On 26 March 2020, the Chancellor provided details about a scheme to provide grants to individuals who are self-employed or who are members of a partnership; the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
The scheme opened for claims for a first grant on 13 May 2020. The Government announced in May that the SEISS is being extended and that self-employed individuals will be able to claim a second grant in August 2020. Individuals who did not make a claim for the initial grant are still entitled to claim for the second grant provided they meet the eligibility critiera.
We’ve set out guidance below about who’s eligible and how to make a claim.
What is the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme?
It’s a temporary scheme to provide financial grants to self-employed individuals whose income has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes members of partnerships.
Am I eligible?
You will be eligible if you are either self-employed or a member of a partnership and all of the following requirements are met; note that HMRC has developed an online tool you can use to check your eligibility:
- you have traded in the 2019-20 tax year;
- you traded in the 2018-19 tax year and submitted your self-assessment tax return for that year on or before 23 April 2020 (you will not be able to claim if it was submitted after this date);
- you are currently trading (or would be if you hadn’t been impacted by COVID-19);
- you intend to continue trading in the 2020-21 tax year;
- your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus (you will need to confirm this in your application). This could be because you’ve had to stop work because you are shielding, self-isolating, sick or caring for dependants, or because your trade has been affected (eg due to supply chain interruptions, reduced demand or staff unable to work). You can find examples of how this criteria might be met on the Government’s website. Note that to be eligible for the second grant, your business must have been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020 for you to be able to make a claim; and
- at least half your income comes from self-employment, and your self-employed trading profits are no more than £50,000.
HMRC will look at your 2018-2019 tax return to work out your eligibility. If you’re not eligible based on that return, it will instead look at your average trading profits in the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 tax years.
Any tax returns submitted after 23 April 2020 will not be taken account of. Equally, if you amended your submitted tax returns after 6pm on 26 March 2020, those amendments will not be taken into account for the purposes of determining your eligibility for the scheme or the amount of any grant you receive.
For members of partnerships, HMRC will work out eligibility based on an individual’s share of the partnership trading profits. Full details about partnership eligibility are beyond the scope of this article.
Note that if you only started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will look at your continuous periods of self-employment and use your self-assessment tax returns for those years only (eg 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, or 2018-2019 only). If you were self-employed in 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, but not in 2017-2018, HMRC will only use your 2018-2019 tax return.
The Government has confirmed that payments under the scheme will not count as ‘access to public funds’ so you are not prevented from claiming the grant if you are on a work visa.
Will a period of parental leave affect my eligibility?
If, since 6 April 2019, you have taken a break from your trade to take a period of parental leave, HMRC will treat you as still trading and this will not affect your eligibility for the scheme, provided all of the other criteria are met.
Equally, claims for Maternity Allowance will not affect your eligibility for the scheme.
Note that if having a new child meant that you did not submit a 2018-2019 tax return or affected your reported trading profits or income for that year, you may still be able to make a claim provided you submitted a self-assessment tax return for the 2017-2018 tax year. For further information about this, see the Government’s guidance.
How do I apply for the scheme?
HMRC began contacting eligible individuals directly from 4 May 2020 to invite them to make a claim for the first grant using its online portal. The portal opened for claims for the first grant on 13 May 2020 and eligible individuals will have been given a specific date between 13-18 May from which they will be able to claim. HMRC will use data from an individual’s self-assessment tax returns to determine eligibility (see above for the eligibility criteria). Claims for the first grant must be made on or before 13 July 2020.
You can use HMRC’s online tool to assess your eligibility and check the date from which you can make a claim. You may be able to make your claim immediately. Note that if HMRC tells you that you’re not eligible to make a claim, you can ask it to review this decision after you’ve used the online tool.
If you are unable to claim online, HMRC will make an alternative application available.
The Government has confirmed that eligible individuals will be able to make a claim under the scheme for a second grant from 17 August 2020 provided their business was adversely affected by coronavirus on or after 14 July 2020.
What information do I need to make my claim?
If you are invited to make a claim, you will need the following information:
- Self-Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number;
- National Insurance number;
- Government Gateway user ID and password; and
- Your bank account details (this must be an account which can accept a Bacs payment).
If you do not have any of this information, see HMRC’s guidance to find out how to get hold of it.
You will also need to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by the pandemic.
I’m eligible for the scheme, how much money will I get?
If you’re eligible for the first grant, you’ll get a grant from the Government equivalent to 80% of your trading profits, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, to cover 3 months. This means that the maximum you could receive is £7,500.
If you’re eligible for the second (and final) grant, you’ll get a grant from the Government equivalent to 70% of your trading profits, up to a cap of £2,190 per month, to cover 3 months. This means that the maximum you could receive is £6,570.
Your trading profits will be calculated as an average of your profits over the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 tax years. Note that if you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will use those years for which you were continuously self-employed and have filed a self-assessment tax return (by 23 April 2020) to make its calculation. Bear in mind that if you amended your submitted tax returns after 6pm on 26 March 2020, those amendments will not be taken into account for the purposes of determining your eligibility for the scheme or the amount of any grant you receive.
HMRC will then calculate 80% (for the first grant) or 70% (for the second grant) of that average trading profit and divide it by 12 to get to the monthly figure. If that monthly figure is greater than £2,500 (for the first grant) or £2,190 (for the second grant) then the monthly grant payment will be capped at £2,500 or £2,190 respectively.
Are the grants subject to income tax and National Insurance?
Yes. The grants will be subject to income tax and self-employed national insurance in the usual way.
How will I be paid?
The Government will pay each grant in one instalment (to cover 3 months) directly into your bank account.
When will I get paid?
In respect of the first grant, the Government has said that you will be told immediately upon submitting your claim whether your grant is approved, following which the grant will be paid by 25 May 2020 or within 6 working days of completing your claim.
We are awaiting further guidance about payment of the second grant.
Will I need to repay the grants?
Can I still work if I receive a grant under the scheme?
Yes. The Government guidance confirms that individuals who receive a grant under the scheme can continue to work and/or take on other employed work, including volunteering.
What records do I need to keep?
You should keep records of your claim, including the amount you have claimed, your claim reference number and evidence that your business has been adversely affected by the pandemic.
Remember that any grant money that you receive is subject to income tax and national insurance, and you will therefore need to report it on your self-assessment tax return.
What do I need to do now?
You do not need to do anything now, HMRC will contact you directly with the date you can make your claim. If you have not heard from HMRC, you can use its online tool to check your eligibility for the scheme. Note that claims for the first grant must be made on or before 13 July 2020.
If you require financial assistance in the meantime, use our eligibility checker tool for details about other schemes and to to find out what you’re eligible for. Specifically, the Government has said that the self-employed will be able to access increased amounts of Universal Credit, but bear in mind that any grant money you receive under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme will be treated as part of your income for the purposes of your Universal Credit assessment.
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