COVID-19: Resources and Guidance for Churches, Charities and Mission Workers
Help for Churches and Christian Charities
- Places of Worship UPDATED 5th August 2021
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) UPDATED 11 August 2021
- Coronavirus vaccine access for ‘undocumented people’
- Tax exemption for charity trading – impact of Coronavirus Support Payments
- Commercial Insurance: Events Cancellation Insurance and Business Interruption Insurance NEW AND UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Guidance on safe and effective volunteering during COVID-19 UPDATED 11 August 2021
- The new Debt Respite Scheme (‘Breathing Space’)
- Tax exemption: COVID-19 testing
- Government grants for businesses required to close due to local or national restrictions UPDATED 12 August 2021
- DBS Checks: Use of expired passports for ID checking during COVID-19 UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Government-backed Loan Schemes
- Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’)
- Tax: Expenses and benefits provided to employees during COVID-19
- Tax relief for employees working from home due to COVID-19 UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave
- COVID-19: Charity governance issues UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Protection from eviction by landlord for non payment of rent UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Gift Aid and the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme UPDATED 5 August 2021
- Deferring payments of tax due UPDATED 5 August 2021
- Guidance for employers and businesses during COVID-19 UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Business Rates Relief (England; see separate guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
- Coronavirus, contracts: cancellation and refunds (including for weddings)
- Business Rates: Empty Property Relief
- COVID-19 Small Business Grant Fund (‘SBGF’)
- Risk of fraud and cybercrime against charities during COVID-19
- Domestic and International Travel UPDATED 11 August 2021
Help for Self-Employed Christian Missionaries and other Christian Workers
- Self Employed Income Support Scheme and welfare benefits for the self employed UPDATED 10 August 2021
- Protection from eviction from rented and mortgaged accommodation UPDATED 12 August 2021
Help for Individuals and Workers
- Legal duty to self isolate, financial support whilst isolating and fines for non-compliance UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare
- Tax relief for working from home due to COVID-19 UPDATED 12 August 2021
- Employer provided bicycles (‘Cycle to Work Scheme’) and COVID-19
- HMRC advice on giving up employment or investment income during COVID-19
- Scams: Scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic UPDATED 11 August 2021
Other General Resources / Signposts
A collection of guidance, commentary and links to further resources and information to help churches and charities through the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The following notes and commentary are designed to help church and charity leaders, along with Christian missionaries and other Christian workers to navigate their way through the many resources available during this pandemic. The laws and guidance covered apply in England but does not cover local lockdown rules. There may also be variations for those based in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
We have briefly summarised the relevant material and then signposted you to further Stewardship and third-party information.
Information is subject to frequent change and you are therefore urged to check that you are viewing the most up-to-date details.
Help for Churches and Christian Charities
Following the move in England to Step 4, virtually all restrictions are removed.
The Government’s COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship was revised on 16 July ahead of the move to Step 4 on 19 July. This is aimed at the public learning to live with coronavirus and managing risks both for oneself and for others.
This sets out that there are no longer any restrictions on the number of people that can meet or on group sizes at communal worship, weddings, funerals and baptisms, that the legal requirements for social distancing and the requirement for face coverings no longer apply and congregational singing can now take place both inside and outside of a building. But there are still some precautions that need to be taken:
- Under Health and Safety legislation, church trustees have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their organisation. This means that there is still a necessity to carry out a health and safety risk assessment which includes the (current) risk of COVID-19 and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks identified.
- Churches should therefore continue to follow the Government’s Working Safely guidance. This sets out a range of mitigations employers and venue managers should consider including:
- cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly;
- identifying poorly ventilated areas and taking steps to improve air flow;
- ensuring that staff and visitors who are unwell do not attend;
- communicating to staff and visitors the measures put in place.
- Churches are encouraged to continue to display an NHS QR code for those wishing to check in using the app, to help reduce the spread of the virus and protect your visitors and staff. However, compliance is not mandatory. If you do display a QR code, you should also have a system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details for those who ask to check-in but do not have access to, or prefer not to use the app.
The guidance includes advice on:
- Keeping yourself and others safe
- Social distancing and capacity and how to stay safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Fresh air and ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of COVID-19
- Testing oneself to manage risk, and testing if symptoms develop
- Protecting the vulnerable
- Handling objects and communal resources, and personal hygiene
- Singing, music, and performances
- Venues and working safely
- Food and drink
- Using the NHS COVID-19 app
- Collection of contact details
The Government has also published Step 4 guidance for:
- Weddings and wedding receptions
- Funerals and wakes – in particular, given the (limited) exemption for some people to leave self-isolation or quarantine to attend a funeral, attendees may choose to limit close contact with people they do not live with and to take a free lateral flow test to help manage the risk of close contact.
This publication also includes important guidance to those responsible for a funeral venue in relation to anyone leaving self-isolation or quarantine to attend a funeral. This must be factored into the risk assessment. Advice for those attending a funeral from self-isolation or quarantine includes the need to maintain at least two metres distance from other attendees at all times and to wear a properly fitting surgical-grade fluid repellent (Type IIR) face mask. If a respirator mask is used (for example N95), this should be non-valved.
as well as on:
Whilst the law has been relaxed, church leaders have a delicate balance to negotiate in order to sensitively take account of those members that feel less safe than others. They will therefore want to consider carefully how best to accommodate as many of their members as they can whilst potentially carrying on online broadcasts or recordings of services so that members that still do not feel able or are unable to attend (for example, because of the need to self-isolate), can still take part in the life of the church. An example of a measure that may be taken is to provide an area of the church where seating arrangements allow for social distancing to be maintained between household groups and face coverings are worn.
Many church denominations have prepared advice for their own churches which others may find a useful reference point. These include:
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was extended in Budget 2021 until 30 September 2021. Eligible employers can join the Scheme even where they have not participated previously so long as the individual was employed and on the PAYE payroll on 2 March 2021. There are strict time limits for each month’s claims – for which, see ‘Deadlines for monthly claims’ below.
From 1 July 2021, the level of grant was reduced and employers will need to contribute towards the cost of furloughed employees’ wages, as the economy reopens.
To be eligible for the grant, furloughed employees must continue to be paid 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they spend on furlough. Wage caps are proportional to the hours not worked. Employers therefore need to top up the furlough grant to meet the minimum 80% pay level.
The Table below shows the level of government contribution, the required employer contributions and the amount that employees receive (or should have received) per month from May onwards, where the employee is furloughed 100% of the time:
wages for hours not worked
80% up to £2,500
80% up to £2,500
70% up to £2,187.50
60% up to £1,875
60% up to £1,875
Employer contribution: employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions
wages for hours not worked
10% up to £312.50
20% up to £625
20% up to £625
For hours not worked employee receives
80% up to £2,500 per month
80% up to £2,500 per month
80% up to £2,500 per month
80% up to £2,500 per month
80% up to £2,500 per month
Employers can work out how much they can claim from the CJRS, and what they’ll need to pay to top up to 80%, using HMRC’s CJRS calculator and examples.
Employers can continue to top up employees’ wages above the 80% total and £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at their own expense.
The CJRS is available to churches and charities where staff are paid under PAYE. This includes office holders such as ministers of religion. Churches are able to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time.
Staff can be furloughed because they
- have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19, or
- are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance.
HMRC has updated its CJRS Step by Step Guide for Employers which all employers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with.
Government publication of each employer’s CJRS claims
As part of their commitment to transparency and to deter fraudulent claims, HMRC now publish details of employers who have made CJRS claims:
- Employer name
- an indication of the value of claims within a banded range
- Company reference number (CRN)
If there could be a serious risk to individuals of violence or intimidation from publication of these details, an employer (but not their tax agent) can request that their details are not published by completing an online application and provide supporting evidence.
New lists are published monthly and HMRC are encouraging the public to report fraud to HMRC if they have evidence to suggest that an employer on the list is abusing the scheme.
In a further move, HMRC also lets employees know if their employer has submitted a CJRS claim for them, via their online Personal Tax Account.
Requirement for written agreements with employees
To be eligible for the grant, employers must have confirmed to their employee (or reached collective agreement with a trade union) in writing that they have been furloughed or flexibly furloughed.
- make sure that the agreement is consistent with employment, equality and discrimination laws
- keep a written record of the agreement for five years
- keep records of how many hours their employees work and the number of hours they are furloughed (for example, not working), for six years
The Scheme rules set out what the agreement between employer and employee should contain. The employee does not have to provide a written response and employers do not need to place all their employees on furlough.
- All employers with a UK, Isle of Man or Channel Island bank account and a UK PAYE scheme can claim the grant.
- Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the CJRS.
- Staff costs that are publicly funded (even if the employer is not in the public sector) should use that money to continue paying staff and not furlough them.
For periods from 1 May 2021 onwards:
- Employees are eligible under the CJRS if they were employed and on the PAYE payroll on 2 March 2021. This means the employer must have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021, notifying HMRC of earnings for that employee.
- Neither the employer not their employees need to have benefitted from the CJRS before in order to make a claim as long as both meet the eligibility criteria.
- Employees can be on any type of contract including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts. Foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed on all categories of visa.
- Employers can agree any working arrangements with employees.
- Employees, including apprentices, placed on furlough can undertake training, or work or volunteer with another employer or organisation (if their employment contract permits this). However, employees undertaking training whilst furloughed must receive at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage as appropriate for all the time they spend training. This means that for time spent training the employer must cover any shortfall between the amount claimed for wages through the CJRS and the appropriate minimum wage.
- Supply teachers are eligible for the scheme in the same way as other employees and can continue to be claimed for during school holiday periods provided that the usual eligibility criteria are met.
Furloughed employees and other work or volunteering
During hours for which an employee is on furlough, they cannot be asked to do any work that:
- makes money or provides services for the employer or any organisation linked or associated with the employer;
But the employee can:
- take part in training
- volunteer for another employer or organisation
- work for another employer (if contractually allowed)
Furlough and holidays including bank holidays
If employers have furloughed employees because of the effects of coronavirus on their business, they can claim under the CJRS for periods of paid leave their employees take while on furlough, including for bank holidays. Employers should not place employees on furlough just because they are going to be on leave.
If an employee is furloughed for only some of their hours, employers can count all time taken as holiday as furloughed hours, rather than working hours. This means employers can currently claim for 80% of their employee’s usual wages when they’re on leave.
In line with the Working Time Regulations, if a furloughed employee takes holiday, employers should make sure they are calculating the correct holiday pay and not simply continuing to pay the 80% they receive through the CJRS. They may need to top up their employees’ pay to 100% of their normal hourly rate or salary. More information is available here.
Furlough and sickness
If an employee is on sick leave or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus, they may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The CJRS is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness.
Short-term illness or self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee. If, however, employers want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee.
Employers can furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to furlough these employees. An employer does not need a business reason to be eligible to claim for these employees.
Employers can claim under both the CJRS and the SSP rebate scheme (see separate Statutory Sick Pay section below) for the same employee but not for the same period of time. When an employee is on furlough, a claim should only be made through the CJRS, and not the SSP rebate scheme. If a non-furloughed employee becomes ill due to coronavirus or needs to self-isolate or shield, this may qualify for the SSP rebate scheme.
If an employee becomes sick while furloughed
Furloughed employees retain their statutory rights, including their right to SSP. This means that furloughed employees who become ill, due to coronavirus or any other cause, must be paid at least SSP. Subject to eligibility, this includes those self-isolating or clinically extremely vulnerable because of coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate.
If a furloughed employee who becomes sick is moved onto SSP, employers can no longer claim for the furloughed salary. Employers are required to pay SSP themselves, although may qualify for a rebate for up to two weeks of SSP if the sickness is related to coronavirus.
If employers keep the sick furloughed employee on the furloughed rate for the period that they are sick, they remain eligible to claim for these costs through the furloughed scheme.
Flexible furlough agreements
There is no minimum furlough period. Agreed flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time. Employees can enter into a flexible furlough agreement more than once.
Although flexible furlough agreements can last any amount of time, the period that you claim for must be for a minimum claim period of seven calendar days unless otherwise specified.
Employment taxes, national insurance and pension contributions
Employers must continue to deduct PAYE income tax and employee National Insurance contributions on the full amount paid to employees, including any CJRS grant. These, together with employer’s national insurance contributions (again, based on the full amount, including CJRS grant), must be paid over to HMRC.
These payments must be reported through a Full Payment Submission (FPS) to HMRC on or before the pay date.
Employees will also still pay pension contributions (both employer and automatic contributions from the employee), unless the employee has opted out or stopped saving into their pension.
The CJRS grants do not cover employer National Insurance contributions or pension contributions.
Employers can claim the CJRS grant for the hours their employees are not working, calculated by reference to their 'usual hours' worked in a claim period.
Employers therefore need to report hours worked (for which they will pay their employees as normal) and the ‘usual hours’ an employee would be expected to work in a claim period.
When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, employers must report and claim for a minimum period of 7 consecutive calendar days (see also ‘Flexible furlough agreements’ above).
Claims must continue to be made for calendar months.
Deadlines for monthly claims
Claims can be made before, during or after the payroll is processed as long as the claim is submitted by the relevant claim deadline. The deadline is the 14th of the month following the month of claim unless this is a non-working day, in which case it is the next working day:
|Claims for furlough days in||Claim must be submitted by|
|July 2021||16 August 2021|
|August 2021||14 September 2021|
|September 2021||14 October 2021|
You cannot submit your claim more than 14 days before your claim period end date.
You will only be able to increase the amount of your claim if you amend the claim within 28 calendar days after the month the claim relates to (unless this falls on a weekend or a bank holiday, it would then be the next working day).
HMRC has given guidance on the limited circumstances under which they may accept a late claim. As a late claimant you will have to have:
- a ‘reasonable excuse’ (see below)
- taken reasonable care to try and claim on time, and
- claimed without delay as soon as you were able to
They list the following as examples of acceptable ‘reasonable excuses’:
- your partner or another close relative died shortly before the claim deadline
- you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your claim
- you had a serious or life-threatening illness, including coronavirus (COVID-19) related illnesses, which prevented you from making your claim (and no one else could claim for you)
- a period of self-isolation prevented you from making your claim (and no one else could make the claim for you)
- your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online claim
- service issues with HMRC online services prevented you from making your claim
- a fire, flood or theft prevented you them from making your claim
- postal delays that you could not have predicted prevented you from making your claim
- delays related to a disability you have prevented you from making your claim
- an HMRC error prevented you from making your claim
If you’ve missed the claim deadline and have a reasonable excuse, you should use the service as normal. You can submit a request from the page where you choose your claim month. You should do this as soon as you’re ready to make your claim but only after the claim deadline has passed.
Interaction of CJRS and Employment Allowance
Employers who claimed CJRS grants for periods between 1 March and 31 July 2020 will have received a grant under the Scheme for eligible Class 1 employer National Insurance contributions costs. This was only possible for CJRS claims during that period.
HMRC has recently pointed out that when working out how much employer National Insurance contributions are claimable from the CJRS Scheme, employers should have subtracted any Employment Allowance (EA) for that pay period (leading to a reduced CJRS claim).
EA can be used to pay less employer National Insurance contributions until the allowance runs out or until the end of the tax year, whichever comes first. However, EA cannot be manually spread over the tax year if it would otherwise be used up sooner. In other words, employers must ensure that they did not receive relief for the same employer National Insurance contributions costs twice.
July 2020 was the last month for which you could claim a CJRS grant towards National Insurance Contributions. If too much has been claimed under the CJRS, employers should contact HMRC’s employer helpline and they will change the value of your EA claim.
If an error has been made, it is advisable to contact HMRC to put this right as soon as possible. As they go on to say “attempting to get relief for the same costs twice is fraudulent and may result in claims being investigated.”
Further guidance on the claims process:
- Reporting employees' wages to HMRC when you've claimed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Calculate how much you can claim using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Identifying ‘usual pay’ will depend on whether the employee is on a fixed pay or variable pay contract.
Employee has fixed pay
First, it is necessary to identify the reference period to use to work out a given employee’s usual pay.
The reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 19 March 2020 for employees who either:
- were on the payroll on 19 March 2020 (and their earnings were reported to HMRC on a Real Time Information Full Payment Submission on or before 19 March 2020)
- or were subject to a valid CJRS claim in a claim period ending any time on or before 31 October 2020.
For all other employees, the reference period is the last pay period ending on or before 30 October 2020.
Employees whose pay varies
If an employee has variable pay, their ‘usual pay’ depends on when they were on the payroll.
For employees on the payroll on 19 March 2020 (whose earnings were reported to HMRC on a Real Time Information Full Payment Submission on or before 19 March 2020), their ‘usual pay’ is the higher of:
- the wages earned in the corresponding calendar period in a previous year
- the average wages payable in the tax year 2019/20
The same applies to employees who were subject to a valid CJRS claim in a claim period ending any time on or before 31 October 2020.
For all other employees ‘usual pay’ is the average wages payable between 6 April 2020 (or, if later, the date the employment started) and the day before they are furloughed on or after 1 November 2020.
Employees who were first reported on your payroll between 31 October 2020 and 2 March 2021 can be furloughed from 1 May 2021. Details of how you should calculate these employees’ wages will be provided in updated guidance in due course.
Further detail on ‘usual pay’ is given in the HMRC Guidance: Calculate how much you can claim using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
‘Usual hours’ and ‘furlough hours’
An employee’s ‘usual hours’ for the purposes of calculating the CJRS grant will depend on when they first came onto the payroll, when the first CJRS claim was made in respect of them and whether the employee works fixed or variable hours.
More detail on how to calculate ‘usual hours’ is given in the HMRC Guidance Steps to take before calculating your claim using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The ‘furlough hours’ are calculated as [‘usual hours’ minus actual hours worked] in the pay period. This is not always an obvious calculation as the ‘usual hours’ are calculated on a seven calendar day basis rather than on contractual working days.
HMRC has published detailed guidance on the CJRS from 1 November for:
Employees, covering (amongst other things):
- Self isolation, sick leave and sickness whilst on furlough;
- Furlough and caring responsibilities;
- Interaction of CJRS with receipt of welfare benefits such as tax credits, universal credit, maternity and paternity leave, shared parental leave and parental bereavement leave;
- Supply teachers;
- Holiday pay;
- Training; and
- Calculation of usual hours and usual pay for the purposes of CJRS.
- Staff taking holiday whilst on furlough (which requires the employer to top up pay above the CJRS grant)
- Training, volunteer work and working for third parties whilst on furlough
- How different employment conditions affect eligibility
- Redundancy and CJRS
- Employees whose health has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other conditions
- Employees on leave or returning from maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental or parental bereavement leave
Help with calculating your CJRS grant claims
- Steps to take before calculating your claim using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Calculate how much you can claim using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Find examples to help you calculate your employees' wages
If a CJRS grant has been over-claimed and not repaid, the employer must notify HMRC by the latest of either:
- 90 days after the date of receipt of the grant the employer was not entitled to
- 90 days after the date the employer received the grant that they were no longer entitled to keep because their circumstances changed
- 20 October 2020 (the date of Royal Assent to the Finance Act 2020)
Failure to notify HMRC within these time limits may result in a penalty.
Repayment of an over-claimed grant within these time limits will prevent a potential tax liability arising. If repaid, there is no need to make a disclosure to HMRC.
It is therefore prudent for churches and charities who have made claims to check and double-check that the amounts they claimed were right.
If a charity makes an honest mistake, HMRC will want to help correct it. However, where employers don’t take the opportunity to correct mistakes and don’t respond to HMRC prompts, they will carry out investigations into their affairs. HMRC has said that ‘deliberate defaulters’ will be publicly named on their website.
Both repayments of over-claimed amounts and payments where an employer wishes to make a voluntary repayment can be made by either:
- correcting it in their next claim (your new claim will be reduced and you’ll need to keep a record of the adjustment for 6 years)
- obtaining a payment reference number and pay HMRC back within 30 days (only if not making another claim)
Further details can be found in the HMRC Guidance: Pay Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grants back.
‘Undocumented people’ are at risk of not receiving the coronavirus vaccine. They include those not registered with a GP and those whose immigration status is uncertain at the present time.
Lord Greenhalgh, the Faith Minister, has released a statement confirming that the coronavirus vaccine will be offered and made available to everyone living in the UK free of charge, regardless of their immigration status, and that no immigration checks will be carried out.
It is important that as many people as possible are vaccinated in order to limit the spread of coronavirus. Churches can both encourage their members to receive the vaccine and reach out to marginalised people who may not be registered with a GP.
Lord Greehalgh’s statement, which appears in full on the Your Neighbour website, also contains a link enabling undocumented people to download and print an NHS ‘right to treatment’ card which makes clear that anyone in England can see a GP without the need for a fixed address or identification. It also gives the opportunity for the holder to indicate if they need help filling in forms or in reading and understanding materials.
About Your Neighbour:
Your Neighbour is helping local churches to restore hope, renew community and tackle injustice in the wake of Covid.
Partnered with Stewardship, they are working across all denominations, with charity partners and government to support and fund churches where the needs are greatest. They are the only organisation that is able to identify and support local churches and their communities solely based on need, and irrespective of any other affiliations. You can sign up on their homepage to receive actions, prayers, and opportunities to give to local church projects.
When charities carry out trading activity that constitutes the actual carrying out of a primary charitable purpose, that activity is exempt from income / corporation tax. An example would be selling bibles and Christian books as part of a church bookstall. However, where trading activities go beyond the actual carrying out of a primary purpose, for example, by selling books that are not specifically Christian, then those activities are taxable. However, there is a further exemption for small scale ‘non-charitable’ trading activities. This applies if:
- Total turnover from all of the trading activities does not exceed £8,000, or 25% of the total incoming resources (if greater), subject to an overall upper limit of £80,000, and
- The profits are used solely for the purposes of the charity.
‘Coronavirus Support Payments’ (CSP) are treated for tax purposes as additional income of the trade that gave rise to the CSP and are subject to tax where the trade concerned is taxable. What is included in the term ‘coronavirus support payments’ is defined in Finance Act 2020 and includes grants received under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the Small Business Grant Scheme, Retail and Leisure Hospitality Grants and Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund.
Where a charity’s activities that gave rise to a CSP, such as CJRS grants, are tax exempt, all CSP receipts including CJRS grants are also tax exempt. Furthermore, when considering if the small-scale ‘non charitable’ trading exemption (outlined above) applies, CSPs can been excluded from turnover.
New Government-backed ‘Events Cancellation’ insurance scheme
A new government-backed insurance scheme will help live events organisers to plan with confidence through to next year. It is understood that coverage for live events is either very expensive or excluded altogether, which for many large events simply means they cannot go ahead. Therefore, the new government backed Live Events Reinsurance Scheme will act as a guarantor to insurance companies. The scheme will support live events across the UK that are open to the general public – such as music festivals and business events. It will cover costs incurred in the event of cancellation due to the event being legally unable to happen due to Government Covid restrictions.
A number of prominent insurers in the Lloyd’s market, including Arch, Beazley, Dale, Hiscox and Munich Re are supporting the scheme which will be available from September 2021 until the end of September 2022 and will provide the option of purchasing cover alongside standard commercial events insurance, giving organisers the confidence to plan ahead.
Supreme Court decision on Business Interruption insurance
On 15 January 2020, the Supreme Court decided that many of the claims made under business interruption (BI) insurance policies as a result of COVID-19 that insurers had until now refused, should be paid. The Supreme Court is the most senior court in England and Wales and therefore their decision is final.
Implications for churches and Christian charities
Churches and Christian charities that undertake any form of business activity covered by BI insurance should consider whether or not they can make a claim if they have not already done so. The court decision may also impact on the amount of the claim that can be made. Therefore, if a claim has already been made, insured parties may wish to review this.
Whether or not a COVID-19 claim under a BI policy is payable is dependent on the precise policy wording in the insured’s particular policy. However, the court provided answers to some key questions of interpretation that insurers had sought to use to resist claims. It is now estimated that claims on 370,000 policies worth £1.8 billion covering 700 policy types and more than 60 insurance companies will be payable as a result of this decision.
Many policies include BI as a consequence of property damage only. But some policies also cover BI from other causes, in particular infectious or notifiable diseases ('disease clauses') and prevention of access and public authority closures or restrictions ('prevention of access clauses'). In some cases, insurers have accepted liability under these policies. In other cases, insurers have disputed liability while policyholders considered that they had cover, leading to widespread concern about the lack of clarity and certainty.
The Supreme Court ruled that cover may be available for partial closure of premises (as well as full closure) and for mandatory closure orders that were not legally binding; and that valid claims should not be reduced because the loss would have resulted in any event from the pandemic. This will mean that more policyholders will have valid claims and some pay-outs will be higher.
The judgment is legally binding on the insurers that agreed to be parties to the Supreme Court test case.
The judgment also provides authoritative guidance for the interpretation of similar policy wordings and claims. It can be taken into account in other court cases, including in Scotland and Northern Ireland, by the Financial Ombudsman and by the FCA in looking at whether insurers are handling claims fairly.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has provided a list of policies affected by these legal proceedings (although these currently only take into account the earlier High Court decision. They have yet to be updated for the subsequent Supreme Court decision). Inclusion in the list below does not necessarily mean that a BI claim will be competent. Reference should be made to the following further information and the FCA says that policyholders should speak to their insurance broker, legal advisers or insurer for questions arising:
FCA: Business interruption insurance page
Herbert Smith Freehills: Supreme Court hands down judgment in FCA’s Covid-19 Business Interruption Test Case
Ecclesiastical Insurance: FCA Test Case - update
The policies most likely to be of relevance to churches and charities are:
Aviva Insurance Limited
BHIB – CharityAssured Policy
Covea Insurance plc
(Endsleigh) Charity Advantage
Insure Your Village Hall
HDI Global Specialty SE
Edwards Church Choice
Presbyterian Church Choice
Elim Church Choice
Kingdom Bank Insurance Brokers Church Policy
Methodist Insurance Plc
QBE UK Limited
Salus Charity and Care Policy
PROCBCC170619 Rockland Village Halls Business Combined
The Government’s guidance on Enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19) has been updated to take account of the move to Step 4 of the Government Roadmap. Whilst many of the previous restrictions on volunteering have been lifted, the updated guidance makes it clear that:
- organisations and groups have a duty to manage risks to those affected by their business or venue(s). This means carrying out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risks relating to COVID-19, and taking reasonable steps to mitigate the risks identified. A link is provided to the Working safely guidance which sets out a range of mitigations organisations and groups should consider.
- whilst it is no longer a legal requirement, organisations are encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for volunteers or visitors wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app. To support NHS Test and Trace, organisations and groups should keep a record of all volunteers who come onto their premises, including their shift times on a given day and their contact details.
- people can leave England or the UK to volunteer but should check any travel guidance or restrictions before doing so (see Domestic and International Travel, below).
- organisations and groups have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure that, as far as reasonably practicable, they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
- organisations and groups should assess the risks around volunteering roles and activities and take steps to keep volunteers safe. The guidance outlines the steps the organisation should or may want to undertake in this context, including providing links to further published guidance:
- organisations or groups should think carefully about how they safeguard volunteers and everyone who comes into contact with them. Volunteers should be recognised throughout the organisation or group’s safeguarding policies and safeguarding should also be considered for policies relating to volunteers. Links are provided on how DBS guidelines have changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as well as government and third party guidance on six other safeguarding topics.
- careful consideration should be given to which type of insurance cover is needed to protect your volunteers and the organisation or group. Links to further guidance include ‘insurance and volunteers’ and Association of British Insurers guidance on insurance for volunteer drivers.
- people who receive benefits can volunteer while receiving their benefits, as long as they continue to meet all the conditions of the benefit they get guidance on volunteering and claiming benefits.
- employees who are furloughed through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can, during the hours they are on furlough, volunteer for another employer or organisation. During the hours they are on furlough, employees are not permitted to volunteer for their own employer or an organisation linked or associated to their employer, where their volunteering either makes money for, or provides services to, their employer or such an organisation.
Other relevant guidance includes:
Volunteer opportunities, rights and expenses is a series of mini guides giving general guidance on volunteering but which has been updated to take account of COVID-19 issues. The mini guides cover:
- Finding volunteer opportunities
- Volunteers' rights
- When you can volunteer – includes COVID-19 advice for those aged over 70
- Pay and expenses
HM Treasury and The Insolvency Service launched a new Scheme at the beginning of May 2021 to provide breathing space to an estimated 700,000 people currently struggling with debt. The Scheme will give those facing financial difficulties a 60 day moratorium providing space to receive debt advice, or mental health crisis treatment, without pressure from creditors or mounting debts.
Under the scheme, people will be given legal protections from their creditors for 60 days, with most interest and penalty charges frozen, and enforcement action including distressing letters and bailiff visits halted. They will also receive professional debt advice to design a plan which helps to get their finances back on track.
There is often a link between mental health and debt. For this reason, people in debt who are also in mental health crisis treatment will receive these protections for the full duration of their crisis treatment plus another 30 days.
Accessing the Scheme
The standard ‘Breathing Space’ can be accessed by contacting a professional debt advisor. Given this may not be possible for someone in mental health crisis treatment, an approved mental health professional can certify they are receiving treatment and then a debt advice provider can consider whether they are eligible for the scheme.
Debts covered by the Scheme
Most debts will qualify for a breathing space, including credit and store cards; personal and payday loans; overdrafts; utility bills, rent and mortgages arrears; and government debts like tax and benefits. Universal Credit overpayments will be included in the Breathing Space scheme from day one and Universal Credit advances and third-party deductions will be included on a phased basis as early as possible after the policy starts.
The Insolvency Service is delivering the Breathing Space Scheme. It will maintain an electronic service to be used by debt advisers for starting, updating and ending a Breathing Space. The Insolvency Service will send notifications to creditors and their agents about a Breathing Space. It is also responsible for maintaining a private register of individuals in a Breathing Space or whose Breathing Space ended or was cancelled in the past 15 months.
Employer provided COVID-19 tests (antigen tests) are already exempt from tax and national insurance. However, this had not applied to advance payment by the employer to the employee or reimbursement by the employer of costs incurred by the employee for a COVID-19 test.
For the tax years 2020/21 and 2021/22 (that is, until 5 April 2022), there will be no income tax or national insurance implications of either employer advance funding or reimbursement of costs of employees who undertake a COVID-19 test. The exemption applies both to employer’s and employees’ national insurance. This has now been confirmed in official Guidance.
A number of church-based business activities (whether carried out within the charity of through a trading subsidiary) may have been able to benefit from several Government grant schemes which are being administered by Local Authorities. Most of these schemes are now closed but the Additional Restrictions Grant scheme remains:
Additional Restrictions Grant (‘ARG’)
In March 2021, the Government announced further funding for Local Authorities to continue ARG grant funding until 31 March 2022. The Scheme aims to support businesses severely impacted by coronavirus restrictions when most needed. Authorities can use their ARG funding for any form of business support activities. This may primarily take the form of discretionary grants, but they can also use it for wider direct business support activities.
In their guidance to Local Authorities, the Government says:
“In taking decisions on the appropriate level of grant, Local Authorities may want to take into account businesses outside of the business rates system, businesses that have not received any other grant support, the level of fixed costs of the business, the number of employees the business has, whether it is unable to trade online and the consequent scale of coronavirus losses.” [Emphasis added].
The Additional Restrictions Grant will need to be included as income in any tax return of the business (but see the section ‘Tax exemption for charity trading – impact of Coronavirus Support Payments’ above).
Eligibility appears to be defined by businesses that are not eligible rather than those that are. Apart from this, local authorities can seemingly provide grants at their discretion within the purposes of the ARG Scheme.
The following are ineligible:
- Businesses that have already received grant payments that equal the maximum permitted levels of subsidy. This is unlikely to apply to any churches or Christian charities.
- Businesses that are in administration, insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made
- ARG funding should not be used as a wage support mechanism, for capital projects that do not provide direct business support, or to fund projects whereby Local Authorities are the recipients.
Application is made to the local authority and businesses will be required to self-certify that they meet all eligibility criteria.
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) announced some relaxations to identity (ID) checking procedures during COVID-19 which enable:
- ID documents to be viewed over video link
- Scanned images to be used in advance of the DBS check being submitted
The changed procedure should only be used in urgent cases where it is not possible to follow the normal identity checking guidelines. The applicant must present the original versions of these documents when they first attend their employment or volunteering role.
Those checking ID documents should follow government advice on checking for indicators of fraud, which can be found here.
They subsequently announced an additional temporary relaxation to allow expired UK passports to be used for ID checking purposes, if within six months of their expiry date.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Support has published an explanation of how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic, where it differs from the standard holiday entitlement and pay guidance. It covers employers’ legal obligations towards both those that have continued to work, as well as those that have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The Guidance covers:
- Holiday entitlement
- Taking holiday
- Holiday pay
- Carrying annual leave into future leave years
- Furloughed agency workers
Recovery Loan Scheme (‘RCS’)
As part of the Budget announcements on 3 March 2021, the Government revealed plans to introduce a new Recovery Loan Scheme which launched on 6 April 2021. This follows the closure of several earlier Covid-19 loan schemes on 31 March 2021. The Recovery Loan Scheme is scheduled to run until 31 December 2021, subject to review.
This new scheme, which like its predecessor schemes, will be overseen by the Government-owned British Business Bank, aims to help businesses affected by Covid-19 and can be used for any legitimate business purpose, including managing cash flow, investment and growth. It is designed to appeal to businesses that can afford to take out additional debt finance for these purposes.
- Scheme details
The maximum value of a facility provided under the scheme is £10m per business. Minimum facility sizes vary, starting at £1,000 for asset and invoice finance, and £25,001 for term loans and overdrafts. Term loans and asset finance facilities are available for periods of up to six years, with overdrafts and invoice finance available for up to three years. Other features include:
A government guarantee of 80% of the finance to ensure that lenders continue to have the confidence to lend to businesses.
- No personal guarantees will be taken on facilities up to £250,000, and a borrower’s principal private residence will not be taken as security.
- Unlike the predecessor loans, businesses will be required to meet the costs of interest payments and any fees associated with the facility from the outset.
- There is no turnover restriction for businesses accessing the scheme.
- Term loans, overdrafts, asset finance and invoice finance facilities.
- Multiple facilities: Businesses who have taken out a predecessor CBILS, CLBILS or BBLS facility will also be able to access the new scheme, although the maximum they are allowed to borrow will depend on their lender’s assessment and scheme requirements.
Apart from a few stated exceptions, ‘businesses’ from any sector are eligible to apply. This includes churches and Christian charities, as well as trading subsidiaries. An eligible ‘business’ can apply if it:
- Generates more than 50% of its turnover from trading activity in the UK (i.e. the sale of goods or services). This does not apply to registered charities
- can show that it is viable or would be viable were it not for the pandemic
- has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic
- is not in collective insolvency proceedings - further details will be provided in due course
- Finance providers
Loans are available through a network of accredited lenders, whose names will be made public in due course. They will be required to undertake credit and fraud checks for all applicants. When making their assessment, they may overlook concerns over short-to-medium term performance owing to the pandemic. The checks and approach may vary between lenders.
HMRC has published guidance on claiming back SSP paid to employees due to COVID-19. SSP for sickness related to coronavirus is payable from the first day of sickness (rather than after the normal four waiting days). The Government will reimburse coronavirus-related SSP to the employer for the first two weeks if an employee is unable to work because they:
- have coronavirus symptoms
- are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
- are self-isolating because they’ve been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus
- have been advised by letter to shield because they’re clinically extremely vulnerable and at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus
- have been notified by the NHS to self-isolate before surgery for up to 14 days
Most people are asked to self-isolate for 3 days before surgery. In this case, the day of surgery will be the 4th day of their period of incapacity for work. You cannot claim repayment of SSP for the day of surgery or any other days when the absence is not due to coronavirus.
You can make more than one claim per employee, but you cannot claim for more than two weeks in total.
- If you’re claiming for wage costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time.
- If an employee has returned to the UK
Where an employee returning to the UK is required to quarantine for 14 days and is unable to work during this period, they will not qualify for SSP unless they also meet one of the above criteria.
- Other points to note
Claims can be made online.
Employees do not have to give you a doctor’s fit note for you to make a claim. But you can ask them to give you either:
- an isolation note from NHS 111 – if they are self-isolating and cannot work because of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- a ‘shielding note’ or a letter from their doctor or health authority advising them to shield because they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus
HMRC has published Guidance on tax reliefs and exemptions (and benefits that remain subject to income tax) arising from employees working from home because their workplace has closed or they have been advised to self isolate. Please note that this Guidance does not apply to furloughed workers.
The Guidance, which can be found here, covers issues such as provision of mobile devices and other employer-provided equipment, broadband installation costs, laptops, computers etc, office supplies, employer-provided loans, additional costs of electricity, heating and broadband and hotel and subsistence costs away from home where self isolating.
The above Guidance incorporates the principle set out on 13 May 2020 by Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury in a Written Statement in the House of Commons. That is, that where an employer reimburses expenses for office equipment bought by an employee for use at home during the coronavirus emergency, there will be a temporary tax exemption and National Insurance disregard to ensure that the expense will not attract tax and NICs liabilities provided that two conditions (set out in the Statement apply). This is backdated to 16 March 2020 and following Budget 2021, will now apply until 5 April 2022.
HMRC has also published guidance for employers on ‘How to Treat certain expenses and benefits provided to employees during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ including: Coronavirus testing, PPE, Living Accommodation; Volunteer fuel and Mileage Costs; Paying or Refunding Transport Costs; Company Car ‘availability’; and how to report these expenses and benefits to HMRC.
Many charities are suffering significant falls in income as a result of coronavirus and are therefore not in a position to compensate employees for any additional costs incurred by them from having to work at home (such as heat, light, water etc).
Charities in this position can point their staff in this position to a new microsite set up by HMRC to enable them to claim tax relief on those costs. For most staff, this amounts to £62 for each of the tax years 2020/21 and 2021/22. More detail is given in Help for Individuals and Workers, below.
Working parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will receive two weeks’ statutory leave and
Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay, where the death occurred on or after 6 April 2020.
More details can be found here.
Employers can reclaim up to 103% of the cost. More details can be found here.
Charity Commission guidance to the charity sector covers a number of issues of interest to churches and charities during the period of the pandemic, including:
- Arrangements for charity meetings including AGMs during COVID-19
- Filing of annual return and accounts with the Charity Commission.
- Relaxations in insolvency laws for charitable companies and CIOs.
Some of the temporary relaxations have been extended until 30 September 2021.
- Mergers and collaborative working to ease financial pressures.
- Advice on managing financial difficulties, especially for small charities.
This includes links to further guidance on financial resilience, charity reserves, a general tool to help trustees focus and managing financial difficulties caused by coronavirus.
- Financial support from a parent charity to its trading subsidiary.
Care needs to be taken here, including complying with trustees’ legal duties. A link to Trustees, Trading and Tax is also provided.
- Reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission: COVID-19 supplementary guidance
- Working with a company or business to help with coronavirus
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) has produced a guide that highlights a number of key issues arising from COVID-19 that may require consideration in connection with trustees’ annual reports and accounts for charities.
It is aimed particularly at preparers of a charity’s reports and accounts, and the trustees (who are ultimately responsible for them and therefore need to understand the potential impact of COVID-19 in this context). It is therefore highly recommended reading!
The Coronavirus Act 2020, s82, provides that forfeiture of business tenancies for non-payment of rent cannot be enforced within the period 26 March 2020 to 25 March 2022. Sums remain due and only an express waiver will waive the right to forfeit when the restricted period ends.
The Act defines “rent” as being any sum a tenant is liable to pay under the lease, which includes service charges and insurance rent contributions.
For charities, this can be a relief or a burden! Those of whom are renting property and unable to pay their rent, landlords will not be able to evict them. Of course, the opposite is true: if your charity has tenants that rent property from you, you will also not be able to take enforcement action. In all cases, the rent still falls due and will need to be paid at a later date.
Similar restrictions prevent landlords from using the Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) process until 25 March 2022.
The law in this area is fairly complex. Law firm Pinsent Masons has produced a useful summary of the current position during the pandemic.
- Gift Aid on cancelled events and loan waivers
The Government has agreed to enable attendees of events that have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19 to be allowed to donate their event ticket price to the hosting charity, under Gift Aid, without the need for the price paid to be refunded to the ticket holder first. This change is permanent. In addition, HMRC will now permit loans due to charities for which repayment is subsequently waived, to qualify for Gift Aid at the date of waiver.
For both ‘cancelled event donations’ and ‘loan waiver donations’, there are conditions that have to be met. The original announcement can be found here and updated guidance for charities can be found here.
Note that the relaxation only applies to cancelled and not postponed events.
- Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (‘GASDS’)
Whilst churches have been unable to meet because of Government restrictions on public gatherings,
they risk losing the benefit of payments under the GASDS. We, along with Charity Tax Group asked HMRC if they would consider temporarily relaxing the GASDS rules to allow donors who would have given small donations within the Scheme each week to give a lump sum at the end of the lockdown period. Their response was as follows:
“In respect of GASDS, guidance on the eligibility for donations for inclusion in this scheme is clear in stating that claims can only be made on cash donations of £30 or less; and contactless card donations of £30 or less collected on or after 6 April 2019.
“The decision over what constitutes an eligible donation is one for the church/charity to make for themselves, rather than for HMRC, but the conditions for something to be considered a ‘small donation’ are clearly set out in legislation. Where it is the case, for example, of separate donations being given in a single envelope, then if the church/charity official is happy these are clearly separate ‘small donations’ (and clearly stated as such) then they will be eligible for GASDS, as is the case where separate envelopes are used.”
HMRC has since explained that churches should take a common sense approach. For example, if A attends church regularly and puts £10 per week in an envelope in the offering and after a lockdown period puts £10 x the number of weeks in lockdown in an envelope, this is likely to amount to a series of small cash donations rather than a lump sum donation. This is especially so if the church member notes this on the envelope. It will fall within GASDS. On the other hand, if B only attends church at the annual Christmas Day service and puts £50 in an envelope in the offering, this would not qualify for GASDS. HMRC recognises that it cannot police these matters and therefore expects church treasurers and trustees to take a reasonable and responsible approach.
Churches are of course best advised to encourage taxpaying donors to set up standing orders or other forms of digital giving and sign a Gift Aid declaration in the normal way.
- Flexibility over deadlines and submissions
Charity Tax Group asked HMRC to consider introducing flexibility of tax reporting requirements and deadlines with specific mention of corporate and trust tax returns, and the making of corporate Gift Aid payments by trading subsidiaries to its parent charity. Their response was as follows:
“HMRC does not have any statutory discretion to extend filing deadlines and in any case, we think it is likely that most tax-payers will be able to file their returns and/or claims on time. However, if a charity is unable to file a tax return on time or submit a claim, and this is because of the impact of COVID-19, HMRC will consider this in line with the normal ‘reasonable excuse’ process.”
The message therefore, is if you are likely to have problems, contact HMRC as early as possible and keep copies of any correspondence (including email) and make a written record of any telephone conversations noting the date of the call and the name of the HMRC officer concerned.
There have been several schemes available to charities who have had difficulty meeting their tax payment obligations:
- PAYE/NI, and corporation tax
Charities in financial distress because of COVID-19, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.
These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. Contact should be made via web chat or by telephone. Details can be found here.
Charities that are registered for VAT were able to defer any VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, until 31 March 2021. This relaxation came to an end on 30 June 2021 and the VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme is now closed to new applicants. If VAT deferred during this period was, or is not paid on time, then penalties will be chargeable.
There is no deferral available for VAT payments falling due from 1 July 2020 onwards. If there is any difficulty in meeting these VAT payments, a ‘time to pay’ arrangement should be agreed with HMRC.
The Government has published a series of Guidance Notes on Working safely during COVID-19. These cover (amongst other things) outdoor work, events and visitor attractions, offices, restaurants and takeaway services and shops. Each guide gives summary advice to follow to protect employees and customers, whilst continuing to operate. This includes social distancing, hygiene, cleanliness, staff sickness advice and staying at home.
Employers are reminded of their legal duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, workers and volunteers. General guidance on making a work place COVID-19 secure, published by the HSE can be found here and in links from that page.
Business Rates Relief can, potentially, apply to charity shops, coffee shops and certain trading subsidiaries of churches and charities that are subject to business rates, even if they qualify for charity relief from those rates.
It applies to properties wholly or mainly used for (amongst other things) shops, restaurants, cafés, drinking establishments, cinemas, live music venues, assembly and leisure, hotels, guest and boarding premises.
Business rates relief is available at 100% for the rating year 2020/21 and until 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021 until 31 March 2022 the relief is set at 66%. There is no upper limit on rateable value. Where a charity receives 80% mandatory relief and no discretionary relief, this relief can cover the remaining 20%.
Charities that qualify for mandatory 80% rates relief still qualify for these grants even if they
also receive 20% discretionary rates relief.
|Example (charity shop with rateable value of £40,000)|
|Gross rates (before any reliefs) = £40,000 x 0.512||£20,480|
|Net rates after mandatory charity relief (80% discount):||£4,096|
|Expanded Retail Discount (100% from 01/04/21 to 30/06/21), £4,096 x 91/365||(1,021)|
|Expanded Retail Discount (66% from 01/07/21 to 31/03/22), £4,096 x 0.66 x 274/365||(2,029)|
|Rates due (after charity relief and Expanded Retail Discount):||£1,045|
The relief is administered by each local authority and should be paid automatically. There is only need to contact the LA if a church or charity considers that they should qualify and don’t receive the relief.
The Competition and Markets Authority (‘CMA’) has published useful guidance on the subject of consumer facing businesses responsibilities where contracts are cancelled because of the pandemic. Churches and other venues should be aware of expectations in this area in respect of weddings, conferences, children’s nursery places and the like.
The guidance explains how the law operates in this area and is designed to help consumers understand their rights and to help businesses treat their customers fairly.
More recently, the CMA published its guidance on cancellations and refunds due to COVID-19 by wedding companies together with an open letter to wedding providers and its agreement with Bijou Weddings Group.
For completeness, on 7 May 2020, the Cabinet Office published “Guidance on responsible contractual behaviour in the performance and enforcement of contracts impacted by the Covid-19 emergency”. The Guidance is non-statutory and covers issues in very broad terms. Somewhat repetitively it asks contracting parties to act “responsibly and fairly”. Nevertheless, it is worth being aware where negotiation is needed on a contract impacted by COVID-19. Whilst being non-statutory, parties that choose to ignore it risk reputational damage going forwards.
Charities liable to business rates but who are unable to benefit from the business rates relief for retail etc premises, above, should give consideration to a claim for Empty Property Relief where this results from Government instructions to close the premises.
The SBGF is available to businesses in England in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rates Relief giving rise to a payment of £10,000. However, as charities benefit from 80% mandatory rates relief (and in come cases and additional 20% discretionary relief), they do not qualify for SBGF.
However, the Government announced (2 May 2020) a Top Up to Local Business Grant Funds Scheme. This is a discretionary fund to accommodate certain small businesses otherwise outside the scope of the SBGF. Funds will be provided to local authorities for them to use locally on a discretionary basis to assist small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. The Government is asking local authorities to prioritise, amongst others, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief.
The Government has once again warned that fraudsters are exploiting the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to carry out fraud and cybercrime. Police have reported an increase in COVID-19-related scams. They state that all charities, but especially those providing services and supporting local communities during the COVID-19 crisis, could be targeted by fraudsters.
The Alert gives examples of the types of fraud circulating, protection measures that can be taken and how to report fraud and cybercrime to the relevant authorities.
Prior to Covid, churches would, not uncommonly, invite speakers and others from overseas to take part in church activities. Equally pastors and others in England may receive invites to speak abroad.
Travel restrictions are subject to frequent change both in the UK and abroad. It is therefore important to consult up to date and authoritative guidance before travelling:
Domestic travel within the UK:
Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19) (FCO and FCDO advice)
Help for self-employed Christian Missionaries and other Christian Workers
Christian workers who are self employed and rely on raising their own support will ordinarily be liable to income tax on funds raised because of their Christian work.
For the self-employed that have lost income as a result of COVID-19, the SEISS has provided a series of taxable grants. The scheme will close with the fifth and final grant, which is open to claimants until 30 September 2021
The Scheme is targeted at those who, due to COVID-19, are either:
- actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand, or
- have been trading but are temporarily unable to do so.
Much of the information that follows can be viewed in a 33 minute YouTube video produced by HMRC.
- You must be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and must also have traded in both tax years:
- 2019 to 2020
- 2020 to 2021
You cannot claim the grant if you trade through a limited company or a trust.
- You must have:
Non-trading income is any money made outside of the business. For example, a part-time job or pension.
If you’re not eligible based on the trading profits in your 2019/20 self assessment tax return, HMRC will look back at previous years. They should have already have contacted you if you’re eligible for the grant based on your tax returns.
- Claimants must also declare that they:
- intend to continue to trade in 2021/22
- reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in their trading profits due to reduced business activity, capacity, demand or inability to trade due to coronavirus between 1 May 2021 and 30 September 2021.
Applications for earlier grants are now closed.
The fifth grant covers the period May to September 2021. The rules are amended and the value of the grant will be determined by a turnover test, to ensure that support is targeted at those who need it the most as the economy re-opens.
In most cases, the online claims service will ask for turnover for the year April 2020 to April 2021 (the ‘pandemic year’) and the tax year 2019/20 (the ‘reference period’) or the tax year 2018/19 if 2019/20 was not a normal year for the business (for example if a large contract was lost, or time off was needed due to illness, or to have a child). ‘Turnover’ is the turnover from all businesses carried on by the individual making the claim. The ‘reference period’ is a 12-month period and doesn’t need to start in April but, in most cases, will be the turnover reported in the 2019/20 tax return.
Where turnover has fallen by 30% or more, the full grant, worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits and capped at £7,500, will continue to be paid. However, where turnover has fallen by less than 30% the grant will be reduced to a 30% grant, capped at £2,850.
Turnover figures will not be required if an individual started trading in the year April 2019 to April 2020 and didn’t trade in the previous three tax years 2016/17 to 2018/19. The individual will automatically qualify for the 80% (higher) grant.
Claims can be made once a personal claim date has been received from HMRC. Any claims made before the personal claim date will not be processed. Claimants will need to log in to their Government Gateway account with their User ID and password. If you do not have a Government Gateway account (for example, because you are newly self-employed), you should create one as soon as possible in order to avoid delaying your claim. Follow the instructions on GOV.UK to do this. You should also check that your contact details are correct in your Government Gateway account.
To confirm eligibility and make a claim, you will need:
- Your National Insurance number: If you don’t know this, you can go to the HMRC app or access your online Personal Tax Account (PTA).
- Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number: This can be found on your Self Assessment papers or via your PTA.
- Bank account number and sort code: For a building society account, you should include the roll number, if you have one.
HMRC will also ask for your address that your bank or building society account is registered to.
Note that it is not possible for a tax agent to claim the grant on your behalf. Doing so will trigger a fraud alert and will delay the claim being paid.
New SEISS claimants
If you are claiming a SEISS grant for the first time, you may be asked additional questions to prove your identity. Questions could relate to your:
- UK passport or driving license
- Self Assessment tax return (within the last three years)
- Tax credit claim
- Three most recent payslips, or
- Information held on your credit file (such as loans, credit cards or mortgages)
You should ensure you have this information ready when making your claim as it may be delayed if you cannot answer the identity verification questions.
You are required to keep appropriate records as evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on their business.
If you are unable to work because you have additional caring responsibilities due to school closures, and you meet all other conditions, you are eligible to claim under the SEISS, provided you reasonably believe that the impact of taking this time off will significantly reduce your trading profits for the year.
Other forms of work
Claiming under the SEISS does not prevent you from:
- continuing to work,
- starting a new trade or taking on other work including voluntary work and duties as a military reservist.
But you must declare that you intend to continue to trade.
SEISS and Universal Credit
Where a person has claimed Universal Credit (UC) and a SEISS grant, the SEISS grant should be reported to DWP in the month the grant is paid and may affect the amount of UC received.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided opportunities for fraudsters to prey on unsuspecting members of the public and the SEIS is no exception. If you receive any suspicious texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC these may well be scams and you should let HMRC know.
Closed businesses and SEISS grant overpayments
If a business has ceased business or was paid more than it was entitled to under the Scheme, there is a requirement to notify HMRC. Penalties may be charged for late notifications. You must tell them within 90 days of receiving the grant.
More details can be found here.
HMRC has started writing to previous SEISS claimants where they need to make further checks on eligibility after processing 2019-20 Self Assessment returns.
The Government has confirmed that people who cannot work their normal hours because of coronavirus (COVID-19) will still receive their usual tax credits payments. Note: this applies to both the self employed and employed workers who have been furloughed. HMRC has said that they will treat people as working their normal hours until the Job Retention Scheme closes, even if they are not using the scheme.
More information can be found here.
Tax credit claims and renewals: Working out your income
HMRC has updated its guidance on working out your income for new and renewed tax credit claims. It makes clear that ‘income’ for tax credit purposes should exclude income from:
- any Test and Trace Support Payment received because of the need to self-isolate due to COVID-19
- the one-off £500 payment for working households receiving tax credits
This guidance explains how to work out wages, self-employment income and other income.
Universal Credit (UC)
DWP has published a guide on how to report your earnings from self employment for Universal Credit purposes.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced a suspension of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed Universal Credit claimants until the end of April 2021 (subsequently extended until 31 July 2021).
The MIF is used as a substitute for actual earnings for UC claimants where their actual earnings are below the MIF. This means that for many people on a very low income, the amount of their UC is lower than would otherwise be. More detail on this can be found on the Money Saving Expert website. The further suspension of the MIF to take account of the impact of COVID-19 is a welcome move.
Support for people in rented accommodation
Regulations in force until 31 May2021 require landlords to give tenants six months’ notice (three months’ if notice was served between 26 March and 28 August 2020) of their intention to seek possession of rented property (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy). This reduces to a requirement to give four months’ notice from 1 June 2021. In the case of non-serious rent arrears cases only, it reduces further from four to two months’ notice on 1 August. ‘Serious’ rent arrears is when the arrears are more than four months’ worth (up to 31 May 2021 this is six months’ worth). In the case of serious rent arrears, the notice period is reduced to four weeks.
This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions except in the most serious circumstances such as anti-social behaviour, fraud and serious rent arrears as set out above. It includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988.
The Government has also made clear that where tenants do experience financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, landlords and tenants should work together and exhaust all possible options, such as flexible payment plans which take into account a tenant’s individual circumstances, to ensure cases only end up in court as an absolute last resort.
Further Regulations prevent the enforcement of evictions (other than in limited circumstances) until 31 May 2021. This has not been extended. Circumstances where evictions can still be enforced are cases where the court is satisfied that:
- the claim is against trespassers who are persons unknown; or
- the order for possession was made wholly or partly on the grounds of anti-social behaviour, nuisance, false statements, domestic abuse in social tenancies, rent arrears of at least six months; or
- where the person attending the property is satisfied that the dwelling house is unoccupied at the time of attendance, that order for possession was made wholly or partly on the grounds of death of the occupant.
Detailed information on the various protections for people in rented accommodation can be found in the documents linked on the following pages.
and in the House of Commons Briefing Paper 8867 ‘Coronavirus: Support for landlords and tenants’
Mortgage repayment support
The mortgage payment holiday facility that was available during the pandemic has now come to an end. If you are having difficulty meeting mortgage repayments, the message from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is to contact your lender as soon as possible and seek a tailored support solution. More detail is given in the FCA guidance linked below.
The Government has published a series of Guidance notes, including:
- Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private residential tenants in England and Wales
- Understanding the possession action process: A guide for social rented tenants in England and Wales
- Guidance for landlords and tenants
Financial Conduct Authority:
Churches as landlords of rented accommodation
Churches who let out residential property for investment purposes may also find themselves in the position of not receiving rent due as a result of tenants’ income being affected by the pandemic. The Government has produced several guides for landlords:
- Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private landlords in England and Wales
- Understanding the possession action process: A guide for social landlords in England and Wales
Clearly, these cover legal and practical issues but not the pastoral issues or reputational issues for the church in the community that may arise.
Help for Individuals and Workers
From 28 September 2020, people in England are required by law to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace. The Government is engaging with the devolved administrations to explore opportunities for a UK wide scheme with as much alignment as possible.
Who should self isolate?
If someone or another member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus, they should, as now, isolate immediately. If someone receives a positive test result, they are now required by law to self-isolate for the period ending 10 days after displaying symptoms or after the date of the test, if they did not have symptoms. Other members of their household must self-isolate for the period ending 14 days after symptom onset, or after the date of the initial person’s positive test.
If someone is instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, because they have had close contact with someone outside their household who has tested positive, they are legally required to self-isolate for the period notified by NHS Test and Trace. Both household and non-household contacts must self-isolate for the full period, regardless of whether they have symptoms and, if they develop symptoms and take a test, regardless of whether any test taken gives a negative result.
In some circumstances, the person you had close contact with will have a follow-up PCR test and may be advised that they can stop self-isolating. If this happens, NHS Test and Trace will contact you and advise that you can stop self-isolating too.
The legal obligation to self-isolate will afford specific exemptions including for those who need to escape from illness or harm during their isolation, and those that require care.
Users of the official NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app are anonymous and cannot be forced to self-isolate nor can local authorities identify them if they are not self-isolating. The app advises users to self-isolate if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The Government makes it clear that users should follow that advice to protect their loved ones and stop the spread of the virus.
Amendments to self isolation rules from 16 August 2021
From 16 August, you may not be required to self-isolate if you are notified that you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you are within one of the exemption categories, for example if you are fully vaccinated. Further information on exemptions from self isolation can be found here.
Stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
A £500 ‘Test and Trace Support Payment’ for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home, is payable through Local Authorities.
Individuals will receive this payment on top of any Statutory Sick Pay or benefits they receive. The criteria for self-isolation payment is that the person:
- Has been instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they’ve tested positive or are the close contact of a positive case
- Is employed or self-employed
- Is unable to work from home and will lose income as a result
- Is currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit
Councils also have discretion to make payments to those who don’t receive the qualifying benefits, but are on a low income and could suffer financial hardship as a result of not being able to work.
Fines for non-compliance
There are fines for those breaking the self-isolation rules which start at £1,000 and increase up to £10,000 for repeat offences and the most serious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.
Employers who force or allow staff to come to work when they should be self-isolating will also be liable for fines of up to £10,000.
Eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic
There are temporary changes to the eligibility criteria for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare during coronavirus. The changes may affect you if you, or someone you live with, are temporarily working less and are either:
- on furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- claiming a Self Employment Income Support Scheme grant
If you are not currently working
You may still be eligible if your partner is working, and you get Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.
You can apply if you’re starting or re-starting work within the next 31 days
If you or your partner have an expected ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 in the current tax year you will not be eligible. This includes any bonuses you expect to get.
Employed persons who are working from home because they have been required to do so as a result of COVID-19 and who have incurred additional costs at home such as gas, electricity, telephone, (metered) water etc, can claim tax relief on these additional costs if their employer has not reimbursed them. Given that many charities are suffering significant falls in income as a result of COVID-19, meaning that they are unable to reimburse any of these costs, this could be a valuable relief.
How much can be claimed?
From 6 April 2020, HMRC accept that £6 per week can be claimed as additional costs without the need to provide any evidence of those costs. Prior to 6 April, the figure was £4.
If your additional costs amount to more than £6 per week, tax relief on a higher amount can be claimed but you will need evidence such as receipts, bills or contracts.
For simplicity, most people will want to claim the £6 flat rate. This amounts to £62 for each of the tax years 2020/21 and 2021/22 for basic rate taxpayers and £125 for higher rate taxpayers.
What if you work part time, or go back to your workplace?
For 2020/21 and 2021/22 only, HMRC has confirmed that everyone will be able to claim £6 per week for the whole of the tax year. This is so regardless of the fact that you may be part time, only required to work at home on certain days of the week or return to the office prior to the end of the relevant tax year. This is because HMRC recognise the fluidity of the current situation and do not want to be inundated with enquiries over relatively small claims.
How do I claim?
If you complete a self assessment tax return each year, you should claim this on your SA return [Section 20 of the full SA return, or Section 2.5 of the short form SA return]. If you do not usually complete a self assessment return, you can claim online from here. You need a Government Gateway user ID and password. You can create a user ID if you do not already have one.
Creating a Government Gateway ID takes about 10 minutes and you will need your National Insurance number and a recent payslip or P60 or a valid UK passport.
In all cases, you should claim additional expenses of £6 x £52 = £312 unless you are prepared to justify a higher amount.
What about 2019/20?
Many people were required to work at home because of COVID-19 prior to 6 April 2020. In this case, you can only claim for the period that you were required to work at home until 5 April 2020 at the rate of £4 per week (unless of course, you are prepared to justify a higher amount).
The Government recognises that employees who joined a Cycle to Work Scheme could not have reasonably foreseen the changes to their working pattern as a result of the COVID-19.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has therefore announced a time limited relaxation to the rules which prevents employees from having to potentially pay a tax charge. Scheme members who have been provided with a cycle or cycling equipment on or before 20 December 2020, will not have to meet the ‘qualifying journeys’ condition of their employer provided cycle scheme until 5 April 2022. This condition requires employees to use the cycle or equipment mainly for qualifying journeys which broadly means journeys between home and a workplace.
Employees who joined a scheme after 21 December 2020 will need to meet all the normal conditions of their Cycle to Work Scheme.
HMRC is urging people to check the tax rules on waiving income or donating to charity. It is aimed at those who choose to give up some of their income to support their business or donate to charity during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, in order to keep the business going, it may not possible to furlough all staff. It may, therefore, be necessary for directors and staff to consider taking a pay cut and a waiver of salary is one way to achieve this.
There is a right way and a wrong way to do these things! The guidance should help avoid a situation where tax and national insurance is still payable even though the waived income is never received. It covers salaries, bonuses and dividends that are either waived or paid back after receipt.
HMRC is reporting that, so far, they have detected more than 70 COVID-19-related financial scams, and have asked Internet Service Providers to take down over 400 web pages associated with these scams.
Mimicking government communications, one of the new scams says that it has ‘identified you as a candidate for the Key Worker Rebate’.
They are urging people to check GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact, Identify HMRC related scam phone calls, emails and text messages and how to avoid and report scams. Suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC should reported to: [email protected] Texts should be sent to 60599.
Other General Resources / Signposts
- Charity Tax Group - Coronavirus Hub for charity tax and finance professionals
- Charity Excellence Framework - Many, many potential grant funders (local, national and international). Register for free access to the searchable database from the link on this page. A YouTube video here explains how to best use the COVID-19 funder database.
- Church Grants – not specifically COVID-19 related. Church Grants is a focused, subscription-based (£49 pa) database of trusts and foundations that specifically fund churches. If you are a Church of England church in the Diocese of London, Liverpool, Exeter, or Truro, your church is already subscribed.
- Grants Online – A regularly updated list of grant funders covering hundreds of UK wide, regional and local funders supporting the impact of COVID-19.
- Idox – My Funding Central. A subscription service. Payment is required if your charity’s income is above £30,000.
- London Funders - has coordinated a list of over 250 Grant Funders that have pledged to stand with the Charity Sector during the COVID-19 pandemic and to operate in a flexible way to support the sector at this time.
- HMRC - HMRC has a number of webinars and YouTube videos on the various business support packages, including, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self Employed Income Support Scheme and the COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.