Update as of 2 April 2020
There have been nearly 950,000 new applications for universal credit since 16 March; an increase of approximately 100,000 in a normal two week window.
There have been a number of extremely positive support policies for businesses in recent Government announcements. However, there remains a number of individuals who will receive limited benefit of these policies such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, in particular self-employed workers who are unable to work during these times of social distancing and other restrictions.
There is also likely to be limited support for business owners themselves, who often choose to take a modest salary, supported by dividends from Company profits. While full guidance has not yet been released, the need to continue to undertake work in the business would appear to restrict a director or business owners’ ability to furlough themselves and therefore restrict access to the scheme. Alternatively, should they be eligible when the full details are released, their remuneration policy of having modest salaries would limit the amounts reimbursed by the scheme, while the voting of dividends might prove difficult where there are negative impacts on the trade, profits and cash flow.
While we are hopeful of further support and provisions becoming available, access to Universal Credit (or the Employment and Support Allowances in the event of an individual falling sick) will be important for the self-employed worker and other individuals in obtaining help with their living costs, whilst not having access to the other Government Support measures currently announced.
How to apply for Universal Credit
Individuals can apply for Universal Credit via this link, contacting the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 or referring to the Government advice page or new Coronavirus and claiming benefits page.
For those in the unfortunate position of having a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work, then you might be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance, potentially in addition to Universal Credit. Full advice can be obtained here.
While there are eligibility conditions to be met (such as a restriction on level of savings and investments held), these Government benefits should hopefully provide vital assistance to many in addition to the newly announced measures for businesses.
To read more about what we know so far regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, please click here.
Another good source of information is the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group. This is part of the Chartered Institute of Taxation which is a national charity and our head of tax John Endacott is a Trustee.