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Help available for the self-employed during coronavirus crisis
31 Mar 2020
UPDATE: The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has now been extended. To make a claim for the third grant your business must have had a new or continuing impact from coronavirus between 1 November 2020 and 29 January 2021.
 
The self-employed have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus crisis – but Government support is now available. 
Here, FBC Manby Bowdler solicitor Jonathan Moss answers some of your key questions about what help is available to the nation’s five million self-employed.
 
Q: What financial support is now available?
The Government has launched its Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to support self-employed people who have lost income due to coronavirus.
Under the scheme it is possible to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months, with the possibility that this could be extended. 
 
Q: Who is eligible?
The scheme is open to anyone who is a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership. To qualify you must have traded last year and still be trading – unless you have stopped because of coronavirus - have lost profits because of the pandemic, intend to trade in the next tax year and have sent in your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19.
Your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment. 
 
Q: How much will I get?
Your grant will be calculated by officials at HMRC using the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The majority (more than half) of all your income must come from self-employed work and your profits must be less than £50,000. 
 
Q: When will payments be made?
The support will be paid in the form of a lump sum which the Government hopes to start paying directly into bank accounts at the beginning of June. The payments will be backdated to the start of March and cover the three-month period to the end of May. 
 
Q: How can I claim this grant?
At the moment you should do nothing. HMRC will contact you in the first instance if they believe you are eligible and invite you to make an online application. The Government has urged people not to contact the HMRC direct as this will slow down the introduction of the scheme.
And you are also being urged to guard against scams. The only way to access this scheme is through GOV.UK. Do not fall for texts, calls or emails from anyone claiming to be from HMRC and wanting information such as your name, credit card or bank details. They will be fraudulent.
 
Q: I am a sole trader. Do I qualify?
Yes. This scheme is open to sole traders and members of partnerships. However, if you pay yourself a salary and dividends through a company, you do not qualify. It is possible in these circumstances that you might receive support through the coronavirus job retention scheme if you’re earning through PAYE. More details of that scheme can be found here. You are also not eligible for this support if you’ve become self-employed since April 2019.
 
Q: I haven’t submitted my January tax return yet. What should I do?
The Government has extended the deadline for returns to be submitted to HMRC because of the coronavirus crisis. You now have until April 23 to get your return for 2018-19 to the taxman. 
 
Q: I made £51,000 profit last year. Is there any help for me?
As things stand at the moment, the answer under this scheme is no. The nature of the £50,000 cap means that there will be inequities in the system. A couple who both made £49,000 profit last year will each receive a grant, whilst the neighbouring family whose sole income came from a self-employed businesses which made £51,000 will receive nothing.
 
Q: What other support is available?
The Government has announced it is deferring self-assessed income tax payments due in July 2020 and VAT payments due from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. More details can be found here.

It has also made available grants for businesses that pay little or no business rates, increased amounts of Universal Credit and launched a Business Interruption Loan Scheme.