The Chancellor announced a package of measures to continue to support the economy through the final stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) was due to end on 30 April 2021, but has been extended to the end of September 2021. The scheme will continue to cover 80% of the cost of employees’ current salary, for unworked hours, until the end of June 2021, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
From 1 July 2021 employers will be required to contribute 10% towards the cost of unworked hours, and 20% in August and September, ensuring employees continue to receive 80% of their current salary.
For claim periods from 1 May 2021 onwards, it will also be possible to claim for eligible employees who were employed and included on a PAYE real time information (RTI) submission to HMRC by 2 March 2021.
Two further self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) grants were announced in the Budget. These allow the self-employed, including those in partnership, to claim support, following on from the three grants already made available.
To be eligible for the fourth and fifth grant, individuals must have filed a 2019/20 self-assessment tax return, therefore making individuals that are new to self-employment, in 2019/20, eligible for grants. Further eligibility criteria are due to be published, in due course.
The fourth grant will cover the period February to April 2021 and will be calculated as 80% of their average trading profits for the last four years, capped at £7,500. This will be paid out between late April and May 2021.
The fifth grant, available to claim between July and September 2021, will require a financial impact calculation to be carried out to determine the loss of turnover in the year April 2020 to April 2021. Individuals whose turnover has fallen by more than 30% will continue to receive the full grant, worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, up to a cap of £7,500. Individuals whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will receive a 30% grant, capped at £2,850.
The fifth grant can be claimed from late July 2021.
Payments from SEISS should be taxed as income in the tax year in which they are received.
The Government will continue to provide eligible businesses, occupying eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties and nurseries in England, with 100% business rates relief from 1 April to 30 June 2021, being a ’three month extended holiday’.
For the following nine months, from 1 July 2021 until 31 March 2022, these properties will receive a two thirds discount. This relief will be capped at £2 million per business for those that were required to close on 5 January 2021, and a cap of £105,000 per business for those that were not required to close.
Businesses can opt out from this relief. Up to 750,000 business are expected to benefit from business rates relief in England.
Universal credit and working tax credits
The current ’temporary’ £20 per week increase to universal credit standard allowance will be continued for a further six months in England, Wales and Scotland.
This uplift will apply to all new and existing claims for universal credit.
The Government is also making a one-off payment of £500 to eligible working tax credit claimants across the UK, to provide continued extra support over the next six months.
Statutory sick pay reclaim
Small and medium sized employers, being those with under 250 employees, will continue to be able to reclaim up to two weeks of eligible statutory sick pay costs, per employee, from the Government. This includes time taken off due to being unwell with COVID-19 or having to self-isolate or shield because of it.
No end date has been set on this scheme although it is expected to come to an end on 30 September 2021.
Apprentice hiring incentive
The cash bonus incentive given to businesses for taking on apprentices, which is currently £2,000 for a 16-24 year-old and £1,500 for a 25+ year-old was set to end on 31 March 2021.
It was announced in the Budget that the incentive scheme will continue for a further six months until the end of September 2021, whilst from 1 April 2021 the bonus will increase to £3,000 per new hire, regardless of the employee’s age.
The Government will be investing over £100 million and 1,265 HM Revenue and Customs staff to combat fraud within the COVID-19 support packages. This will also include raising awareness of enforcement action.