In the early stages of lockdown, the Government announced support for sole traders in the form of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, or SEISS.
Just a month after its announcement, two million claims were made, totalling £6.1 billion in Government support. And now, with a second grant opening in August 2020, a number of sole traders are set to benefit from further financial assistance.
We've asked Mike Parkes from GoSimpleTax to explain the terms and help you claim.
How does SEISS work?
The scheme is available to all self-employed individuals that have been adversely affected by COVID-19. This is provided that they:
- earn the majority of their income through self-employment
- have average annual trading profits of less than £50,000
- have filed a tax return for the 2018/19 tax year
- have traded during the 2019/20 tax year and intend to continue trading in 2020/21
To determine whether or not you were affected by COVID-19, any of the following must apply:
- Government orders have meant that your trade or industry had to close or be restricted in such a way that your trade closed – or is otherwise adversely affected
- you cannot organise your work, or your workplace, to allow staff to work safely
- your staff or customers are no longer able to purchase from you due to restrictions
- social distancing has meant that you are not able to safely serve customers
- you've had contracts cancelled as a result of COVID-19
- you have either had to care for others since lockdown or have been self-isolating
The first grant ended on 13 July 2020, and claimants could receive either £7,500 or 80% of their average monthly profits over the 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 tax years (whichever is the lower amount). Applications for the second grant will open on 17 August 2020, but you must have confirmed by 14 July 2020 that you have been adversely affected by COVID-19.
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Why is there a phase two?
While the Government set a three-month cap on the support, it has since been agreed that COVID-19 is still impacting the earnings of some sole traders. As a result, it is necessary for them to receive another grant in order to stay afloat.
It will also help to support those who may not have initially been affected by lockdown (and so did not claim the first grant) but have subsequently suffered a loss of business.
What's the difference?
The differences between phase one and two are limited, although the second grant will be worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits. It will still be paid out in a single instalment that covers three months' worth of profits, but will be capped at £6,750 total – almost £1,000 less than the phase one grant.
Additionally, you can only claim the second grant if your business was adversely affected on or after 14 July.
Can I continue working and still claim?
Yes, you can continue to work as long as you intend to continue trading in 2020/21 in the self-employed role you're claiming for. You can even take up other employment if necessary, provided that the SEISS payments still cover the majority of your income. HMRC will not penalise you for topping up your income with a little additional earnings to sustain your household.
Phase two will have a deadline of 19 October 2020. You can find out more about it on the GOV.UK site. If you are still losing out on income or opportunities to earn, we strongly recommend you claim the second grant. This is an unprecedented level of Government support and could make the difference between staying afloat or falling behind.
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