Blog > Coronavirus Advice for Independents
Posted By Create
Now is a time of great uncertainty and set to be a trialling period for thousands of small businesses everywhere. Coronavirus is systematically bringing footfall on the high street and purchases of non-essential items to a halt as more and more people start to hesitate with their spending and self-isolate.
No one knows how long this could last for and so it is vital that we band together and help one another through these trying times. The Government and lenders are providing resources and there are other ways you can get support for your business over this period.
We’ve put together a quick summary to help you find information and make it easy to see what is available below:
The Government has set out measures to support businesses during the challenging times ahead presented by Coronavirus and there are expected to be further measures being taken in the coming weeks which we’ll update here.
The Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
Support for the self-employed and partnerships has been announced, with a monthly grant of up to £2,500, based on your previous earnings.
You will receive a taxable grant which will be 80% of your average profits based on previous tax years from, where applicable, the 2016 tax year. If you started trading between 2016-19, HMRC will only use those years for which you filed a Self-Assessment tax return.
HMRC will calculate this amount by adding together the trading profit for the 3 tax years and dividing by three (where applicable) and use this to calculate a monthly amount. This can be up to a maximum of £2,500 and will be payed into your bank account in one instalment.
You can apply for this scheme if you are self-employed or in a partnership and you:
- have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
- traded in the tax year 2019-20
- are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
- intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
- have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
You must also have trading profits less than £50,000 and receive more than half of your income from your self-employment or partnership.
You're not able to apply for this as of yet while the Government works to implement this scheme. Once it is actionable, if you are eligible, you will be contacted welcoming you to apply online. Once you have submitted your application, HMRC will contact you with details of how much you are eligible for.
£10,000 Grant - Small Business Rate Relief
The Government will be providing billions worth of funding to local authorities in order to support small businesses that are paying little to no business rates due to Small Business Rate Relief. This means that if you are eligible for Small Business Rate Relief, Rural Rate Relief or tapered relief, you can receive a one-off grant of £10,000.
Funding is expected to be provided for this in early April. If your business is eligible for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief, you will be contacted by your local authority and there is no need to apply.
Paying Sick Pay to Employees
Small and Medium sized businesses that have employees will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay that has been paid due to COVID-19. The Government needs to introduce new legislation and create systems in order for this to take place but they have said that they are working with employers to implement this as soon as possible.
Business Rates Reduction and Cash Grant
Businesses on the high street that have a rateable value of less than £51,000 will not have to pay any business rates on their shop for the 2020 / 2021 tax year. This is also being extended to the leisure and hospitality sectors.
On top of this, the Government will also be providing cash grants of up to £25,000 to these businesses in order to bridge through this period.
The Business Rate Retail Discount will be handled by your local authority and those that received the discount in the 2019 / 2020 tax year will be rebilled as soon as possible. If you have any queries or would like to apply for the discount, these enquiries should be directed to your local authority.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The British Business Bank is introducing a temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to help businesses throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. The Government has agreed to provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan. This is to help encourage lenders to support SMEs now more than ever.
Businesses can also access the first 6 months of these loans interest free as the government will be covering the cost of this initial period.
The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank. There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks. To apply, you should enquire at your bank or one of the 40 accredited lenders to arrange a time to discuss your business plan. You should visit their website to find out the best ways to contact them as many will be enforcing social distancing rules at this time.
Tax Payment Deferrals
The government will be deferring VAT and Income Tax payments to help with short-term cash flow over this time period.
VAT will be deferred for 3 months from 20th March until 30th June 2020 and all businesses are eligible to benefit from this. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.
Income Tax paid by those who are self-employed, payments will be deferred from 31st July 2020 to 31st January 2021. Again, this is an automatic offer with no application required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged during the deferral period.
Businesses and self employed people in financial distress and who have outstanding tax liabilities can contact HMRC through their dedicated COVID-19 Helpline in order to make their payments more manageable. This is part of their Time To Pay offer.
An extra 2,000 call handlers have been made available in order to facilitate helping you with the circumstances you are in. They are able to help set up instalment arrangements, suspending debt collection, and cancelling penalties and interest where you are having administrative difficulties in contacting or paying HMRC.
The COVID-19 Helpline can be called on 0800 0159 559.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
All UK Employers will be eligible to receive support in order to continue paying their employee's salary if they would have otherwise been laid off as a result of this crisis.
HMRC will reimburse up to 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Please bear in mind though that while they are working towards this, they do not yet have a system in place to offer reimbursement.
Working From Home
The Government recently declared that anyone who is able to work from home should do so in order to help stop the spread of the virus. While this could come as a major disruption to your standard operations, it also provides an opportunity to start putting measures in place to come back even stronger. Here’s what we recommend:
Work on Your Business Plan
Having a business plan can be just what you need to make decisions on how you are going to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as helping you to lay down plans for growth far into the future.
Be sure to make a plan around the following key points:
Contingency plans in the event of a lockdown
Cash-flow forecasts and planning
Utilise More Online Services
If your business provides services and you find you cannot meet or work for clients as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, what might you be able to offer from home instead?
The internet hosts a plethora of new ways to reach your customers like never before. While you may not be able to service your clients directly, you could offer 1 to 1 webchats, webinars, ebooks and more.
Even if you don’t charge for some of these new ideas, each of them could be used as excellent marketing tools that you can use to demonstrate your professionalism and attract new clients.
As an additional point to offering online services… if you are a retailer, this could be an opportunity to instead focus on commissions in the time it takes for operations to start back up again fully.
Update Your Website
Your website is the perfect way to communicate with your customers. Many businesses are already relaying how coronavirus is impacting their services in this way. Sharing what you are doing in response to COVID-19 can help to reassure your customers.
Not only that, but during the lockdown, you can focus on those shelved tasks that you’ve been meaning to do for a while, such as a design refresh or SEO for example.
Taking care of these tasks now can help you to come back better than ever when business once again resumes.
Take Care of Your SEO
Google have revealed some of the ways that you can protect your search engine positions during the Coronavirus pandemic.
There are many website owners, especially ecommerce store owners, who will be looking to shut down parts of their sites over the course of this outbreak while they're not able to provide their products or services. Removing these pages entirely can have a negative impact on your SEO and there are steps that you can take instead that will help to maintain your rankings.
Here are some things to consider:
- Update your website visitors - Let them know about any disruptions or changes to your services so they know what they can expect from your website during this time. A pop-up or other notification would be a good way of doing this. Both Mailchimp and Privy offer easy pop-up functionality that can integrate with your website.
- Check your Merchant Centre Feed - Make sure to update your availability across Google Merchant Centre.
- Tell Google about your updates - If you've made any changes to your website or pages, don't forget to submit them to Google via your Google Search Console
- Disable your cart functionality - rather than removing product pages to keep customers from making purchases, you can preserve your rankings by switching off your shopping cart instead, making sure that no one is able to checkout until your operations are up and running again.
Join a Community
Being shut in for weeks on lockdown can get lonely. As more and more people go into isolation, the disconnect between us all could be a terrible situation in itself.
It’s at times like these where we should all be coming together and supporting each other. Isolation doesn’t have to drive us apart, picking up the telephone to speak more regularly with loved ones, skype, facetime and other video calling can all help us to have more human interaction. Plus social media chat, groups and other online communities.
There are hundreds of online communities that you can join in with and one such community that we host ourselves is #WeBuySmall, full of like-minded independent business owners. You can join the conversation in our Facebook community, using the hashtag on Instagram and even joining our live chat every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month on Twitter (#WBSHour).
If you are a Create customer, you can also join our Create Members Group. Here, other website builders can help review your website, share practical tips and help each other to grow in a friendly and relaxed environment.
Further Points to Take Note Of
Check Your Insurance
We strongly recommend reviewing your Business Interruption Insurance policies with regards to Coronavirus. In most cases, insurers will not cover interruptions to your business relating to COVID-19.
The Government has classified COVID-19 as a notifiable disease which has made claiming for interruptions easier. However many interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and do not take pandemics into consideration.
If you find that you are going to be affected by this, we would recommend reviewing some of the government measures that are being implemented that we mentioned above.
Keep Up-to-date With Royal Mail Services
For ecommerce businesses, knowing that parcels are going to arrive safely and on time is crucial to their success. Royal Mail are continually updating their website with news on their services
Public Health England have advised that people receiving parcels are not at risk of contracting Coronavirus from them as the virus cannot survive long on objects. Royal Mail is keeping to Public Health England’s guidance as close as possible.
There are some changes with regards to signed for items and receiving parcels however. Couriers will not be offering their hand-held devices in order for customers to sign for their items. They will instead be logging the name of the person that has received the parcel. Additionally, where a parcel will not fit through a letter box, the courier will knock, leave the item by their door and wait for it to be retrieved while keeping a safe distance.
Royal Mail are working hard to maintain the provision of their services and have contingency plans in place. However, they will be operating to Public Health England’s guidance and there may be disruptions to their services in the future in the event of the disease spreading further.
Watch Out For Scam Emails
The National Cyber Security Centre has announced that the outbreak is being used in phishing traps by scammers.
Phishing emails are attempts to compromise your online security by infecting your computer with malware, stealing your personal data or acquiring login data for your accounts.
Some examples to watch out for in your inbox are links sent from impersonations of the World Health Organisation, fake charitable aid donation links and offers of face masks and hand sanitiser. There are also reports of fake coronavirus home tests circulating for sale.
The next few months will no doubt be hard for small businesses all across the country. It’s important to remember that there are resources out there that are available to you, but most importantly, a community.
In times like these where we’re driven apart, we have to find other ways to come together and support each other. When brought together, everyone is able to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas to get through COVID-19.
Come and join us in the #WeBuySmall community and join together with hundreds of other like-minded small business owners.
How are you preparing your business for Coronavirus? Please do share your thoughts and ideas with other readers down below to support them.
*Correct at time of publishing