Support and Advice for Business
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Announced by the Chancellor on Friday 20 March, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be available to all employers who will be able to apply to HMRC for a grant to cover 80% of the wages of retained workers who are furloughed (i.e. given a leave of absence from work) because of the COVID-19 outbreak and are kept on the payroll rather than being laid off. The scheme will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and automatically includes Northern Ireland. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be open initially for 3 months but the Chancellor has said that it will be extended if needed. HMRC are currently working on the implementation of this scheme and guidance is due soon. The aim is that the first grants will be paid within weeks and before the end of April.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
This scheme will be provided by the British Business Bank through participating providers including Danske, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, and will offer more attractive terms for both businesses applying for new facilities and lenders, with the aim of supporting the continued provision of finance to UK businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak. The scheme will provide the lender with a government-backed guarantee against the outstanding facility balance. The Government will also cover the first 12 months of interest payments, so businesses will benefit from lower initial repayments. The business remains liable for repayments of the capital. The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme will be £5 million. More information can be found at
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
The Chancellor announced a Self-Employed Income Support Scheme on Thursday 26 March. This scheme will pay self-employed people a direct cash grant of 80% of their average profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 a month for those with average profits of £50,000 or less. The income scheme will cover the three months to May with grants paid in a single lump sum instalment covering all 3 months and will start to be paid at the beginning of June. More information about this scheme can be found on the following link – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-gives-support-to-millions-of-self-employed-individuals .
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
Due to changes which the Government have passed through Parliament, employers with fewer than 250 employees are now able to reclaim up to 2 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) per employee for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020. The mechanism for reclaiming SSP is not yet in place.
VAT payments for the next quarter (i.e. the period from 20 March to 30 June 2020) will be deferred. Taxpayers will have until the end of the tax year 2020/21 to pay any VAT liabilities that accumulate over the deferral period
As a result of the announcement by the Finance Minister Conor Murphy MLA on Tuesday 17 March ( https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/news/covid-19-ps100m-emergency-rates-package-businesses ), all businesses in Northern Ireland will not pay any rates for the first three months of this year, saving businesses a total of £100 million. The Minister has said that as part of the Executive’s budget, he will bring proposals forward for a reduction in the regional business rate that will also benefit all businesses.
On Wednesday 18 March, the NI Executive announced that they would be introducing a grant scheme for some businesses. This will have two elements:
- A £10,000 for all businesses who are eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme (i.e. all businesses with a Rateable Net Annual Value (NAV) up to £15,000); and
- A grant of £25,000 to companies in the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors with a NAV between £15,000 and £51,000.
Businesses are now able to register online to receive the £10,000 Small Business Grants. To ensure that your business gets the grant it is entitled to, please go to the following Department for the Economy webpage and provide the requested details – https://www.covid-19smallbusinessgrants.economy-ni.gov.uk/
HMRC have set up a new helpline to help businesses concerned about paying 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.
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
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 on 0800 0159 559.
2. What Belfast Chamber is doing
We are working closely with other Chambers of Commerce and business organisations from across Northern Ireland to press the Executive to support local businesses to help them cope with the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Belfast Chamber welcomes unprecedented move to save jobs and incomes
- Local Chambers of Commerce discuss COVID-19 pandemic impact with Economy Minister
- COVID-19 Member Update – Government Loans Scheme
- Belfast Chamber welcomes Grants Scheme to help businesses deal with COVID-19 outbreak COVID-19: Member Update regarding Rates
- Statement from Belfast Chamber regarding financial package
- Joint Letter to First Minister and Deputy First Minister regarding COVID-19 Support for Businesses
- Belfast Chamber Calls for Budget Support to Overcome Coronavirus Impact on Economy
- COVID-19 Member Update – Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
3. Member to Member Support