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Coronavirus: Help for businesses in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Updated on 4 October 2021

The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak is having far-reaching financial impacts on individuals and businesses across the UK, and indeed across the world. This page tells you about the help offered by the devolved governments for businesses in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

It is important to note that the devolved governments only have powers over some taxes and social security. Therefore, in many cases, the measures introduced by the UK government will apply to businesses in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

For information about self-employment and paying tax, see our self-employment page. For employers, see our information for employers page.

Illustration of a group of people wearing face masks

What support is there for small businesses in Northern Ireland?

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced a number of different support grants and reliefs for businesses. We provide brief details on some of those most relevant to small businesses.

Newly Self-Employed Support Scheme: The Northern Irish Government announced the Newly Self-Employed Support Scheme as a means of supporting self-employed individuals in Northern Ireland who are not eligible for the UK Government’s first three Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants. The Scheme provides one-off £3,500 grants for the newly self-employed facing hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Scheme launched on 7 January 2021 and closed to applications on 19 February 2021.

Invest Northern Ireland is administering the Scheme.

There is more information and an eligibility checker tool on the NI Business info website.

Hardship Fund: This aimed to assist businesses in Northern Ireland with fewer than 10 employees. It was available to businesses (including social enterprises and charities) that did not qualify for either the Small Business Support Grant Scheme or the Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant Scheme. Applications closed on Friday 12 June 2020.

Small Business Support Grant: The scheme provided a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses that were in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief, subject to some exclusions. The deadline for registrations was 20 May 2020.

Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant: The scheme provided a one-off grant of £25,000 to ratepayers in the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors who pay rates on a property with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000. The deadline for registrations was 20 May 2020.

Business Rates: There was a business rates holiday for four months (April-July 2020) for all business ratepayers, except for the public sector and utilities. Businesses in certain sectors did not have to pay any business rates in the financial year to 31 March 2021, including hospitality, tourism, leisure and childcare. The Regional Rate was adjusted downward to offset the change in the total rateable value due to Reval2020, and a further 12.5% cut was made, meaning an effective 18% reduction compared to the 2019/20 figure. In addition, the small business rate relief scheme continued to apply with the three levels of relief available.

There is a 12-month rates holiday for the whole of the financial year 2021/22 for businesses in certain sectors. This is likely to include businesses in hospitality, tourism, leisure, retail and retail services, childcare, airports, newspapers and manufacturing.

Sports Hardship Fund: The fund provided small grants of £2,000 to sports clubs and sporting organisations from the voluntary and community sector. This was only available to those organisations unable to receive support from other government coronavirus mitigation funds.

Fishing industry: The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) provided three months of financial support to fishing businesses. The support was delivered by monthly payments, which vary depending on the size of the vessel.

COVID-19 Business and Financial Planning Grant: This was open to all micro, small and medium-sized businesses in Northern Ireland that are Invest NI customers or that operate in manufacturing, construction, professional services, information and communication, or science and technology. It offered a maximum grant of £8,000 to support 80% of eligible costs to engage a consultant to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications closed on 30 November 2020.

Localised Restrictions Support Scheme: The scheme provides financial support to businesses that have been required to close or have had their premises directly curtailed by the health protection restrictions put in place by the NI Executive. Applications closed on 7 April 2021.

Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme: The scheme provides financial support to businesses directly impacted by the health protection restrictions put in place by the NI Executive. It is available to businesses forced to close or severely limit their operations. Applications closed on 7 April 2021.

Limited Company Director’s Support Scheme: The scheme provides financial support to company directors who have been personally adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The scheme is administered by Invest Northern Ireland. Applications closed on 4 March 2021.

What support is there for small businesses in Scotland?

Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund: The Scottish Governmentannounced the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund as a means of supporting self-employed individuals in Scotland who were not eligible for the UK Government’s first three Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants, because they started self-employment on or after 6 April 2019.

The fund provides £2,000 grants for the newly self-employed facing hardship, who were excluded from the first three UK SEISS grants.

The funding scheme opened for applications at the end of April 2020 and had to be made through the appropriate local authority. Recipients should have started to receive funds from early May 2020.

COVID-19 Restrictions Fund: The fund provided one-off grants to businesses required to close by regulations. The funding provided depended on the rateable value of the premises. A hardship fund also provided grants to support businesses that remained open but were directly affected by the restrictions. Local authorities distributed the funds.

Strategic Framework Business Fund: The fund provides grants on a 4-weekly basis to eligible businesses in the hospitality, non-essential retail and leisure sectors. In addition, the fund provides a one-off top-up grant to eligible businesses – these are broadly businesses that are required to close or modify their operations due to coronavirus restrictions.

Small Business Support Grant: The scheme provided a one-off grant of £10,000 to small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief; a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme, but who applied for Nursery Relief, Business Growth Accelerator Relief, Disabled Relief or Fresh Start; a one-off grant of £10,000 to charities in receipt of any Charitable Rates Relief or Sports Relief, but otherwise eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme. An extension to the scheme provided a 75% grant on all subsequent properties. The scheme closed to new applications on 10 July 2020.

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Support Grant: The scheme provided a one-off grant of £25,000 to businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors for properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000. The scheme closed to new applications on 10 July 2020.

Business Rates / Non-Domestic Rates: There were a few automatic reliefs to support businesses in 2020/21, including a 100% non-domestic rates relief for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors; a 1.6% non-domestic rates relief for all properties across Scotland (this effectively reverses the planned inflationary increase for the year); and a 100% non-domestic rates relief for Scottish airports, organisations providing handling services for schedules passenger flights at Scottish airports and Loganair airline. There is also information available on mygov.scot.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses are also receiving 100% non-domestic rates relief for 2021/22. It is necessary to apply to the relevant local council to obtain the relief for 2021/22.

Small Business Bonus Scheme: This provided some relief from non-domestic rates for 2020/21 to businesses if the combined rateable value of all their business properties was £35,000 or less, and the rateable value of individual properties was £18,000 or less. The relief available depended on the rateable value.

Bed and Breakfast Hardship Fund: The fund aimed to support bed and breakfast businesses and other small serviced accommodation businesses that operate using a personal rather than a business bank account. It offered a one-off payment of £3,000.

Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund: The fund provided a one-off grant of £1,500 to eligible licensed taxi and private hire drivers who were experiencing financial challenge as a result of coronavirus. Local authorities administered the support. Applications closed on 25 March 2021.

What support is there for small businesses in Wales?

Start Up Grant: The Welsh Government announced the Start Up Grant fund as a means of supporting self-employed individuals in Wales who were not eligible for the UK Government’s first three Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants, because they started self-employment on or after 6 April 2019.

The fund provided £2,500 grants for the newly self-employed, who experienced a drop in turnover and who were excluded from the first three UK SEISS grants.

The funding scheme opened for applications on 29 June 2020. Applications had to be made through the appropriate local authority.

Small Business Support Grant: The scheme provided a grant of £10,000 to all small businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less; a grant of £10,000 to all ratepayers eligible for charitable relief and Community Amateur Sports Club Relief operating in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors occupying properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. The scheme closed to new applications on 30 June 2020.

Hospitality, Leisure and Retail Grant: The scheme provided a grant of £25,000 for businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors with a rateable value between £12,001 and £51,000. The scheme closed to new applications on 30 June 2020.

Business Rates: For 2020/21 there was an automatic 100% non-domestic rates relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector – for businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or less.

For 2021/22, there is 100% non-domestic rates relief for the retail, leisure and hospitality sector.

Economic Resilience Fund: The fund aims to support businesses, social enterprises and charities that are not eligible for any other Welsh Government coronavirus grant support schemes. Applications for funds originally closed at the end of June 2020. Further funding has been announced, which will provide grants for businesses affected by the firebreak in Wales.

Fishing industry: There was a grant available for businesses that own and operate Welsh-licenced fishing vessels. The grant was based on the size of the vessel. In order to apply, eligible businesses had to first register with Rural Payments Wales.

Cultural Recovery Fund: The fund aims to support a wide range of organisations and individual freelancers operating in the cultural and heritage sector. Applications for Phase 2 of funding opened on 17 May 2021. Applications close on 1 June 2021. The fund will pay out non-repayable grants; the size of the grant will depend on eligible costs. There is an eligibility checker that can be accessed prior to making an application.

Childcare Providers Grant: The scheme provided a one-off grant of up to £5,000 to cover the loss of income between 1 April and 30 June 2020. It was only available to childcare providers that are registered with Care Inspectorate Wales. The closing date for applications was 31 October 2020.

I have received a grant from one of the devolved government support schemes. Is it taxable?

If your business has received a grant from one of the devolved government coronavirus support schemes, such as the newly self-employed hardship fund, a small business support grant or a hospitality, leisure, tourism and retail grant, you should treat it as taxable income of the business.

This means that if you are self-employed or a partner in a partnership, the grant will be included in the calculation of taxable profits and you will be subject to income tax and Class 4 National Insurance contributions on it, as part of your taxable profits.

If you run your business through a limited company, the grant should be included in the calculation of profits subject to corporation tax, and the company will pay corporation tax on the grant, as part of its taxable profits.

What if I am receiving tax credits?

If your business is a self-employment and you have received a grant and you are receiving tax credits, you will have to include the grant as part of your income for your tax credits claim purposes.

Although we know that these grants will be taken into account as income for tax credit purposes, it is currently unclear how that will be done. We are seeking an answer from HMRC about this and we will publish an update in due course.

What if I am receiving universal credit?

If you are self-employed and you have received a business grant and you are receiving universal credit (UC), it is our understanding that the grant will be treated as self-employed earnings in the UC assessment period in which it is received. Self-employed UC claimants must send their earnings information to the Department for Work and Pensions after the end of each assessment period.

You usually need to report payments into and out of the business in the assessment period – that includes the total amount of income your business received. You will also report any expenses paid out in that assessment period along with any payments of tax, National Insurance contributions and any money you paid into your pension. Although the grants are taxable, you can only deduct any tax actually paid in that assessment period for UC purposes.

The grants will be treated as self-employed income in the assessment period that they are received and will not affect any UC received in earlier assessment periods, even if your business had been adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak during those assessment periods. In other words, it will not affect past UC entitlement.

However, it is possible that receipt of the whole amount of the grant in one UC assessment period will trigger something called ‘surplus earnings’ and as a result, it may affect your UC in subsequent assessment periods. We will be adding more information about surplus earnings shortly – in the meantime you can read the information on our Revenuebenefits website for advisers.

Where can I find more information and help?

Northern Ireland

The NI Business Info website provides guidance for businesses in Northern Ireland affected by the coronavirus and a full list of all the different grants provided by the Northern Ireland Executive.

The Invest NI website also provides advice on supporting your business during this difficult time.

Scotland

The Scottish government website provides general information and guidance about the coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes health and travel advice, including for overseas visitors to Scotland.

The Find Business Support website has information on the support available to businesses in Scotland. It also has a list of funds that have already closed.

The Scottish government launched a helpline, which provides businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on the coronavirus.

The helpline is open Monday to Friday, between 8.30am and 5.30pm.

The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660.

Revenue Scotland are the Scottish tax authority, with responsibility for the devolved taxes – Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and Scottish Landfill Tax. There is information on the changes to Revenue Scotland’s operations in response to the coronavirus on their website.

Wales

The Welsh Government website provides general information in Welsh and English on the coronavirus (COVID-19) and this information is updated on a regular basis.

The Business Wales website has information on the support available to businesses in Wales.

The Welsh Revenue Authority have responsibility for the devolved taxes – Land Transaction Tax and Landfill Disposal Tax. There is information on the changes to the Welsh Revenue Authority’s operations in response to the coronavirus on their website.

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