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Business Rate Relief and cash grants to bolster firms during COVID-19 outbreak

To support businesses in the UK, the Governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have announced a series of Business Rate and Cash Grant packages to help them through the coronavirus outbreak.

Business Rates and Cash Grants in England

The Business Rate Relief announcements in Budget 2020 have been extended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This will mean that the Business Rates Retail Discount will now be available for all businesses occupying retail, leisure and hospitality properties for 2020/21, in most cases reducing the Business Rates bill for 2020/21 to nil.

In addition, grant funding of £25,000 has been announced for smaller businesses occupying retail, leisure and hospitality premises. These will be businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Grant funding has also been announced of £10,000 for all businesses, whatever their sector, who already receive small business or rural rate relief. Initial guidance from the Government confirmed that businesses would not need to apply for grant funding and they will be contacted by their local authority. Now local authorities have been issued with guidance, some have introduced an application process to apply for the grants.

It will therefore be necessary to visit the Coronavirus section of your local authority website in order to obtain details of how to claim.

As part of the business rates support package, the 100% relief for 2020/21 was extended to nurseries to support them through this difficult time.

Local Authority Discretionary Fund 

A Local Authority Discretionary Fund is available for businesses who were not eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund, and are struggling to survive due to Coronavirus. The first payments under this scheme are expected to be made in June. 

These grants will be made at the discretion of the Local Authority based on their local knowledge and awareness of economic need and can be either £25,000, £10,000 or any amount up to £10,000. It will be up to each authority how exactly they set their criteria, however the Government has asked them to look at factors such as the level of fixed costs, the number of employees and whether the business has had to close completely. The grants are aimed primarily and predominantly at micro and small businesses.

The Government has asked Local Authorities to set out their own criteria within the above guidelines and to prioritise, but not limit availability to businesses in the following categories: 

  • Those in shared/flexibly used office space 
  • Regular market traders with fixed costs such as rent 
  • B&Bs who pay Council Tax instead of Business Rates 
  • Charity Properties in receipt of charitable business relief

Apart from being eligible for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, applicants should not have received a benefit under any other grant scheme funded by the Government.  

The scheme is set to be available via an application to the business’s Local Authority and potential applicants should monitor the availability of the application process on their relevant authority's website(s). 

The guidance confirms that applicants had to be trading on 11th March 2020, although we anticipate that those that would otherwise have been trading had it not been for the COVID-19 may also be eligible for support and are encouraged to apply, although companies which are insolvent, in administration, or subject to a striking-off notice will not be able to apply. 

Business Rates and Cash Grants in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, has announced an emergency £100 million rates package to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19. This includes a grant of £10,000 to be provided to all small businesses eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and Industrial Derating where the Net Annual Value is £15,000 or below and a grant of £25,000 to be provided to companies in the retail, hospitality, tourism and retail sectors with a Net Annual Value from £15,001 up to £51,000.

The application for grant funding in Northern Ireland is via the 'Start Now' link at the bottom of the Small Business Grant Scheme page of their website.The deadline for grant applications is 20th May 2020.

This is an online form and requires the applicant to provide details of, Ratepayer ID, Occupancy ID, Sort Code, Account Number and Email Address. 

Delay in rates bill
  • Rate bills for 2020/21 were due to be issued in April 2020. To avoid placing financial pressure on ratepayers affected by COVID-19, rate bills will not be issued until June 2020.
  • This will happen automatically. Ratepayers do not need to request to have their rate bill deferred until June 2020.
  • When rate bills issue in June 2020, ratepayers can still choose to pay their bill in monthly instalments between June 2020 and March 2021.
  • Monthly Direct Debit payment plans will be automatically updated to collect payments between June 2020 and March 2021.
Rates holiday for businesses

There will be a three-month rates holiday for all business ratepayers, excluding public sector and utilities.
This means that no rates will be charged for April, May and June 2020. This automatically reduces the 2020-21 annual rate bill for business ratepayers by 25 per cent. This amount does not need to be paid back.

Small Business Rate Relief

The Small Business Rate Relief scheme will be continued in 2020-21. The rates of relief and thresholds for eligibility have not changed.

Hardship Rate Relief
  • The Hardship Rate Relief scheme is available for non-domestic ratepayers who have been affected by exceptional circumstances. 
  • However, at any time a ratepayer is experiencing any difficulty in paying a business rate bill, they are encouraged to contact LPS at the earliest possible opportunity, as in most cases payment arrangements can be put in place to assist.
  • Hardship Rate relief is available on rates that are due – therefore, it will not be possible to claim it for April, May and June 2020. However, if your business has been affected during February and March 2020, you can apply.
Micro-business Hardship Fund

A further £40 million Hardship Fund was announced by The Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds, on 16th May 2021.

Businesses must meet the following criteria before applying to the fund:

• The business must be based in Northern Ireland.

• At 29th February 2020, the business must have employed between one and nine employees paid via PAYE, except where the sole employee is the business owner or company director.

• Since 1st March 2020, the business must have experienced a reduction in turnover in excess of 40% as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis or associated Government restrictions.

The NI Micro-business Hardship Fund is open to all small businesses excluding the following:

• Primary agricultural producers i.e. those primarily concerned with crop or animal production or forestry or logging or fisheries or aquaculture. However, those agricultural businesses associated with the processing, marketing and retail of agricultural products may apply.

• Businesses eligible for the following NI Executive schemes:

  • £10,000 Small Business Support Grant Scheme
  • £10,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties and Total Net Asset Value (NAV) of £1,590 or under
  • Those receiving the £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant
  • Those receiving the COVID-19 Childcare Support Scheme

Business Rates and Cash Grants in Scotland

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop has outlined the actions being taken by the Scottish Government to support business during this time:

  • A full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism, which has been extended to the aviation industry including organisations providing handling services in Scotland.
  • £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief.
  • £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.
  • From 5th May 2020, businesses with more than one property may be able to claim an additional £7,500 if they have already received a £10,000 grant, or £18,500 if they have already received a £25,000 grant.
  • 1.6% relief for all properties, effectively freezing the poundage rate next year.
  • Urging local authorities to relax planning rules to allow pubs and restaurants to operate temporarily as takeaways.
  • Extending the go live date for the deposit return scheme to July 2022.
  • Halting the introduction of the Visitor Levy Bill.

This mygov.scot link directs applicants to their local authority where it will be necessary to download and complete an application form available from each local authority’s website. A deadline of 31st March 2021 has been announced to claim these grants.

We are now seeing the downloads for each authority start to become available.

Emergency business support

A helpline – 0300 303 0660 – providing businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on COVID-19 has been announced and will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm. Callers should select option ‘1’ to speak to the dedicated COVID-19 team.

Business Rates and Cash Grants in Wales

The Welsh Government has set out a range of measures designed to provide emergency financial support for small businesses:

  • Shops, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or less will receive 100% business rates reliefl.
  • Expanding on this support a new package providing in 2020/21, retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales with one-year business rates relief and a grant of £25,000 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000.
  • It also provides a £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

Businesses that qualify for this support should click here and then click on the relevant link to reach their local authority.

Once you have arrived at your local authority page, the application process for the grant funding is by completion of an online form specific to each local authority.

Capital repayment holidays

The Development Bank of Wales will be offering all its business customers a three-month capital repayment holiday to help them manage the financial fallout from the virus.

Other schemes

The Development Bank of Wales introduced a new loan scheme funded with £100 million on 30th March, however this was fully subscribed in the first few days.

In addition, an Economic Resilience Fund promised further support of £300 million but this has also been paused to consider what further support can be provided while applications are processed.

It is therefore important to monitor the businesswales website for new schemes and to stay in touch with your accountant for details of any new funding becoming available.

Business Wales helpline

You can get help with your business online, or by calling the Business Wales Helpline on 0300 060 3000, which is open Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:30pm.

Need more help?

There are several ways in which we may be able to help. It’s always important to get good advice and that’s particularly true iat this present time. If you need help please talk to us on 0800 0523 555 or use our online enquiry form. We can offer initial consultations, advice and support over the phone if you have any concerns about face-to-face meetings.

For our latest COVID-19 news and guidance for your business, visit our dedicated Coronavirus Hub.
We will be updating it regularly as we continue to monitor and digest all the latest information.

 

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