Helping Businesses Survive Covid-19

Founder and Chairman of AdEPT and Cabinet Office SME Panel Member Ian Fishwick offering help and advice to businesses on how to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

We have collated Ian’s articles into one place. To view these articles and future updates, and connect with Ian please see his Linked In page.

At AdEPT Technology Group we are committed to helping UK industry any way we can, not just by offering technology advice. As we review the various Covid-19 Government Schemes, I will share our thoughts with you, and we hope you find this useful. There are so many schemes that it can be difficult to keep up and understand how to get access to the money you all need. To keep it simple I will only cover one scheme in each post.

Post 1. HMRC: Time to Pay

The reason why some schemes are not available yet is they are new and web developers and system designers are frantically trying to get them ready. Today’s scheme already exists – the HMRC Time To Pay scheme. If you cannot pay any tax – Corporation Tax, VAT, National Insurance or personal tax – ring the special Covid-19 helpline to agree a plan to pay by installments. There are up to 2,000 call handlers. The helpline numbers are 0800 024 1222 or 0800 015 9559. It is open Monday to Friday 8am till 4pm, excluding Bank Holidays. Further details at: https://lnkd.in/d9cJwHa

Post 2. RATES RELIEF: Who Can and Cannot Get it

A BUSINESS RATES HOLIDAY IS AVAILABLE TO RETAIL BUSINESSES FOR 2019/20 AND 2020/21

Who qualifies for buisness rates relief?

These are the types of business that qualify as ‘retail’ and can therefore get the business rates reliefs: Shops, restaurants, cafe, bar, pub, opticians, post offices, second hand car lots, petrol stations, garden centers, hair and beauty, funeral directors, cinemas, music venues. NB – Nurseries qualify for the rates relief but not the grant.

What types of business do not qualify for business rates relief?

Offices, factories, doctors, chiropractors, accountants, financial advisers, architects.

What is the business rates relief I can get?

It depends on your rate-able value: Under £12,000 – no business rates are chargeable to any type of business £12-15,000 – taper relief discounts business normal rates Above £15,000 – retail businesses get 100% discount on Business Rates HOW TO FIND YOUR ‘RATE-ABLE’ VALUE The rates and reliefs are based on the premises’ “rate-able value”. If you do not know your ‘rate-able value’ check it here … https://lnkd.in/dpDSDtG

Post 3. VAT: Delay this Quarter’s Payment

This is the 3rd post in AdEPT’s series about how to help your business survive the Covid-19 crisis. We all need industry to prosper, so please share these articles. Today’s advice is about VAT payments.

DO NOT PAY ANY VAT THIS QUARTER.

The Government has announced that to help the cashflow of beleaguered businesses there is no requirement to make any VAT payment this quarter. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 can be deferred. Please note that you will still have to pay the VAT by the end of this tax year. Our advice is to make maximum use of this new rule and pay this quarter’s VAT to HMRC as late as possible, but before 31st March 2021. The official notice is here https://lnkd.in/dmsNkTV

Post 4. Covid-19: Grant Funding

Local council business rates team are currently sending out correspondence for those who are eligible for:

The Small Business Grant https://lnkd.in/d_8CMnn

Tthe Retail and Hospitality Grant https://lnkd.in/de2hUQj

Please check the guidance for your eligibility. If you are eligible, you will receive correspondence as normal by post or email. To receive either of these grants you must be business rates registered and been in occupation/trading on 11 March 2020.

If you believe you are eligible, but haven’t received correspondence from the business rates team by the 6th April then please get in touch with your local council. The correspondence will detail what you need to do in order to receive the funding, so please look out for this.

BUSINESS RATES UPDATE

If you are eligible for the Business Rates holiday for 2020-21, you do not need to do anything, this will automatically be applied to your bill. Business Rates have recently reissued bills, which detail if you qualify to receive business rates relief for the 2020-21 tax year.

Letters and emails from your local council should arrive this week if you are eligible for grant funding. They need your bank account details to be able to send you the money. Look out for them and reply quickly.

Post 5. New Covid-19 Business Interruption Loan Schemes (CBILS)

At the time of writing only 983 business interruption loans (£90 million) have been approved so far out of 130,000 company applications. Things had to change and they have. CBILS are extended so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible.

Lenders now cannot request personal guarantees for loans under £250,000. The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees. The new Coronavirus LARGE Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest. Further details will be announced later this month.

Loans over £250,000: personal guarantees are limited to 20% of any amount outstanding on the CBILS lending after any other recoveries from business assets. Lenders are prohibited from asking business owners to put their house on the line. This will apply to finance already offered under the scheme.

Post 6. Safer Homeworking: Microsoft 2 Factor Authentication

We want to make everyone aware that homeworking is often not as secure as working inside your normal office and we have seen an increase in phishing attacks in the last few weeks. If you see any dodgy looking emails please delete them immediately and never give your bank details to anyone unless you are certain who they are.

I thought it might be useful if I explained what AdEPT has done internally to combat this threat. First, we asked all employees to change their password. Second, all employees implemented Microsoft 2-factor-authentication, so that we now have to login as normal with usernames and passwords and then we are sent verification codes to our mobiles (much as I do with my bank). Once the 2-factor-authentication system had been set up centrally, I simply downloaded a Microsoft Authentication app to my mobile and it was straightforward. If you need any help with making your homeworkers better at cyber security best practice then please shout and I will point you towards an expert.

Post 7. Wrongful Trading Regulations Suspended & Insolvency Law – Laws Changed

If you are worried that your company might be insolvent, this is for you … The Government will make changes to enable UK companies undergoing a rescue or restructure process to continue trading, giving them breathing space that could help them avoid insolvency. This will also include enabling companies to continue buying much-needed supplies, such as energy, raw materials or broadband, while attempting a rescue, and temporarily suspending wrongful trading provisions retrospectively from 1 March 2020 for three months for company directors so they can keep their businesses going without the threat of personal liability.

The proposals will include key safeguards for creditors and suppliers to ensure they are paid while a solution is sought. Existing laws for fraudulent trading and the threat of director disqualification will continue to act as an effective deterrent against director misconduct. Full details https://lnkd.in/djFpSdf

Post 8. Eviction of Commercial Tenants Banned

If you are worried about not being able to pay the rent on your office, shop etc, then this is for you …

Ban on evictions for commercial tenants who miss rent payments in the next 3 months.

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction, the government has announced. Many landlords and tenants are already having conversations and reaching voluntary arrangements about rental payments due shortly but the government recognises businesses struggling with their cashflow due to coronavirus remain worried about eviction. These measures, included in the emergency Coronavirus Bill currently going through Parliament, will mean no business will be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment in the next 3 months. This does not mean that you do not have to pay rent – it means that you can agree to pay it at a later date. Full details here https://lnkd.in/drwPAbm

Post 9. Date Announced for Furlough Scheme Opening

HMRC have today announced that the online portal being built to process the payments of furloughed staff in Britain will be open from Monday 20th April. This will mean that HMRC will be ready to make payments by Thursday 30th April. The system will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning that callers can queue to speak to an advisor. There will be millions of businesses wishing to submit claims, so expect a huge queue. I understand that payments will be processed within 4-6 working days of receiving the claim.

Post 10. Telecoms Industry Unites To Help Business Customers

On 10th April Livingbridge arranged a call for over 30 senior executives from the Telecom industry. We agreed the Covid-19 problems facing our industry and how we could alleviate them. I summarised 3 key issues that all need assistance from BT Openreach:

1. Customers need to temporarily cease lines or circuits at no cost and reinstate them once lockdown has gone

2. Early Termination Charges should be reduced when a customer can no longer afford a long-term contract

3. Customers need to cancel an order for a circuit that has not yet been installed

We agreed I should write a letter to the CEO of Openreach, and a covering letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for DCMS and the CEO of Ofcom.

David Goldie and I drafted the letters and 2 trade associations (Innopsis and FCS) plus 18 of the UK’s largest telecom companies agreed to put their names to them. On 14th April, the letters were sent to Openreach and DCMS/Ofcom. Many thanks go to Openreach as LESS THAN 6 HOURS LATER they issued a briefing addressing all the issues we had raised. Business customers can now reduce their communication costs temporarily.

Written by Ian Fishwick

Founder & Chairman, AdEPT