In this month’s Enews we consider the opening of the latest SEISS grant to applicants, the launch of the government’s latest loan scheme aimed at supporting COVID-hit businesses and the introduction of state-backed 95% mortgages for first-time buyers.
With guidance on tax relief for home workers, a call for the extension of the Kickstart scheme and pension fraud increases there is a lot to update you on.
Fourth self-employed grant now open for online applications
On 21 April, the online service for applications for the fourth Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant was opened for claims, HMRC confirmed.
All applications must be submitted by the individual self-employed worker and cannot be handled by accountants or tax advisers.
The fourth grant will be 80% of three months’ average trading profits, to be claimed from late April 2021.
Payment will be in a single instalment capped at £7,500 in total and will cover the period 1 February to 30 April 2021. The scheme has been extended to those who filed a 2019/20 self-assessment tax return prior to 3 March 2021.
Claimants must have been impacted by reduced activity, capacity and demand, or have been trading previously and are temporarily unable to do so. All claims must be made on or before 1 June 2021.
There is no requirement for an earlier SEISS grant to have been claimed to be able to claim the fourth grant.
The fifth SEISS grant will cover the period from 1 May to 30 September 2021 and will be available from July.
It will be set at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more.
Alternately, it will be worth 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850 for those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%.
Further details of the fifth grant will be provided in due course.
Internet link: GOV.UK
Recovery Loan Scheme opens to businesses
On 6 April, the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) was introduced to replace the government’s coronavirus lending schemes.
The RLS provides financial support to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme gives lenders a guarantee of 80% on eligible loans between £25,000 and £10 million to give them confidence in continuing to provide finance to UK businesses.
The RLS is open to all businesses, including those who have already received support under the previous COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme although the amount they have borrowed under an existing scheme may in certain circumstances limit the amount they may borrow under RLS.
The RLS is initially available through a number of lenders accredited by the British Business Bank.
Internet link: British Business Bank website
Recent changes to IR35 ‘undermine the self-employed’, says IPSE
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has stated that the recent changes to the rules relating to off-payroll workers, commonly known as IR35, ‘undermine the self-employed at the worst possible time’.
The changes to IR35 took effect on 6 April 2021 and shifted responsibility for making the decision on employment status on each contract away from contractors and personal service companies (PSCs) and on to the client receiving their services. This has already been done in the public sector.
Research carried out by IPSE found that 50% of contractors planned to stop contracting in the UK once the changes took effect unless they could secure contracts unaffected by them. 24% are planning to seek contracts abroad; 12% plan to stop working altogether; 17% will seek an employed role; and 11% are looking to retire within the next year.
Additionally, 24% of contractors said their clients are planning to blanket-assess all their contractors as ‘inside IR35’.
Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, said:
‘The changes to IR35 would do serious harm to the self-employed sector at the best of times, but now they are adding drastic, unnecessary damage to the financial carnage of the pandemic – undermining the UK’s contractors at the worst possible time.
‘The crucial problem with IR35 is still its complexity: in fact, it is so complex that HMRC has lost the majority of tribunals on its own legislation. And there remains serious doubts about the CEST tool HMRC designed to supposedly cut through this complexity.’
Internet link: IPSE website
CBI calls for extension of Kickstart Scheme as jobs market remains subdued
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to extend the Kickstart Scheme to help young people who are bearing the brunt of the subdued job market.
The Kickstart Scheme was launched in September and promised to pay the wages and associated employment costs for businesses taking on 16 to 24-year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit up to six-month contract periods.
The UK unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the three months to February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, 56,000 workers were cut from company payrolls in March, which represents the first monthly drop since last November.
Around 813,000 workers have been cut from company payrolls in the last 12 months as the pandemic adversely affected the jobs market. The ONS said young people continued to bear the brunt of the crisis amid job losses in sectors such as hospitality and retail.
People under 25 accounted for more than half of the jobs lost in the year to March, it added.
Matthew Percival, Director of People and Skills at the CBI, said:
‘Evidence continues to mount that it is young people’s jobs that have been hardest hit by lockdowns. Support for jobs and training will be vital to making the UK’s economic recovery inclusive.
‘Government should confirm that the extra lockdown at the beginning of the year means that the Kickstart Scheme will remain open for longer to allow businesses the time to deliver opportunities for young people.’
Internet link: CBI website
New 95% mortgage scheme launched
On 19 April, a government-backed mortgage scheme to help people with 5% deposits get on to the housing ladder was made available to lenders.
First announced at the 2021 Budget, the scheme will help first-time buyers or current homeowners secure a mortgage with just a 5% deposit to buy a house worth up to £600,000. The government says this will provide ‘an affordable route to homeownership for aspiring homeowners’.
The government will offer lenders the guarantee they need to provide mortgages that cover the other 95%, subject to the usual affordability checks.
The scheme is now available from lenders on high streets across the country, with Lloyds, Santander, Barclays, HSBC and NatWest having launched mortgages under the scheme and Virgin Money following shortly.
Miguel Sard, Managing Director of Home Buying and Ownership at NatWest, said:
‘We welcome the government’s new mortgage guarantee scheme to give further support to those with smaller deposits. For those customers, particularly younger or first-time buyers, saving up for a big deposit can often be difficult, and we know people in these groups are some of the hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic.
‘A government-backed scheme will help segments of the market for whom homeownership has felt far out of reach in recent months.’
Internet link: GOV.UK
New claims required for home working tax relief
Employees who are working from home will need to make new claims for tax relief for the 2021/22 tax year, HMRC has stated.
From 6 April 2020, employers have been able to pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home.
Employees who have not received the working from home expenses payment direct from their employer can apply to receive the tax relief from HMRC.
HMRC has also confirmed that the £6 per week payment is available in full, even if an employee splits their time between home and the office.
The allowance is to cover tax-deductible additional costs that employees who are required to work from home have incurred, such as heating and lighting the workroom, and business telephone calls.
Last year an online portal was launched that allows employees to claim tax relief for working at home. The portal was set up to process tax relief on additional expenses for employed workers who have been told to work from home by their employer during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Internet link: GOV.UK
HMRC sets out penalty regime for SEISS abuse
The fourth Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant is now live and HMRC has set out the penalties for abuse of the scheme.
An overclaimed SEISS grant includes any amount of grant which the self-employed individual was not entitled to receive or was more than the amount HMRC said the applicant was entitled to when the claim was made.
Overpayments must be notified to HMRC within 90 days of receipt of an SEISS grant.
When deciding the amount of any penalty, HMRC will take account whether the taxpayer knew they were entitled to the SEISS grant when they received it and when it became repayable or chargeable to tax because the individual’s circumstances changed.
The HMRC guidance states: ‘If you knew you were not entitled to your grant and did not tell us in the notification period, the law treats your failure as deliberate and concealed. This means we can charge a penalty of up to 100% on the amount of the SEISS grant that you were not entitled to receive or keep.
‘If you did not know you were not entitled to your grant when you received it, we will only charge you a penalty if you have not repaid the grant by 31 January 2022.’
If you would like further advice or require a compliance review on your eligibility, please contact us.
Internet link: GOV.UK publications
Pension fraud increased to £1.8 million in first quarter of 2021
Losses from pension fraud rose to £1.8 million in the first three months of this year, according to figures from Action Fraud.
107 reports of pension fraud were made in the first quarter of 2021, an increase of almost 45% when compared to the same period in 2020.
Pension scams often include free pension reviews, ‘too good to be true’ investment opportunities and offers to help release money from your pension, even for under 55s, which is not permitted under the pension freedom rules.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:
‘Criminals are malicious and unapologetic when it comes to committing pension fraud. They are motivated by their own financial gain and lack any kind of empathy for their victims, who can often lose their whole life savings to these scams.
‘We know pension fraud can have a devastating impact, both financially and emotionally, but any one of us can fall victim to a fraud and it’s nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It’s incredibly important that instances of pension fraud and attempted scams are reported to Action Fraud.
‘Every report helps police get that bit closer to the people committing these awful crimes. Reporting to Action Fraud also allows our specialist victim support advocates to provide people with important protection advice and signpost them to local support services.’
Internet link: Action Fraud website