It would be great to kick off the year full of optimism; things can only get better for businesses after a bruising 2020 at the hands of the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, the road ahead looks rocky for the foreseeable future, as enterprises large and small consider the impact of a prolonged lockdown, the potential challenges of a post-Brexit economic environment, and the end of several UK Government initiatives to keep businesses afloat.
We are therefore breaking with tradition in our latest newsletter: in place of our regular focus on economic prospects and a review of major sectors such as retail, real estate and manufacturing, here we take stock of where help is still available, when the present grants will end and – most crucially – the action businesses need to take to get through this period. If they get it right, they might even emerge in better shape than before.
Not all will be fortunate. More than 900,000 small businesses are at risk of insolvency, according to new research from the Centre for Economic Performance (27 January 2021). Companies with 10 employees or fewer are the closest to the edge. Aid from central and local government has given vital breathing space to these and larger businesses in the last 10 months, but with the ‘bail out’ window closing, now is the time for ‘work out’.
As ever, our helplines below are open for free initial consultations. We’re here to help and the sooner you get in touch to discuss options for your business, small or large, the chances are the more we can do to keep it on track.
Barry Lewis 07831 529831
Larry Jobsz 07770 350713
Paul Davis 07976 328991
David Buchler 07836 777748
Let’s get to work!
Help from Government: what’s finished, what’s left and when will it end?
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – help to pay furloughed employees’ salaries
The scheme has been extended until 30 April 2021.
Job Support Scheme (postponed)
This was due to be available for six months. It aimed to protect ‘viable’ jobs in businesses facing lower demand because of Covid-19. Intended to follow the end of CJRS (furlough), it has been postponed.
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
Extended in September 2020, the third available grant covers November -January 2021. A fourth grant will cover February-April 2021.
Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) for small businesses and sole traders
Following the November 2020 lockdown announcement, the government said that any business that has borrowed less than the maximum (25 per cent of turnover) can top up their loan. They can only use this option once. The deadline for applying for a new Bounce Back Loan is now the end of March 2021. Important considerations: (i) Businesses whose banks are not part of the scheme are very unlikely to be able to open new accounts with participating lenders (ii) if you are a sole trader, this is in effect a personal loan.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) for medium and larger businesses
In September 2020, the government announced that lenders can now extend the loan term up to 10 years (previously it was six). Applications close after 31 March 2020
More time to pay Corporation Tax
HMRC’s Time to Pay service is available for all businesses with outstanding tax bills and who are in financial distress. If coronavirus has caused you difficulty with paying your tax bill that won’t be solved by the tax deferrals mentioned above, you can try the special coronavirus helpline on 0800 024 1222
Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG) for businesses forced to close
Still open; no end date. You can apply by visiting your local council’s website. You can find your local council here.
Local Restrictions Support Grant for open businesses
Still open, but under review. Again, available from your local council
Top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
Still open; no end date. Again, available from your local council
Coronavirus Future Fund
The Future Fund offers convertible loans of between £125,000 and £5 million to UK-based innovative companies that are facing financial hardship. The application deadline for the Future Fund is now 31 January 2021
Business rates holiday for tax year 2020-21
- The business rates holiday applies in England for tax year 2020-21 for:
shops, restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs
- cinemas, live music venues
- assembly or leisure properties, like sports clubs, gyms, spas
- hospitality properties, like hotels, guest houses, self-catering accommodation
There are calls to extend the business rates holiday for tax year 2021-22.
Protection if you can’t pay your commercial rent
The government has extended its initial ban on business evictions until March 2021. Businesses that can pay rent should continue to do so, as the ban is designed to protect businesses struggling the most.
Full refund on statutory sick pay due to Covid-19
SMEs with fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020 will get a full refund from the government on 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee off sick with Covid-19. Any sickness you claim for needs to have started on or after 13 March 2020.
Income Tax and VAT deferred for the self-employed
The new deferral means that anyone who needs to pay up to £30,000 in tax by 31 January 2021 can now make that payment in instalments, delaying paying it in full until 31 January 2022. Interest will be applied to the outstanding balance from 1 February 2021.
The government also announced changes to its VAT deferral scheme. Businesses who chose to defer VAT payments between March and June 2020 will now be able to make interest-free payments over the 2021-22 tax year, rather than paying in full by March 2021.
Practical steps for directors and their businesses – Survive, Strive, Thrive
While much of the financial help available in recent months may be winding down, the good news is that there is a great deal that directors can do to help their businesses not only survive, but prosper when the economic climate improves.
When we put pen to paper on this, what started as a quick checklist of essential actions has become a much wider range of possibilities for positive activity. As ever, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to discuss any of the below. We’re happy to help.
- Don’t be complacent in recovery – pause and reflect
- What has the last ten months taught us?
- How are we going to rebuild our business – is this a hole I can get out of?
- Challenge, challenge, challenge: sense-check your plans – and make Plan B
- Products – review their relevance, quality and saleability
- Detailed cashflow forecasts – joined up with P&L and Balance Sheet
- Paying deferred liabilities – and how these are going to be funded
- Tax planning opportunities
- Review your model for profit extraction
- Focus on a Medium Term timeline
- Interrogate your previous pipeline: be realistic and build it out
- Competition – review landscape and identify your advantages
- New ideas – innovation and flexibility
- Key customers – stay close, maintain service, review ability to pay
- Supply chain – how robust is this and where do you sit in it?
- The possible effects of Brexit
- Manufacturing within the constraints of the New Normal
- Marketing and sales channels
- Technology – review returns on investment and potential efficiencies
- Workforce post-furlough: review capacity, engage with staff, explore sources of new talent
- Home working – embrace the benefits and remain flexible
23. The office is not dead:
- Collaborative, creative work is more difficult
- Younger or new staff may be missing out
- Physical, social interaction remains important to mental health and wellbeing
- Business culture is hard to maintain remotely
24. Covid-19 compliance – social distancing and hygiene
The list is by no means exhaustive, but there is a good deal to think about and much of it is constructive, rather than simply defensive.
Helping to build a better business
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, there are a number of priorities to consider that will help costs, cashflow, business protection and optimising your workforce to ensure short term success and long term growth.
Business structure and cap table
- Tax advantages – EIS/SEIS relief
Personal exposure and liabilities
Day-to-day funding tools
- Banks / Factors / Hire Purchase / Leasing
- Public Sources /Grants / Apprentices /Job Seekers
- Industry specific options and trade association access to finance
Name and brand
Website and domain name
Trade Marks and Patents
- Employees and Consultants
- Suppliers and Customer
- Investors and Shareholders
- Working from home
- Rental Terms
- Buy or Let
- Risks needing cover
- Third Party liability
- Business Interruption
Duties and Compliance
- As Director
- Record Keeping
- Data Protection & GDPR