Gap in government support for self-employed and directors
By Rob Freeman | 16th April 2020
Many self-employed workers and owner directors are in danger of falling through the cracks in the government's proposed package designed to steer them through the coronavirus crisis.
The Federation of Small Business says it has received more than 500 emails to a special hotline highlighting examples of those not covered by the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
Announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month, the scheme is due to go live in early June and cover 3.8million self-employed people.
But among those not covered are directors of limited companies who pay themselves through dividends, the newly self-employed who do not have a 2018-19 tax return, anyone above the trading annual profits cap of £50,000 and those whose income from self-employment is below 50 per cent of their earnings.
FSB chairman Mike Cherry said: "The Government's schemes are generous in their attempt to protect the economy. However, these entrepreneurs have done nothing to warrant being entirely cut out of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
"The UK economy, society and local communities are going to need as many as possible to be in a position to reactivate their businesses when this public health emergency is over.
"We have heard directly from hundreds who are not covered by this scheme, and who are frightened and bewildered about the situation they find themselves in."
Among those to call the FSB hotline are:
A childminder who only became self-employed in May 2019 so does not have a tax return for 2018/19.
Owners of a fish and chip shop closed due to coronavirus and a bakery which is operating with significantly reduced business, but whose previous earnings exceed the £50,000 a year trading profits cap.
A hair and beauty salon owner who has been able to furlough her employees, but is set to receive only a small amount herself because she took most of her income through dividends.
A pet sitter who became self-employed in November 2018 after being in full-time employment, which means less than 50 per cent of her income in the tax year 2018/19 was from self-employment.
A childcare provider who worked 70 hours a week but whose income has completely disappeared. She is ineligible because her average earnings for the last three years are above the £50,000 cap.
Mr Cherry said: "These are real, hard-working people who have built up successful businesses and paid taxes all their lives, who now find themselves facing hardship with little of the current support available for them.
"A significant group outside the scheme are many who are far from being high earners, who provide important services, who have paid their taxes over the years as owner directors or been forced to set up as limited companies because their customers required it."
"HMRC has often not fully recognised the diversity of businesses within these groups, and that is why FSB has shared more than 500 examples of real-life entrepreneurs and their real-life situations.
"We call on the authorities to look urgently at what help can be provided to those who miss out on the income support for self-employed. FSB has long called for HMRC to review how better to support some of these groups when we look at future tax and support arrangements."
Alex Kell, principal and financial planner at Quayside Wealth Management in Gloucester, said people running successful or growing businesses risk missing out.
He said: "Although I believe the Government has done some great things and acted quickly, there are still many that need support that are being missed.
"This feels largely because taxation of sole traders and partners of firms is largely misunderstood.
"The concern I have for our clients is the seemingly irrelevant cap of trading profits at £50,000.
"This isn't a relevant marker for earned income and there is a distinct difference in how someone who has a salary above £50,000 is being treated in comparison to someone who is self-employed."
He continued: "It's an inequity in a decision that can see two people salaried earning £120,000 in their household receive a £5,000 monthly grant and two people who declare £100,000 of self employed income receive nothing at all.
"What has been done is commendable and decisions had to made quickly, but I can't help but think the grant offered to the general population should have been nearer 60 per cent, more inline with a private income protection plan.
"So many of these entrepreneurs that have created jobs, developed products, offered opportunities in the work place and so much more are being left out in their hour of need."
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