Coronavirus update - Assistance for the self employed

Author: Douglas-Jones Mercer

Date: 26 March 2020

After announcing several measures to assist businesses with lenders and finance facilities, and to help employees stay in work with pay, the government has come under pressure to announce new measures to assist the self-employed in the UK.

Approximately 5 million people are self-employed, and a substantial number of those will have taken a large hit to their income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that addressing the issue is “incredibly complicated” because the government will be assessing needs of the self-employed based on tax returns which are a year and a half old. He also said further complications would come from trying to distinguish between the self-employed workers who need assistance because their income has taken a hit, as there will inevitably be some self-employed workers whose income is either not impacted or may be increasing.

The coronavirus bill being considered by parliament suggests there would be some assistance in a similar format to that of employees, being that the government will pay Statutory Self-Employment Pay of 80% of that worker’s income, up to a maximum of £2,917.

It is not yet clear how this will be assessed or how self-employed people are expected to ‘prove’ their income.

Assistance already available for those who are self-employed include:

- Self-employed are able to defer self-assessment tax by 6 months;

- Changes to universal credit – the government have removed the minimum income floor for universal credit applications as well as increased the standard allowance (although if you have substantial savings e.g. to pay your self-assessment tax, you may not be eligible);

- You may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance;

- There is financial assistance in the form of mortgage holidays, loan holidays and other assistance from the major lenders across the country.

The government will be publishing further information about assistance for the self-employed today and we will provide a further update following their announcement. 

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