COVID-19 Update

Latest update on Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK (updated on 29 March 2020)

  1. Business Support
  2. Travel

Below you will find the latest information on business support provided by the UK Government and updates on how to get from the UK to Belgium.

NB: the note below is based upon information the government have published so far about the scheme. Only a limited amount of information has been made available at present and the draft legislation which will be needed to implement the scheme has not yet been published.

Business Support

You can find the latest updates for both businesses and employees on the following links:

Support for Businesses

Guidance for Employees

We do however feel it is necessary to comment on the main points and help you to understand the practical side. These are:

Furloughed employees

The chancellor announced on 20th March that the government will reimburse 80% of the salary for employees who have been designated and notified rightfully by their employers as “furloughed”. There is at this moment in time, no official definition of “furloughed” but it seems like it would mean employees who have been  given temporary leave. This measure will be subject to a cap of £2,500 per month per employee (gross).  To qualify for the scheme furloughed employees should not undertake work while they are furloughed.

To access the scheme you will need to:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change - changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation – Before any changes are made you should speak to Philippe Sauvage, Legal Director at the BLCC to discuss this further.
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required) – Please note that HMRC/Government have not disclosed how this will work but they have said it will be through a reimbursement of wages already paid by businesses. The BLCC/Try Lunn & Co will support you in this process

Self-Employed

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced the following support measures regarding COVID-19 for the self-employed, claiming that the scheme will benefit some 95% of people whose main income source is derived from self-employment.

Tthe scheme features are as follows:

  • Those that qualify will receive a cash grant from HMRC based on 80% of profits, up to £2,500 per month,
  • The initial grant will be for the three months, from 1 March through to the end of May 2020, but could be extended for a longer period.

To be eligible, the following conditions will be taken into account:

  • Applicants must be self-employed or a member of a trading partnership,
  • Have lost trading profits due to COVID-19,
  • Have filed a tax return for 2018-19. Late filers will have four weeks from 26 March 2020 to do so,
  • Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID-19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21,
  • Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of total income from self-employment. This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
    • Your trading profits and total income in 2018-19,
    • Your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.

There is no need to apply to HMRC as they will contact you if you are eligible. HMRC will use existing data to make this judgement. The initial three-month grant will be paid directly to a nominated bank account in a single lump sum. The grants are expected to be paid out at the beginning of June. The reason for this delay is likely down to three main factors: the 4 weeks additional filing time for late filers, the requirement to set up a complex new system at the same time as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to reduce the risk of fraud.

It is assumed that those self-employed who have experienced a significant drop in income due to COVID-19 disruption will need to apply for Universal Credits or Business Continuity Loans to tide them over until June.

VAT Deferment

The Chancellor has also stated that all VAT due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 can be deferred – there is no requirement to inform HMRC of this  - the VAT due in this deferment period must be paid to HMRC before 31 March 2021. If you normally pay by direct debit and wish to defer your payment you should cancel this direct debit.

You can opt-in to the deferral simply by not making VAT payments due in this period.

There will also be no interest charged on any deferment provided it is repaid prior to 31 March 2021.

Should you wish, you can continue to make payments as normal during the deferral period. Any VAT refunds or reclaims will continue to be processed as usual.

VAT returns must still be submitted – and Try Lunn & Co have put procedures in place to allow this to continue.

Business Rate Relief for small businesses

If you rent or use your own premises in the UK, you may receive a business rates tax holiday up to April 2021. This will be sent to you by post or e-mail by your local council.

If your business rates are between £15,000 and £51,000, you will receive a grant of £25,000 which you do not have to pay back. This will be sent to you by post or e-mail by your local council.

If you do rent premises and fall under Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR), you will receive a £10,000 grant which you do not have to pay back. This will be sent to you by post or e-mail by your local council.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

To support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance, banks get Government support to keep lending.

Having worked closely with Her Majesty's Treasury and the British Business Bank, CBILS can provide facilities of up to £5 million for UK smaller businesses (SMEs) who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

Who is eligible for CBILS?

To help you understand if you may be eligible, please ensure you answer yes to the following points below:

  • Your application must be for business purposes
  • You must be a UK-based SME with annual turnover of up to £45 million
  • Your CBILS-backed facility will be used to support primarily trading in the UK
  • You wish to borrow between £25,001 up to a maximum of £5 million.
  • Loan term 1- 6 years.
  • No arrangement fees. No security fees. No interest payments for 12 months.
  • Capital Repayment Holiday up to 12 months meaning nothing to pay for 12 months.
  • Loans in the scheme are limited to 25% of your 2019 turnover or double your annual wage bill whichever is greater.

Further eligibility applies. If banks can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the CBILS scheme, then they will do so.

You can find out more information and how to apply for the scheme by going to your Business Banking homepage, or speaking to your Relationship Manager.

HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

If you are struggling to pay your taxes to HMRC whether that is PAYE, VAT or Corporation tax you can contact HMRC on 0800 0159 559, to ask for a payment plan.

If you have any further questions regarding any of the above please do not hesitate to contact us.

Travel (updated 25th March)

NB: Some clarification on who is allowed to travel to Belgium:

-              Belgians and their family

-              EU citizens and third country nationals that have an official residence ( proof is asked by means of residence card, also when transiting via other EU member states)

The information below is mostly regarding direct connections to Belgium (except for ferries and Eurotunnel to France) for BE/EU citizens and is based on the available information online. Options through third countries (Ireland, or others) exist but are not listed below.

Next Day Booking? Service still operating?
Bus X X
Rail V V
Sea V V
Air O V

x = No | O = Yes | V = Varies

Bus: No bus service (via ferry or tunnel) from UK to BE.

Rail: Eurostar operating on reduced schedule (two trains to Brussels per day). No booking on Eurotunnel website before 19/04/2020 (only over the phone or at the tolls) and with some possible extra administrative procedures necessary for the Eurotunnel (declaration of transit through France).

Sea: Only direct route to Belgium is from Hull to Zeebrugge. Ferries still operating on that line as well as to France on the Dover-Calais & Dover-Dunkirk lines. Administrative requirements to travel through France are put into place  (declaration of transit through France).

Air: The only direct flights from UK to BE are through London Heathrow with British Airways. Next day booking is available but only one flight a day until 07/04/2020.