It seems that every day the realities of the situation the economy is in just gets worse. I am sure you are pleased that the government is pumping money into small businesses. But what happens if you are self-employed or trade as a sole trader rather than limited business? 

Here is a summary of what help is available for you if you are self-employed or worried about your personal financial affairs. 

Universal credit: can you claim this? 

Universal Credit is a monthly payment to help with your living costs. It is available for anyone, even if you are self-employed. But as always you need to meet fairly specific criteria; namely you are on a low income or out of work.  If you’re expected to look for and be available for work, then it needs to be identified whether you’re ‘gainfully self- employed’.

Gainful self-employment means that: 

  • your main employment is self-employment 
  • you have self-employed earnings 
  • your work is organised, developed, regular and in expectation of profit 

As you would expect, you must provide evidence about your business and what you are earning through your business. 

If you’re gainfully self-employed, your Universal Credit payment may be calculated using an assumed level of earnings, called a Minimum Income Floor.  It’s based on what an employed person on minimum wage would expect to earn in similar circumstances. If you earn more than this, then your Universal Credit amount is based on your actual earnings. If you earn less, the Minimum Income Floor is used to work out how much you can get. You may need to look for additional work to top up your income.

To check if you are eligible for Universal credit go to: https://www.gov.uk/self-employment-and-universal-credit 

Mortgage Repayment 

From 17th March you can ask for up to a three-month repayment deferment on your mortgage to give you some breathing space. This deferment applies to homeowners and buy-to-let landlords, to allow them to pass on the payment reduction or deferment to their tenants. It will not affect your credit score. However, you must agree your repayment deferment with your bank, otherwise you may skip a payment and it will show a default on your credit score. Please speak to your bank if you want to organise a deferment on your mortgage. 

Talk with your network and get creative 

Now is not the time to lie low. Now is the time to get talking to your network. Firstly pick up the phone, otherwise email or message via social media. They may be aware of some opportunities for you to generate some work. Now, is also the time to be creative with your skill set. For example, if you run a hospitality business and can’t work from home, how about offering skype one-to-one cooking classes? 

Event cancellations 

If you lost money due to an event being cancelled the outline is: 

  • Contact the organiser first 
  • Organisers that postpone events don’t have to refund until they announce the new date 
  • Ask your ticketing platform about refunds 
  • If you are struggling to get a refund then your credit card provider could help with a refund 

You might not get all of your money back – but it’s worth fighting for. 

Time to Pay Arrangement 

Lastly, a dedicated Helpline has been set up to help businesses & self-employed in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities. Call this helpline to be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement with HMRC. This is where you agree with HMRC a bespoke payment plan for your outstanding tax liabilities. 

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, talk to us first as we can help you plan your call to HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559. 

The information above is correct to the best of our knowledge, but please seek advice before following any of the above.