stamp Duty) came into force at on 9 July 2020. This means that there will be no stamp duty payable on the first £500,000 of all property sales
For what period: Applicable from 9 July 2020 – 31 March 2021
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.