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Self-employed? How can you benefit from the Covid-19 government schemes?

2020-03-31 08:10:19 admin

Jim Armitage

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest bazooka of government aid for workers hit by the coronavirus lockdowns was aimed at the self-employed.

While he said it covered 95% of people in the UK who derived their main income from self-employment, there have been widespread complaints about those who remain ineligible. Particularly among those above the £50,000 income level who are excluded.

The situation is a fraught one for the millions of people who are only part-self employed, are owner-employees of their businesses, or who have moved in and out of self-employment.

The complexities of the sector, and messiness of people’s modern day working arrangements have inevitably made it far more difficult to draft a grant than the one for furloughed workers on PAYE.

Londoners in particular are seeking guidance because of their relatively high earning power.

To help them through the quagmire, PWC UK tax partner Aidan Sutton took time out of what is proving a horrendously busy end-of-tax year to help out our readers with some practical advice.​

Tamanna Rahman

Producer/director of current affairs documentaries

Lives in Chingford

I’ve been self-employed for two years although this year – 2019/20 – I’ve been on a mix of PAYE and self-assessment. I’ve just returned from Cuba and am self-isolating so am out of work.

My question is this:

In my latest self-assessment I went over the £50,000 profit level, which is very unusual for me. The year before it was more like £30,000 and I don’t have a return for the year before that.

How will the government work out how much I would get?

Hi Tamanna 

First, you need to have continued your trade into 19/20 which it sounds like you have.

Second, HMRC will take an average of the two years prior to that (17/18 and 18/19) to determine if your average income is less than £50,000. If that is the case (which it sounds as if it is) HMRC will probably determine that you are eligible.


Andrew Wilson AKA Villem

Drum and bass artist, DJ, teacher and mastering engineer.

I’m a full time musician and earn my living through live concerts, teaching, music royalties, sample packs and mastering.

My live gigs have disappeared, which equates to half of my total income. It’s too early yet to tell what will happen to my other revenue streams at this early stage in the virus crisis. Please can you advise me if there’s anything I should be applying for now?

Hi Villem

Firstly, I’m assuming you’re self-employed, in which case the question is whether your average profits from self-employment have been below £50,000 for the relevant three years. That’s 2016/17, 17/18 and 18/19.

It might be worth having a look to establish that before making your next plans.

If you are below the £50,000 threshold, then HMRC should be contacting you directly to tell you to apply for the self-employed scheme.

Failing that, there are business interruption loans and also local authority grants that you could explore.

In the worst case, you will need to look at whether you qualify for universal credit or other benefits.

Hopefully your earnings will keep coming in from the some of the non-live music work you do to help tide you over.


Dr Stephanie Hare,

Independent researcher and broadcaster


I am falling through the cracks in the government’s support scheme for coronavirus.

I set up a limited company in August 2018 and am the sole director and the sole employee. I have a range of clients and a range of activities, including broadcasting on the BBC. I’m also publishing my first book this year on technology ethics. I work from home and the London Library (when it was open!) 

 According to the government’s scheme for self-employed workers, I could, in theory, put myself on furlough as an employee. However, I would only be entitled to 80% of my salary, NOT my dividends. Most people in my situation pay themselves a minimal salary in order to invest in the business, especially in the early days (e.g. me, now at 18 months from when I formed my company). I had a successful year last year and so lived off my dividends, as my salary is minimal and certainly not something that I could live off of for months. 

 But even if I could somehow manage to live off 80% of my salary, I still can’t do this and accept the government’s support, because if I put myself on furlough, I’m not allowed to work for the next 3 months. That’s the deal in exchange for accepting government support. 

 Yet as the sole director of my limited company, I must work — to liaise with HMRC, my accountants, my insurers, my lawyers, my clients, and of course, to pay the bills. 

Under the government’s support scheme, I would not be allowed to try to hustle up new business. This is an odd contrast to the support scheme for self-employed people who do not have a limited company: they are allowed to receive 80% of their salary through government support AND to keep working.

The only option I seem to have is not to request any government support and to try to keep working, during a pandemic, when all my work has been cancelled for March and the months ahead. 

So my questions are these:

:: Do I understand my situation correctly: I cannot access any support from the government as the sole director and sole employee of a limited company? And that this absence of support is different to the support given to other self-employed workers, to say nothing of the support being given to employed workers?

It is correct to say that you will not be eligible for help for the self-employed because you are employed. The job retention scheme for employers is available to all employers so you could explore eligibility for that scheme.

::Is the only option for me therefore to try to drum up work…during a pandemic, in a country on lockdown or is there any chance that the government might adjust its position to include workers in my position?

It is difficult to say at this stage whether the government will introduce any further measures to deal with specific situations but they have signalled an intent to support all businesses and workers through this crisis.

::Will the government make it easier for people to create or update their will so that a solicitor and witnesses can observe the signature over the internet, since we cannot safely conduct this transaction in person?

I understand that the Law Society and others are discussing with government whether wills can be witnessed electronically. The Stamp Office have already put in place coronavirus measures which mean that certain documents do not have to physically stamped for the time being.


Cheryl Wilson

Day 12 of self-isolating in Chesham, Bucks

I worked for the NHS for 10 years as a paediatric speech and language therapist until August last year, when I left in order to accommodate school runs with our 4-year-old starting school.

I had done a little self-employed work in recent years, so have previous tax returns. However, this self-employed work was not my main income until late 2019.

Is there any way my change in circumstances might be taken into account when claiming for loss of income?

Hi Cheryl.

In your situation, to qualify for these grants you need to meet one of two tests.


You had a majority of self-employed vs employed income in 2018/19 and that self-employed income was less than £50,000


You had a majority of self-employed vs employed income in the last three tax years and the self-employed income averaged less than £50,000.

If you can establish either of those, then you could be eligible. Hope that helps, and good luck with the self-isolating!


Michael Lebor

Filmmaker and videographer


I earn over the threshold of £50k per year. Had I earned £49,999 in those years I would be entitled to £7500 over the next three months and more if the situation continues. As it stands because I earn over £50,000 I am entitled to nothing apart from statutory sick pay of £95 a week. Quite a big difference! So there are people out there who would average just 1p more than someone else and they will have no entitlement to any money at all. Is there anything at all I can claim?

I’m afraid Michael that as a self-employed individual you would not be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. The government website lists other areas of support which are available, most notably the availability of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and Universal Credit.

People who are PAYE could earn £5million a year and still get paid £2500 a month from government help. It makes absolutely no sense at all. So I guess my main question would be, is this correct? 

Yes, in relation to the limit for profits and availability of the grant.

Can I submit a tax return after the 5th of April and will this be taken into account to work out my average earnings for the past three years? 

No, because the assessment is based on the profits according to your filed tax returns up to and including the 18/19 tax year.

Unfortunately for me, the years of 17/18 and 18/19 were my best years of my whole 15 years as a self employed filmmaker/videographer but the current year dating back to April last year has been very poor in comparison but that will not be taken into account.

Making videos is absolutely impossible under lockdown of course because I can’t be in the same room as anybody else and if this goes on for a few months I will have to leave my flat and go and live with my mum, at the age of 40 with a 5yr old child! 

Some people bizarrely think that self-employed people pay less tax. We pay exactly the same tax as everyone else but we don’t get sick pay or holidays and we have to pay an accountant to do our tax returns.

That’s one you’ll have to take to the Chancellor – ed


Jodie Philips-Green

Graphic designer from Hammersmith, age 35

I’ve been freelance for two years and have a very regular contract but the client has dropped my services during this period of disruption.

How will HMRC work out how much I get?

If you qualify, you will receive a taxable grant of 80% of your average taxable profits for the tax years 2016/17;2017/18 and 2018/19. This is capped at £2,500 per month for three months.

But I’ve not been self-employed for three years. Does that mean I don’t qualify?

No. If you don’t have three years of records – as you clearly won’t – the amount will be based on the average you made for the years when you have been self-employed. Rishi Sunak was asked this question on Thursday at the press conference and said that this should not affect eligibility as long as HMRC have at least one tax return to review.

 If my profits are always over £50,000 will I get anything?

 If your trading profits for 2018/19 or your average trading profits for the three years were over £50,000 then I’m afraid you will not be eligible to receive a grant.

I’m a bit disorganised and haven’t submitted my tax return for 2018/19 yet. Have I blown my chance of getting the grant?

 No, if you submit your 2018/19 tax return before 23rd April 2020 then you will still potentially be eligible


Senol Dervis

Martial arts personal trainer

Based in Southfields

The Chancellor said self-employed people will get a one-off payment in June. Is this right?

Yes, the Chancellor said that those self-employed people who qualify will receive their payment in early June. Rishi Sunak did say in his press conference on Thursday afternoon that despite the complexities they will work to bring that date earlier if they can.

Will we have to pay tax on this?

Yes, it is a taxable grant

I usually have to pay an advance tax payment by the 31st July, which will be a little under £700 this coming July. Am I going to have to make this payment?

Only if you can afford to pay it. Self-assessment instalments due on 31 July may be deferred until 31 January 2021 if you cannot.

I took the government’s instructions to fill in online forms for universal credit and council tax assistance. Wandsworth council said we should get £12.99 a week but we are still waiting to hear how much universal credit. How long until we get a response, and when are we likely to receive payments?

Local authorities have had a massive spike in inquiries for universal credit so it may take some time to receive a response. When you are registered, there is a process for receiving an advance on universal credit which, if applicable, would mean you do not have to wait for five weeks for your first payment.

How do we apply for the self-employed grants, and do you have any advice on doing so?

You do not apply now. HMRC will come to you based on the records they hold; your earlier submitted tax returns and so forth. They will then invite you to apply online.

Is there any assistance for paying rent to the gym where I teach?

The other assistance available to small businesses is the business interruption loan scheme. Forty lending banks are signed up to the scheme and you would need to approach one of them if you wanted to explore eligibility.

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Easyjet grounds planes as airline crisis worsens and oil price falls through $20 a barrel

2020-03-31 08:10:10 admin

THE airline industry’s woes worsened today as easyJet grounded its entire fleet and Britain’s biggest regional airline, Logan Air, demanded emergency funding.

A global shutdown of borders and lockdowns of customers have pushed the industry to the brink, forcing all companies in the industry, including airports and the companies that 

serve them, into unprecedented crisis levels.

Ironically, this comes as the price of oil — airlines’ biggest expenditure itembeing fuel — crashed to new lows.

US  crude fell below $20 a barrel for a while yesterday while London Brent plunged below $23 for the first time since 2002.

EasyJet said that, having completed 650 repatriation flights to get its customers home, it was now grounding the entirety of its fleet with “no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights”.

The company said it had agreed to furlough its cabin crew for two months, with staff receiving the 80% of pay being offered by the Government job retention scheme. 

The airline had provoked outrage from UK staff over attempts to cut their benefits permanently as part of the deal but said today’s agreement had been negotiated to the satisfaction of the Unite union.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “We are working tirelessly to ensure that easyJet continues to be well positioned to overcome the challenges of coronavirus.”

However, its biggest shareholder and founder Stelios Haji-Iaonnou added to the crisis by racheting up his attack on the board. Today he demanded the company scrap its plans to buy up to 107 new planes from Airbus by triggering a force majeure clause in the contract.

If the board fail to do so by Wednesday, Haji-Iaonnou said he would demand the sackings of non-executive directors. 

He would do this one by one by forcing an extraordinary general meeting every seven weeks.

Lundgren has asked the Government for a state-backed loan facility to tide the airline over if its own banks refuse to extend credit. 

Listen to today’s episode of The Leader podcast:

However, Haji-Iaonnou argued that this would be unnecessary if the Airbus order was cancelled.

Furloughed cabin crew of easyJet and Virgin Atlantic have been offered roles at the emergency Nightingale coronavirus hospitals in London, Birmingham and Manchester where their first aid experience could be used.

Logan Air chief executive Jonathan Hinkles, meanwhile, has admitted his company will not survive without a Government bailout, saying demand for air travel would be “depressed and depressing” even after the worst of the travel restrictions are ended.

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Engineers seconded to UK ventilator consortium to aid NHS shortfall

2020-03-31 08:10:00 admin

Hundreds of engineers from a string of top British manufacturers will be seconded to a new consortium aiming to stave off an NHS shortfall in life-saving ventilators. 

Ventilator Challenge UK, launched on Monday, has promised to ramp up production of existing designs by FTSE 100 giant Smiths Group and another ventilator made by Oxford-based Penlon today.

It has committed to make 10,000 ventilators, with production of Smiths’ existing mini-ventilator paraPAC used by many paramedics stepping up at its Luton plant over the past three weeks. 

GKN Aerospace, another part of the consortium, also has a manufacturing site in Luton which may be used to make the Smiths’ ventilator. 

The Government has faced scrutiny over its ventilator procurement after reports said it had shunned an EU-wide initiative to obtain more.

The Government also reportedly turned down an offer to help to buy them from overseas, instead choosing to make them from scratch domestically. 

Ventilator Challenge UK will see several hundred employees moved over to work on the project, headed by renowned engineer Dick Elsy who delayed his retirement to lead the team.

Elsy heads a body of UK R&D academic sites known as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. In total 28 companies have committed resources to the consortium, with a handful doing manufacturing and others helping with 3D modelling, data management and supply chains.  

This includes seven F1 teams have also been recruited to offer their know-how on high-speed engineering gleaned from making rapid changes during F1 races.   

Elsy said: “They are working together with incredible determination and energy to scale up production of much-needed ventilators.”

No company will profit from the project, with the Government only underwriting the costs.

Smiths’ paraPAC ventilator is already used by the NHS so can be put to work immediately. 

It is said to be well-suited to the current crisis because it can run without electricity, meaning it can be used in hospital corridors where there may be no plug sockets. 

The Penlon design is getting a minor tweak first before going into production.

Ventilator Challenge UK is one of seven groups working on ventilators. Dyson and Babcock are also working on the plan.

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Paddy Power and PokerStars firms press ahead with £10bn merger

2020-03-28 07:56:30 admin

THE owners of Paddy Power and PokerStars will push on with their £10 billion mega-merger as they took “prudent” steps to weather the coronavirus storm by suspending future dividends.

Flutter Entertainment, owner of Paddy and Betfair, agreed to merge with Canada’s Stars Group last year but widespread sporting fixture cancellations have led to turmoil in the sports betting industry.

Flutter chief executive Peter Jackson said he was “more convinced than ever” about the merits of the merger because it will help diversify the business. The enlarged group will have more exposure to online poker and casino, which are largely unaffected by the lockdown.

To deal with the crisis, the combined group will suspend dividends payments for 2020 and Flutter will pay 2019 dividends in shares rather than cash. 

The group has also obtained £1.3 billion more of debt funding from banks and lenders to refinance existing debt. 

This will mean debt levels will be higher than expected after the merger . The company said the long-term target to cut debt was unchanged. 

Analysts at Jefferies said cutting the payment was a “prudent step…to ensure more rapid de-leveraging”.

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Market: Week's gains fade as a US recession looks inevitable

2020-03-28 07:56:20 admin

There was no Friday feeling for investors today as the number of coronavirus cases in the US rose above those in China and Italy.

After three days of gains, the FTSE 100 fell 208.08 points at 5607.65 after cases around the globe hit 536,755, a 25% increase on the previous day.

One broker said: “The good news ran out today. The US stimulus bill has gone through and the buying has petered out.”

With listed companies holding back on reporting earnings, traders are turning to data for signs of where the global economy is heading. Later today the US will release consumer spending numbers, which like yesterday’s jobs number is expected to show a significant downturn in economic activity. 

On London’s premier index, oilers were the main fallers as Brent Crude prices fell by 2% after the International Energy Agency predicted demand for oil to drop by 20 million barrels a day over the course of the rest of the year. BP fell 22p at 314p and Shell lost 67p at 1347p. 

ITV was another in the red as fears mounted over the broadcaster’s advertising revenues. The coronavirus has forced ITV to stop making new programming while all live sport has also been cancelled. Shares were down 3.4p at 68p. 

Next surprised some shareholders as the retailer stopped taking online orders after closing its warehousing operations. The group said it took the “difficult decision” after listening to staff who “increasingly feel they should be at home in the current climate”. Last week, the retailer warned the pandemic will lead to a £1billion drop in sales this year.

Shares dropped 243p at 4268p. Other retailers are expected to follow and Asos was down 132p at 1159p, while Boohoo lost 15.5p at 200p. 

Further down the league table and there were growing concerns for the future of John Menzies. The firm which operates baggage handling for airlines globally, said it was cutting more than 17,500 jobs globally and is working with the UK government for aid under its emergency loan scheme for large companies.

The company is also in talks with its lenders as it reviews all options to shore up liquidity. Giles Wilson, chief executive, said: “Menzies has existed since 1833 and been listed since 1962 but never have we faced such difficult and unpredictable times. I now look to our Government to support our business.” Shares lost 6p at 78p. 

There was some good news as City Pub Group successfully raised £22 million to shore up its balance sheet. Shares in the pub company shot 20% higher or 11p at 67p. 

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