The schemes to help people during the pandemic have been criticised as many freelancers, contractors and newly self-employed have fallen through the 'cracks'. However, there are concerns that many people who are entitled to support have not yet claimed it.
HMRC used their IT systems to identify potential SEISS claimants in May 2020 and contacted them to explain about the first round of the grant. But pressure body, The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, (LITRG) is worried that there may be some people who did not receive this correspondence, for example because they did not tell HMRC about a change of address. LITRG is also concerned that some people may have thought they were ineligible for the grant because, when the scheme opened, their business had not been ‘adversely affected’ as a result of Covid-19.
Victoria Todd, Head of LITRG, said: “The self-employed, and individual partners trading in partnerships, whose businesses have been affected adversely by COVID-19 but who are yet to claim the first SEISS grant, should check urgently whether they are eligible. It is unfortunate if potential claimants miss out because they did not realise there was a deadline or because they were unsure if they could claim.”
There is also some confusion about the time periods for the SEISS grants. The Government initially said that the scheme would ‘cover the three months to May’, so this was taken to mean by many that a self-employed business or partnership had to be affected adversely during the three-month period of March, April and May to claim the first grant.
Those affected in June, July and August assumed they would qualify for the second grant. HMRC then amended their guidance to state that if a business has been adversely affected because of Covid-19 at any point up to July 13, they will qualify for the first SEISS grant (assuming all other conditions are met). Only if a business is adversely affected by Covid-19 from July 14 can they claim a second grant.
Businesses which have seen a downturn in trade more recently (for example a sole trader having to take sick leave because of Covid-19) might have thought they were ineligible for the first SEISS grant when the claim process opened in May. LITRG is concerned that those in this position may not have subsequently realised they are eligible for the grant.
Victoria Todd said: “HMRC have announced some important changes to the first SEISS grant and potential claimants need to be aware of these or otherwise risk missing out on important government support. We are urging anyone who has not claimed the first SEISS grant, either because they thought they were not eligible or because they think they are eligible for the second grant instead, to check their eligibility carefully. The opportunity to claim the first grant will be lost after July 13.
“This is clearly a difficult time for many small businesses, and we recommend that HMRC publicise widely the first SEISS claim closing date and clarify the general misunderstanding about the claim periods to which the SEISS grants relate.”
Notes for editors
One of the eligibility conditions for the SEISS grant is the business must have been adversely affected because of the coronavirus outbreak. At the time of writing, gov.uk provides the following examples:
- you’re unable to work because you:
- are shielding
- are self-isolating
- are on sick leave because of coronavirus
- have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus
- you’ve had to scale down or temporarily stop trading because:
- your supply chain has been interrupted
- you have fewer or no customers or clients
- your staff are unable to come in to work.
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2020