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Coronavirus - advice for businesses

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - advice for businesses

Last updated - 28 July

Wokingham Covid-19 Business Survey 

Wokingham Borough Council and the newly formed Wokingham Business Taskforce are keen to understand how businesses are operating and adapting during the pandemic and the likely long-lasting changes we will all face. We believe this information is vital in helping us work together to provide the best possible advice and support to the local business community.

To help we've created a short online survey to find out how your business has been affected and capture your current thoughts on how you intend to approach the recovery phase of the pandemic.

The UK Government has announced a range of support measures for businesses. Full and up to date advice can be found on the UK Government website. Some of the support measures include:

  • VAT payments by companies deferred until the end of June
  • Grants to small businesses
  • Self-assessment income tax payments for July 2020 deferred for 6 months
  • Increase in standard Universal Credit of £20 a week, with the same rise for those still on the working tax credit scheme
  • Nearly £1 billon for those struggling to pay rent, through increases in housing benefit and Universal Credit
  • The government will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a radical move aimed at protecting people's jobs. It will pay 80 percent of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government and Ministers are keen for this relief to be awarded as soon as possible and we are working to deliver the appropriate grants and reliefs as quickly as we can.

  • There will be a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. You do not need to do anything. This will be applied to your next bill in April 2020
  • From 1 April 2020 pub relief is being increased to £5,000
  • If you are a retailer not claiming 100 percent small business rate relief, have a rateable value under £51,000 and you did not receive retail discount for 2019/20 please review the information on the following link and apply using the form on our website
     

Business rates service

  • We have been actively reviewing Government announcements daily so that we can continue to deliver services, while at the same time protecting you and our colleagues. The latest advice has caused us to make some changes to the way we deliver our service.
  • We will try to run our service as normally as possible, but there may be some delays. Staff will be working from home to prevent the illness spreading.
  • This means that we will try to email you where possible, or there may be a delay when we post letters to you. We will work hard to make sure that documents you post to us are scanned on to our system as quickly as possible to minimise delays.
  • We will still accept calls on 0118 974 6000, but there is likely to be some interruptions to the service. You can also email us at: brates@wokingham.gov.uk

For more information read the business rates frequently asked questions (PDF document)

Due to the high number of contacts we are getting from businesses about the Government grant schemes and rate relief, we are being supported by the Berkshire Growth Hub to help businesses and businesses owners access the other forms of help they might need that are not administered by the local authority.

This includes:

  • Access to loans
  • Business continuity
  • Other business support groups
  • Sector specific loans

For further information visit the Berkshire Growth Hub website.

Business support website coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (HMRC)

The Government will pay 80% of the cost of a person’s salary up to a value of £2,500 per person per month. Grants will be given to businesses to cover this from HMRC. The Government has announced this scheme will be open to any employer in the country and will cover the costs of wages backdated to 1 March 2020. Funding will be available before the end of April 2020.

Business support website VAT Deferral for all businesses (HMRC)

No business will pay VAT from now to mid-June 2020. Businesses will have until the end of financial year (April 2021) to repay VAT bills.

Business support website advice for self-employed people

The minimum income level has been suspended, meaning self-employed people can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay.

All Self-assessment payments are deferred until January 2021.

Business Support website British Business Bank (BBB) and Bank of England Loan Guarantees for Business

The Government is launching a new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

This scheme will support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free. The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt. Loans will be available from Monday 30 March 2020.

Business Support website Bank of England – Corporate Financing Facility for larger businesses

A major new scheme to support liquidity amongst larger firms has been launched by the Bank of England. It will help bridge Coronavirus disruption to a firm’s cash flow through loans.

Business Support website SME Statutory Sick Pay compensation

The Government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Through the emergency legislation, employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim 2 weeks of SSP paid for sickness absences relating to coronavirus during the period of the outbreak.

Time to Pay (HMRC)

HMRC may be able to help those in need regarding their tax liabilities, by providing a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulty contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.

Insurance

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the Government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres and other establishments is sufficient to make a claim.

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.

Private lenders

A number of private lenders are also making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Lenders may also be launching schemes and businesses must satisfy themselves of the terms and conditions of this before agreeing to loan agreements. Please check with your lender or bank.

The government have launched a new scheme to support the self-employed affected by the Coronavirus. Further details can be found on the government website.

If you have to take time off work and you do not get paid while you're off, you might be entitled to claim benefits.

Check if you are entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit to top up your income. Visit the UK Government's self employment and universal credit webpage.

If you pay council tax you might also be able to claim Council Tax Support, you can do this via:

Income Tax payments

Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

Advice

We are looking at different ways to help and support people who are self-employed. There are some things that you can do yourself like:

  • get advice on money and debt from the Wokingham Citizens Advice Bureau 
  • ask your lender for a mortgage payment holiday
  • ask your landlord for a rent holiday
  • get help to pay your tax from HMRC
    

We have compiled a list of Wokingham Borough businesses that are offering home deliveries which can be found below:

Does your business supply essential goods and services or perhaps uplifting gifts and home products? Want to be added to our directory? Please email CEM@wokingham.gov.uk.

Please note, your company should meet national guidance to stay open and operating. You’ll also need to be set up to take payment over the phone or online.

Please also be aware we are not adding restaurants to our directory, we recommend that residents contact their preferred local directly.

Planning rules will be relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak, the Communities Secretary has confirmed. 

Currently, planning permission is required for businesses to carry out a change of use to a hot food takeaway. The government has confirmed regulations will be relaxed to enable businesses to deliver this service without a planning application.

For more information visit the UK Government website.

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