By John Endacott, Lay Chapter Canon and Head of Tax at PKF Francis Clark
We are in unprecedented times and facing uncertainty as the Coronavirus pandemic evolves. However, what is clear is the potential for a number of people in our communities to become fragile and in need of help, whether this be due to their health, or are having difficulty in supporting their family as businesses, employees and the self-employed are greatly affected.
A number of Government support measures have been announced to aid businesses and help to protect the jobs of their employees in the long term. Such measures include; statutory sick pay, grant funding, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, deferment of VAT liability payments, Time to Pay arrangements for tax liabilities, Government backed loans via the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and support for the self-employed.
Whilst there have been a number of extremely positive Government support policies for the Country, there remains a number of individuals who will at the time of writing receive limited benefit of these policies and therefore could potentially be vulnerable financially. In particular, this will include many self-employed workers who can’t work properly at this time, or others who don’t qualify for financial support from employers but who can’t get sufficient work to support themselves. This is as a result of measures required to achieve social distancing and closures to non-essential businesses and premises.
For those individuals, it is important that they consider accessing Universal Credit (or the Employment and Support Allowances in the event of an individual falling sick) or Pension Credit. I appreciate that many individuals might be reluctant to claim these state benefits and be very unfamiliar with them. These are unprecedented times and the future is very uncertain. There is support available and the important thing for those who are concerned is to explore and understand what is available to them.
A good source of information is the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group. This is part of the Chartered Institute of Taxation which is a national charity of which I’m a trustee. We are very proud of LITRG and the work it does and its website is very user friendly https://www.litrg.org.uk/. If you are concerned about your own position or for others in your family or community then I would urge you to refer to this website.
For Universal Credit then individuals can access this benefit via this link, or by contacting the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 or referring to the Government advice page or the new Coronavirus and claiming benefits page.
If you are in the unfortunate position of having a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work, then you might be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance, potentially in addition to Universal Credit. Full advice can be obtained here.
While there are eligibility conditions to be met (such as a restriction on level of savings and investments held), these Government benefits should hopefully provide vital assistance to many in addition to the newly announced measures for businesses. Details of these support measures for businesses can be found via the Government’s COVID-19: support for businesses pages, while my colleagues have been working hard providing commentary and at the dedicated page on my firm’s website at https://www.pkf-francisclark.co.uk/coronavirus-updates/.
Finally, in terms of my personal position on Chapter at Exeter Cathedral, whilst my three year term of office was due to end in April, Bishop Robert has extended my term on Chapter for the duration of this crisis.