Help and advice for self employed people during the Covid-19 crisis

Hello fellow self employed friend! I’ve put this page together to share all of my learnings as I try to navigate and make sense of the support available for self employed people during the Covid19 crisis. I am a self employed photographer and this advice does not replace advice you may have received from a Government source.

As it stands on Saturday 28th March, there is now a support package in place to help self employed people.

If you are a self employed and a sole trader – you can access:

Self Employment Income Support Scheme. The scheme will provide you with a taxable grant to pay you 80% of your profits per month (up to a limit of £2500). Key points to note:

  • You need to have made more than half of your income from self-employment to qualify.
  • You need to have made LESS THAN £50,000 in profit in a tax year to receive the help.
  • You need to have lost profits due Covid-19
  • You need to have submitted your tax return for 2018/19 – if you haven’t already done this you will now have another 4 weeks to submit. If you need help with your tax return I can recommend the accountant Wood Street Books. 
  • You need to be self employed and continuing to be self employed for the duration of the scheme.
  • The scheme will not be available until June 2020 at the earliest.

If you meet this qualification criteria you will be contacted by HMRC. They will pay 3 months worth of the grant to you in one lump sum directly in to your bank account.

You can find out more details about the scheme here.

Statutory Sick Pay – If you do not qualify for the Self Employment Support Scheme (i.e. you became self employed in the last 12 months) you can claim the equivalent of statutory sick pay to cover your lost income by having to self isolate. This is £94 per week and is claimed through the Universal Credit application pathway. You do not have to be unwell to claim this and there is no minimum income floor, you can start now.

Click here to start your claim

NB This is a means tested support and it will take your partners salary in to consideration.

If you are self employed and the director of a Limited Company

You are not eligible for the Self Employment Support Scheme, however you can access the following support:

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – It has now been clarified that company directors can access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. If you take up this scheme you will need to be what is referred to as ‘furloughed’. This means that you are employed by the company but not working for the company.

Your business will receive a grant to pay yourself 80% of your PAYE monthly wage. You will only receive support on the PAYE salary from the business and not the dividends.

Once you are furloughed, technically you cannot work on your business, other than performing your statutory duties as a company director. Click here to find out what they are.

HMRC are putting together a new web portal to receive the information and will be paying the grants within weeks.

The Small Business Grant Scheme – If your business occupies a property AND you receive the small business rate relief or the rural rate relief, then you will receive a £10,000 grant from the government to maintain your business costs. Your local authority will contact you if you are eligible for the grant. If you run your business from home, then you are not eligible for this grant.

The Business Interruption Loan Scheme – If your business needs a short term cash flow support you may be able to access a government backed loan which will be available to you interest free for 12 months. This will be available on 23rd March. As with all loans – you will have to pay back the money at the end of the loan period.

Your VAT payments – If you are VAT registered your VAT payment for 20th March to 30th June 2020 will automatically be deferred. This is an automatic offer and you do not need to apply for this. Taxpayers will be given until the end of April 2021 to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

Info for all self employed people (whether you are a sole trader or a director)

Your tax payments – You can now defer your payment on account (and also any outstanding tax liabilities) from July 2020 to January 2021. This is an automatic offer and you do not need to apply for this.

If you already owe tax for last year, the ‘time to pay’ offer has been increased and you will have more time to pay. You will need to speak to HMRC to arrange this – call them on 0800 0159 559. NB the wait time is very currently long for the call to be answered, so if you aren’t due to pay until July, leave it until next month to call them.

Here is the source information page on the government website.

If you have further information that you do not see here, please email it to me on [email protected] and I will update the page. Let’s pool our knowledge and resources to help each other.

Many people still don’t qualify for government help – this isn’t good enough.

If you are one of those people you need to speak up and tell the government what this crisis is going to do to your business. THE most effective way to have your voice heard is to email your MP.

Find your MPs email address here.

I am currently working on a couple of email templates to cover those folks who are Company Directors and also newly self employed in the last tax year. Leave your email in the box above if you want to be updated when they are available. 

The bank Coconut have also taken up a campaign to help more people get the support they need. Sign up to join that campaign here.

Only when you do this will your voice be heard. Self employed people make up 15% of the UK workforce. Our contributions to the economy are not insignificant and we deserve to be accounted for during this difficult period.

Stay up to date

Trade Unions and Industry Bodies that represent self employed people

These are the organisations who are currently standing up for us and applying pressure to the Government. It’s worth keeping up to date with them, and when you have money again, it’s worth joining one of them (they will also be the people that represent our interests during the Brexit trade negotiation period).

IPSE – The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed – representing and supporting the self employed. These are the folks who have been very active in the media this week to turn up the pressure on the government. Follow them on facebook here. 

FSB – The Federation of Small Business – advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice heard in government. Their mission is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. They have a specific page for advice relating to self employed and small business owners during this time. It’s really good.

NUJ – The National Union of Journalists – The trade union that covers self employed photographers

If you are self employed and not a photographer, you can find a trade union that represents you here.

Charities and Organisations that protect our interests

Step Change – Help and advice to manage debt.

Turn2Us – a national charity helping people when times get tough. They can provide financial support to help people get back on track.

Acorn UK – The community union to protect renters. If you are in rented accommodation and need help dealing with your landlord Acorn can help. You can read about the government advice and protections to private renters here. 

The Labour Party – It goes without saying that the Labour Party is the party that stands for the many and not the few. They have been tireless pressurising the government to strengthen the financial safety net for all of us throughout this crisis. When this crisis is over and we have money again, please consider joining the party to amplify your voice.

In Solidarity, Rowan x

(I am neither of the people below FYI, they are 2019 Labour Party candidate Mark MacDonald and Jeremy Corbyn, I took the picture)