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COVID-19: Resources and Guidance for Churches, Charities and Mission Workers

Help for Churches and Christian Charities

  1. Places of Worship UPDATED 18 June 2021
  2. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
  3. Coronavirus vaccine access for ‘undocumented people’ 
  4. Tax exemption for charity trading – impact of Coronavirus Support Payments 
  5. Supreme Court decision on Business Interruption Insurance 
  6. Guidance on safe and effective volunteering during COVID-19 
  7. The new Debt Respite Scheme (‘Breathing Space’)
  8. Tax exemption: COVID-19 testing
  9. Government grants for businesses required to close due to local or national restrictions
  10. DBS Checks: Use of expired passports for ID checking during COVID-19
  11. Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus (COVID-19)
  12. Government-backed Loan Schemes
  13. Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’)
  14. Tax: Expenses and benefits provided to employees during COVID-19
  15. Tax relief for employees working from home due to COVID-19
  16. Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave
  17. COVID-19: Charity governance issues 
  18. Protection from eviction by landlord for non payment of rent
  19. Gift Aid and the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme
  20. Deferring payments of tax due
  21. Guidance for employers and businesses during COVID-19
  22. Business Rates Relief (England; see separate guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  23. Coronavirus, contracts: cancellation and refunds (including for weddings)
  24. Business Rates: Empty Property Relief
  25. COVID-19 Small Business Grant Fund (‘SBGF’)
  26. Risk of fraud and cybercrime against charities during COVID-19
  27. Support for Pastors and Church Leaders
  28. International Travel

 Help for Self-Employed Christian Missionaries and other Christian Workers

  1. Self Employed Income Support Scheme and welfare benefits for the self employed 
  2. Protection from eviction from rented and mortgaged accommodation

Help for Individuals and Workers

  1. Legal duty to self isolate, financial support whilst isolating and fines for non-compliance
  2. Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare 
  3. Help for low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children 
  4. Tax relief for working from home due to COVID-19
  5. Employer provided bicycles (‘Cycle to Work Scheme’) and COVID-19
  6. HMRC advice on giving up employment or investment income during COVID-19
  7. Scams: Scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Other General Resources / Signposts

  1. Charity Tax Group
  2. Charity Excellence Framework
  3. Church Grants
  4. Grants Online
  5. NCVO
  6. London Funders
  7. HMRC

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 changing daily and you are therefore urged to check that you are viewing the most up-to-date details.

 

Help for Churches and Christian Charities

 

1. Places of Worship

The following Tables summarise the position for churches during the national restrictions applicable from 17 May 2021 as amended by Government announcements made on 14 June 2021 (and subject to further reviews by the Government. Words or phrases linked in bold type are further defined or explained in the Notes to the Tables. Links to extensive further guidance also appear below.

Table 1

 

    National restrictions (Step 3) Churches
Can they open?  

Churches can continue to open for communal worship, if safe to do so.

Numerical attendance is not limited but the premises must be made COVID-19 secure and the guidance on The Safe Use of Places of Worship must be taken into account. This may mean that numbers attending have to be limited.

Indoors, there should be no mingling beyond a group of six, or larger groups where everyone is from the same two households. Outdoors, this is extended to no more than 30 people. Support bubbles count as one household for these purposes.

Baptism   Baptism, including by full immersion, is permitted but in modified form. Reference should be made to the The Safe Use of Places of Worship Guidance under the headings ‘Use of Water’ and ‘Full Immersion.’
Prayer and Bible study groups in church buildings  

Prayer or Bible study groups must not take place in person unless restricted to a group of six, or a larger group where everyone is from the same two households. There should be no mingling of groups, and the number of people on the premises at one time must be subject to COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Support bubbles count as one household for these purposes.

Prayer and Bible study as part of attendance at a normal worship service is unaffected.

Supervised children's activities   

Can take place (indoors or outdoors) for young people who were under the age of 18 on 31 August 2020.

Reference should be made to the Out of School Settings guidance as well as Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak and Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Gathering Outdoors  

If within the grounds of the Place of Worship, multiple groups, each consisting of up to 30 persons may gather. For these purposes, a household and its Support bubble are treated as a single household.

Where the gathering is for the purposes of communal worship, the organisers must ensure that the gathering is COVID-19 secure.

Singing Indoors  

A single group of amateur singers of up to six people can perform, or rehearse where essential to communal worship. There is no limit on the number of professional singers. Social distancing should be maintained at all times. Otherwise, indoor communal singing should not take place.

More detail is contained within the Places of Worship Guidance and the Principles of Safer Singing Guidance.

Singing Outdoors  

Outdoor congregational singing within the grounds or the outside space of a place of worship is permitted with social distancing etc in multiple groups of up to 30 people each. The gathering must be COVID-19 secure.

The Places of Worship Guidance and Performing Arts Guidance should be followed.

Table 2

    National restrictions (Step 3) Church Ministry
Support Groups  

Permissible where organised by a business or charity and the premises are COVID-19 secure. Up to 30 people can gather (children under the age of five accompanying a parent or guardian and those with a clear and formal role (paid or voluntary) running the group or helping it to operate do not count). The gathering cannot take place in a private dwelling.

Reference should also be made to: COVID-19 Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities.

For work purposes (i.e. church ministry workers)   Church ministry activity is permitted outside of worker’s home where it is not reasonably possible for the worker to provide those services from home.
Provision of organised voluntary or charitable services,  

Provision of essential voluntary services or urgent public support services including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency are permitted.

Attendance is not numerically limited but must be subject to risk assessment to make premises COVID-19 secure (for example, to allow for safe entry and exit, social distancing etc). This may mean that numbers attending have to be limited. Reference should be made to the COVID-19 guidance for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations.

Provision of food and drink to the homeless on the premises is permitted.

Parent and child groups   

Church-organised parent and child groups are now permitted for children under five years of age which do not take place in a private dwelling and consist of no more than 30 persons (excluding the children under five).

Early years provision   Early years provision (as defined by s96(2) Childcare Act 2006) is permitted.
Indoor or outdoor sports gatherings  

Gatherings organised by the church for the purpose of participants to take part in any sport of other fitness-related activity is permitted, provided that the event organiser makes sure that the event is COVID-19 secure.

Hospitality within church buildings including cafés  

Where no alcohol is offered, food and drink can be ordered, collected (and paid for) from a counter but food and drink must be consumed whilst seated. If alcohol is served, a table service must be provided by law – food and drink must be ordered and consumed whilst seated, even if a customer does not order alcohol. This includes alcohol brought to an event. Use of shared cutlery, dishes, menus or other items should be avoided.

Churches can allow the use of indoor toilets, baby changing rooms and breast feeding rooms. 

Further information can be found in the Hospitality Guidance. 

Table 3

    National restrictions (Step 3) Special Services  
Weddings, wedding receptions and wakes  

From 21 June, the number of staff and guests attending a wedding, wedding reception or wake is limited only by how many a COVID-19 secure venue can accommodate safely.

Weddings, wedding receptions and wakes must not take place in a private dwelling with the exception of a wedding where at least one of the parties to the marriage is seriously ill and not expected to recover and it is not reasonably practicable for it to take place elsewhere. In this case, up to 30 people may attend.

A wedding, wedding reception or wake can be organised outdoors in a garden of a private home or on private land in which case the venue must be made as safe as possible. If more than 30 people are to attend, the premises must be made COVID-19 secure by the gathering organiser conducting the necessary risk assessment and following Government guidance.

 

A marquee or other structure in a private garden must have at least 50% of its walled area open at any time to for it to be classed as ‘outdoors’.

Some restrictions remain in place to enable them to take place safely. This includes table service requirements where alcohol is served, face coverings, social distancing, and restrictions on dancing and singing.

Relevant guidance:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations

Where organising an event other than in a COVID-19 secure venue:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): How to safely plan a wedding or civil partnership, or funeral, wake or commemoration. This includes guidance on conducting the necessary risk assessment together with a risk assessment template.

 
Christenings and baptisms (when not forming part of a worship service)   Up to 30 people may attend (excluding those working as part of the service). Services must not take place in a private dwelling. COVID-19 secure precautions must be taken.  
Funerals   There is now no limit on the number of people that can attend. Attendance is only limited by how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. Funerals must not take place in a private dwelling and COVID-19 secure precautions must be taken. From 21 June, it will be possible for them to be held in the gardens of private homes.  

Notes to the Tables

The following notes provide explanatory definitions of the terms noted below. For the full legal definitions of any relevant terms used in the legislation, reference should be made to The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps)(England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/364), as amended.

COVID-19 secure

In order that an event or premises are COVID-19 secure, it is necessary for the event organisers to have carried out what the legislation refers to as ‘the required precautions’. The required precautions involve both:

  • Carrying out a risk assessment that would satisfy reg 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (whether or not that regulation applies to the organisation or activity);
  • Taking all reasonable precautions to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, taking into account the above risk assessment and any relevant Government guidance.

Support Bubbles

Where an ‘eligible household’ chooses to do so, they may link with another household to form a support bubble. In doing so, both households are treated as a single household. Generally speaking, an ‘eligible household’ is one comprising a single adult with or without children, parents of a child under one year old and other people with vulnerabilities.

It is possible to leave one support bubble and join another one provided that there is a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period in between.

Note that a support bubble and a childcare bubble are not the same. A support bubble allows you to have close contact with another household, including for socialising. A childcare bubble allows you to link with another household to provide childcare for children under 14. Not all restrictions apply exemptions for both support bubbles and childcare support bubbles.

For full Guidance on the current rules, refer to Making a support bubble with another household and Making a childcare bubble with another household.

Support Groups

Support Groups are groups or one-to-one support organised by a business, charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend meetings. Examples include providing support to victims of crime (including domestic abuse), those with, or recovering from addictions or addictive patterns of behaviour, new parents, to those with a disability, long-term illness or terminal condition, or who are vulnerable (including those with a mental health condition), or caring for those persons, to those who have suffered bereavement and to vulnerable young people.

Further Guidance

Further guidance from the Government (except where otherwise stated) that is relevant to churches and those attending churches, can be accessed from these links:

General

(COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do

This Guidance covers a wide range of relevant topics including travelling internationally to the UK or from England.

Risk assessment / COVID-secure

HSE Guidance for completing a risk assessment

HSE: Making your workplace COVID secure during the coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities

Guidance for community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities that support a wide range of local activity.

Detailed guidance for churches and church activities

COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship

Detailed guidance on:

  • The most common church activities including worship, prayer, led devotions, baptism (full immersion), weddings, funerals
  • Significant best practice guidance to reduce the spread of infection including shared items, singing and use of musical instruments, food and drink, full immersion baptisms, youth and children's work, handling money.
  • Broadcasting or filming a worship service
  • Childcare, support groups, and essential voluntary and public services.
  • General actions to limit the spread of infection: Test and Trace, face coverings, social distancing, hygiene, toilets, cleaning.
  • Factors to consider as part of a risk assessment.

COVID-19: suggested principles of safer singing

Performing Arts - Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

People's homes: Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes.

Guidance for special church services:

Weddings

How to safely plan a wedding or civil partnership, or funeral, wake or commemoration

Funerals

Guidance for churches offering café or food / takeaway services

Hospitality - Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Volunteering

Coronavirus: How to help safely

Enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Supervised children’s activities

Protective measures for … out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-early-years-and-childcare-closures

Guidance for individuals

Making a support bubble with another household and Making a childcare bubble with another household

A description of support bubbles, who may form them, changing your support bubble and what to do if someone has to self isolate on shows symptoms of COVID-19.

How to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance on social distancing, good hygiene, face coverings, ventilation testing, self isolation and vaccination.

Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make one

 

2. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) 

Introduction

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. For periods from 1 May 2021, individuals employed and on the PAYE payroll on 2 March 2021 will be able to be included for the first time.

From March until the end of June 2021, the employee support level remains at 80% with no employer contribution to pay for unworked hours. From 1 July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced and employers will be asked 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.

The Table below shows the level of government contribution, the required employer contributions and the amount that employees receive per month from May onwards, where the employee is furloughed 100% of the time:

 

May ‘21

June ‘21

July ‘21

August ‘21

Sept ‘21

Government contribution:

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

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Employer contribution

wages for hours not worked

No

No

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 continue to top up your 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.

Employers must:

  • 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.

Eligibility

Guidance

Check if you can claim for your employees' wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Employers

  • 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.

Employees

For periods from 1 May 2021 onwards:

  • Employees will be 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.

Periods prior to 1 May 2021:

  • To be eligible, employees must have been on an employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 30th October 2020. A Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment for that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 30th October 2020. There are two exceptions to this:
    • Where an employee was made redundant after 23 September 2020, or
    • Where an employee’s fixed-term contract expired after 23 September 2020.

    In both cases, the employee can be re-employed and placed on furlough

All periods:

  • 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.

Claims

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.

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).

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:

‘Usual pay’

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.

Detailed Guidance

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;
  • Apprentices;
  • Training;
  • Supply teachers;
  • Redundancy;
  • Holiday pay;
  • Training; and
  • Calculation of usual hours and usual pay for the purposes of CJRS.

Employers here and here, covering (amongst other things):

  • 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

Correcting errors/over-claims

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.

3. Coronavirus vaccine access for ‘undocumented people’

‘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.

 

4. Tax exemption for charity trading – impact of Coronavirus Support Payments

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.

 

5. 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 ruling

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.

Affected policies

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:

FCABusiness interruption insurance page

FCASupreme Court judgment in FCA’s business interruption insurance test case

Herbert Smith FreehillsSupreme Court hands down judgment in FCA’s Covid-19 Business Interruption Test Case

Ecclesiastical InsuranceFCA Test Case - update

AnsvarCOVID-19 updates – 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

Church Choice

Edwards Church Choice

Presbyterian Church Choice

Elim Church Choice

Kingdom Bank Insurance Brokers Church Policy

Methodist Insurance Plc

Charity Shield

QBE UK Limited

Salus Charity and Care Policy

PROCBCC170619 Rockland Village Halls Business Combined

 

6. Guidance on safe and effective volunteering during COVID-19

The Government has produced several useful guides on volunteers and volunteering during COVID-19:

Enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19) includes areas such as:

  • Exceptionally, when it is acceptable to volunteer outside the home
  • Volunteering in groups and around others
  • Business and venue closures, and volunteering
  • Coronavirus testing for volunteers
  • Permitted B&B etc. accommodation for volunteers
  • Duty of care to volunteers and ensuring that their workplace is safe
  • Safeguarding volunteers
  • Interaction of CJRS (‘Furlough’) Scheme and volunteering
  • Volunteering whilst claiming benefits
  • Support groups

Coronavirus: How to help safely is a brief guide aimed at volunteers. It covers:

  • Staying safe as a volunteer
  • Staying safe if a volunteer is helping you

Volunteer placements, 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 placements
  • Volunteers' rights
  • When you can volunteer – includes COVID-19 advice for those aged over 70
  • Pay and expenses
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) volunteering – detailed advice for volunteers
     

7. The new Debt Respite Scheme (‘Breathing Space’)

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.

Scheme details

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.

Scheme Administrator

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.

More details

More details on the finer points of the Scheme can be found in the Government’s Guidance for Creditors and Guidance for Money Advisors.

 

8. Tax exemption: COVID-19 testing

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.

 

9. Government grants for businesses required to close due to due to local or national restrictions

A number of church-based business activities (whether carried out within the charity of through a trading subsidiary) may be able to benefit from several Government grant schemes which are being administered by Local Authorities.

Restart grants

On 3 March 2021, the Government announced new one-off support (a ‘Restart Grant’ (RG)) for non-essential retail, hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses in England. Funding will be available from 1 April 2021. The purpose of the grants is to enable businesses that have been closed to reopen safely. Businesses in the hospitality sector etc will be eligible for a higher level of grant as they may open later under the Government’s COVID-19 Roadmap plans and will be impacted by restrictions when they do reopen.

The primary principle of the RG is to support businesses that offer in-person services, where the main service and activity takes place in fixed rate-paying premises, in the relevant sectors.

Amount of grant funding available

Non-essential retail businesses with a rateable value on 1 April 2021 of:

  • £15,000 or less, will receive a one-off grant of £2,667.
  • over £15,000 and less than £51,000, will receive a one-off grant of £4,000.
  • £51,000 or above, will receive a one-off grant of £6,000.

‘Non-essential retail businesses’ include clothes shops, book shops, gift shops and charity shops.

Qualifying hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym business premises with a rateable value on 1 April 2021 of:

  • £15,000 or less, will receive a one-off grant of £8,000.
  • £15,000 and less than £51,000, will receive a one-off grant of £12,000.
  • £51,000 or above, will receive a one-off grant of £18,000. 

‘Qualifying hospitality, accommodation, leisure’ etc. includes restaurants, cafes, conference centres, exhibition and banquet halls, wedding and event venues, public halls, soft play centres or areas, village halls and scout huts. ‘Accommodation’ includes caravan and chalet sites and parks, hotels, guest and boarding houses, holiday apartments, cottages etc, campsites, canal boats, B&Bs, catered holiday homes and holiday homes.

Businesses (which includes eligible business activities of charities) will be entitled to receive a grant for each property on the rating list. So, some businesses may receive more than one grant where they have more than one rateable property.

Grant income received by a business is taxable. The RG will need to be included as income in the tax return of the business (but see the section ‘Tax exemption for charity trading – impact of Coronavirus Support Payments’ above).

Application process

All first-time applicants for a COVID-19 business grant will need to apply to their Local Authority. The Local Authority must be satisfied that businesses that have previously received related grants under this scheme meet the eligibility criteria for the RG. All businesses will be required to self-certify that they meet all eligibility criteria.

Application deadline

The application closure date for this scheme is 30 June 2021 and final payments must be made by 31 July 2021

Further guidance

For more details on the RG Scheme, including definitions of ‘non-essential retail’, ‘hospitality’, ‘leisure’, ‘accommodation’ and ‘gym and sports’, please refer to the BEIS guidance to Local Authorities.

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

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 process

Application is made to the local authority and businesses will be required to self-certify that they meet all eligibility criteria.

Further guidance

Further information on the ARG can be found in the Government’s Guidance to Local Authorities.

Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment (CBLP)

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 where they have been required to close due to national restrictions as of 5 January 2021. Further discretionary funding is also being made available to Local Authorities to support other businesses not eligible for the grants, who may be affected by the restrictions.

Businesses should apply to their Local Authorities.

The one-off grants will be paid to eligible closed businesses as follows:

  • £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
  • £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000

Any business which is legally required to close, and which cannot operate effectively remotely, is eligible for a grant.

Deadline for applications

The CBLP scheme closes on 30 April 2021 and final payments must have been made by that date.

Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum: 5 January (LRSGCA)

Businesses required to close in England due to local or national restrictions are also eligible for grants of up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grants:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks;
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks;
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.

Deadline for applications

The LRSGCA scheme closes on:

  • 31 March 2021 for payments under the first 42 day period and final payments must be made by 30 April 2021
  • 31 May 2021 for the next 44 day period and final payments must have been made by 30 June 2021.

Further guidance 

The precise nature of these funding streams is complicated but details can be found in BEIS guidance for local authorities, and in Guidance here.

In essence, the funding streams are as follows: (‘LCAL’ refers to the Local Covid Alert Level)

  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum: Tier 4 – Businesses closed from 19 December 2020
  • The Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Version 2 – Businesses closed from 2 December 2020 when the revised Tiers are introduced
  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) Addendum – Businesses closed in National Lockdown between 5 November 2020 and 2 December 2020
  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) – Businesses closed in LCAL3 area, 9 September to 5 November 2020
  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (Open) – Businesses impacted by LCAL2 and LCAL3 restrictions
  • Additional Restrictions Grant (‘ARG’) 
  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (Sector) – this is not relevant to churches and Christian charities.

 

10. DBS Checks: Use of expired passports for ID checking during COVID-19

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has previously 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

They have now 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.

 

11. Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus (COVID-19)

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:

 

12. Government-backed Loan Schemes

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.

 

  • Eligibility

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.

Further information can be found herehere and here.

 

13. Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’)

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

 

14. Tax: Expenses and benefits provided to employees during COVID-19

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.

 

15. Tax relief for employees working from home due to COVID-19

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 the tax year 2020/21. More detail is given in Help for Individuals and Workers, below.

 

16. Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave

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.

 

17. COVID-19: Charity governance issues

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
  • Charity accounting issues including using reserves and restricted funds
  • Relaxations in insolvency laws for charitable companies and CIOs
  • Advice on managing financial difficulties, especially for small charities
  • Financial support from a parent charity to its trading subsidiary
  • Government funding sources
  • Charity objects: understand if you can help with coronavirus efforts
  • Reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission: COVID-19 supplementary guidance
  • Keeping people safe: safeguarding during COVID-19
  • Fundraising and coronavirus appeals
  • Reducing or returning contractual fees in return for a modified service
  • Working with a company or business to help with coronavirus
  • Charity statement of recommended practice (SORP) guidance

…and more.

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!

 

18. Protection from eviction by landlord for non payment of rent

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 30 June 2021.

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 30 June 2021.

The law in this area is fairly complex. Law firm Pinsent Masons has produced a useful summary of the current position during the pandemic.

 

19. Gift Aid and the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme

  • 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 is going to permit loans due to charities for which repayment is subsequently waived, to qualify for Gift Aid at the date of waiver. HMRC Guidance confirming these changes is awaited.

    For both ‘cancelled event donations’ and ‘loan waiver donations’, there are conditions that have to be met. Existing guidance which is set out here will be updated in due course to reflect the change in policy.

    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.

  • Campaign for Gift Aid Emergency Relief
    Stewardship, Charity Tax Group and a consortium of other bodies has been lobbying Government for the introduction of a Gift Aid Emergency Relief Scheme, whereby for a temporary period, the amount of Gift Aid available to charities is increased from 20% to 25%.
    You can read more about it here and signify your support for the campaign here.

 

20. Deferring payments of tax due

There are several schemes available to charities who will have 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.
  • VAT
    Charities that are registered for VAT have been 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 and there will be no extension. 

VAT originally due for the period 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 which has been deferred is due for payment before 31 March 2021. However, those who deferred this VAT payment and who ‘opt-in’, will be able to spread payment of the deferred VAT over a period to the end of March 2022. This is to avoid businesses facing large bills for their deferred VAT just as the economy is recovering. To facilitate this, businesses will be able to make 11 interest-free smaller repayments in the 12 months to 31 March 2022. 

This ‘‘VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme (VDNPS)’ requires a direct debit to be set up as part of the digital opt-in process and this must be done by the authorised bank account holder. Because of that, HMRC is unable to provide an agent service for the scheme. The online service for opting in is open between 23 February and 21 June 2021. More details can be found here.

HMRC say that those businesses that can pay their deferred VAT should still do so by 31 March 2021.

The number of instalments that can be paid under the VDNPS depends on the date that the scheme is joined:

If you join by:   Number of instalments available to you
19 March 2021  11
21 April 2021   10
19 May 2021   9
21 June 2021   8

Instalments eligible for the VDNPS are interest free.

It is very important to note that 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.      

 

21. Guidance for employers and businesses during COVID-19

The Government has published a series of Guidance Notes on creating a COVID Secure workplace. These cover (amongst others) outdoor work, offices and contact centres, people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes, restaurants offering takeaway or delivery 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. 

 

22. Business Rates Relief (England; see separate guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)

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.

 

23. Coronavirus, contracts: cancellation and refunds (including for weddings)

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.

 

24. Business Rates: Empty Property Relief

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. 

 

25. COVID-19 Small Business Grant Fund (‘SBGF’)

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.

More details can be found here and here (with particular reference to Paragraph 24).

 

26. Risk of fraud and cybercrime against charities during COVID-19

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.

 

27. Support for Pastors and Church Leaders

FIEC has been presenting a series of webinars entitled Leadership in Lockdown. Amongst up and coming subjects, they are intending on covering the huge increase in mental health issues, including amongst church leaders, that has resulted from lockdown and coronavirus restrictions.

To browse these webinars, visit the Leadership In Lockdown web page.

 

28. International Travel

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.

Other than very limited exemptions, no person may leave England to travel to a destination outside of the United Kingdom or travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travel to a destination outside of the United Kingdom unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’. Examples of reasonable excuses are set out in law. The reasonable excuses listed include where it is ‘reasonably necessary’ to travel for:

  • the person’s work
  • provision of voluntary or charitable services
  • for a wedding or funeral

and in the case of the first two bullets, it is not reasonably possible to undertake these activities in the UK.

Travelling to a destination in the common travel area (as defined in section 1(3) of the Immigration Act 1971) is also permitted.

Where travel is permitted, completion of a travel declaration form is required.

Contravention of the travel restrictions is subject to a fixed penalty of £5,000. Contravention of the travel declaration requirements is subject to a penalty of £200.

Guidance on the current rules for UK citizens:

Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19) (FCO and FCDO advice)

National lockdown: Stay at Home – International Travel (England)

Travelling and transport from 27 March 2021 (Wales)

 

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.

 

1. Self Employed Income Support Scheme and welfare benefits for the self employed

Continuing businesses

For the self-employed that have lost income as a result of COVID-19, the SEISS provides a series of taxable grants. In Budget 2021, the Government extended the scheme to September 2021 by adding a fifth grant (more details below).  

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.

Claimants must also declare that they:

  • intend to continue to trade
  • 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

Applications for earlier grants are now closed. Details of the fourth and now, fifth grant are as follows:

Fourth grant: This will be worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500 in total. The grant covers the period February 2021 to April 2021. Self-employed individuals must have filed a 2019-20 Self Assessment tax return by 2 March 2021 to be eligible. This means that individuals who were new to self-employment in 2019-20 are eligible for the SEISS grants for the first time.

Fifth grant: A fifth and final SEISS grant will cover 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 reopens.

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. The final grant will be able to be claimed from late July. Further details will be published in due course.

Fourth SEISS detailed grant eligibility

To be eligible for the fourth SEISS grant, self-employed individuals must:

  • Have submitted their 2019-20 tax return on or before 2 March 2021.
  • Have trading profits that are no more than £50,000 and at least equal to their non-trading income, based on their 2019-20 tax return or an average of relevant tax years between 2016-17 and 2019-20.
  • Declare that they intend to continue to trade and are either:
    • currently trading but are impacted by reduced activity, capacity or demand due to coronavirus, or
    • have traded previously but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus (If they’ve been abroad and have to stay in quarantine or self-isolate, this does not count).
  • Declare that they have a reasonable belief that there will be a significant reduction in their trading profits due to reduced business activity, capacity, demand or inability to trade due to coronavirus.

Claims

HMRC will contact those that they believe are eligible for the fourth grant from mid-April. This will be via email, letter or SMS and will include a personal claim date. Claims can be made from the date given, from late April until the claims service closes on 1‌‌ June 2021. Any claims made before the personal claim date will not be processed.

From mid-April, HMRC will also contact previous SEISS claimants that are no longer eligible due to either:

  • not filing their 2019-20 Self Assessment return on or before 2 March 2021, or
  • not meeting the eligibility criteria when their filed 2019-20 return is taken into account.

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: 

  1. 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).
  2. Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number: This can be found on your Self Assessment papers or via your PTA.
  3. 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
  • Self Assessment tax return (within the last three years)
  • Tax credit claim
  • P60
  • 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.

Record keeping

You are required to keep appropriate records as evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on their business. 

Caring responsibilities

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.

Fraud risk

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.

  • Tax credits

Working hours

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.

More information can be found here.

Uplift in tax credits during COVID-19

As has been widely reported, in order to support the country during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Government temporarily increased the basic element of Working Tax Credit by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020. The amount of the benefit depends on the claimant’s circumstances, including their level of household income but will be up to an extra £20 each week. This support is due to end on 5 April 2021.

The Government announced in the March 2021 Budget that a working household in receipt of tax credits may be eligible for a new one-off payment of £500. This is being introduced to provide extra support when the above temporary increase ends in April.

Claimants will be eligible if, on 2 March 2021, they were getting either:

  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit and were eligible for Working Tax Credit but do not get a payment because their income is too high to get Working Tax Credits

There is no need to contact HMRC or apply for the payment. HMRC will contact claimants by text message or letter in April to confirm eligibility. Payment should be received direct to bank accounts by 23 April 2021 but they will not show on the online tax credit service.

Legislation is being introduced in Finance Bill 2020 to exempt the tax credit uplift payments from income tax. Furthermore, they will not effect benefits. There is no need for them to be declared as income for Self Assessment tax returns or for tax credit claims and renewals.

  • 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:

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. This suspension has now been 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.

 

2. Protection from eviction from rented and mortgaged accommodation

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. (Note, at the time of writing, these have not yet been updated for the reduction in notice periods from 1 June 2021):

COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities

Understanding the possession action process: guidance for landlords and tenants

and in the House of Commons Briefing Paper 8867 ‘Coronavirus: Support for landlords and tenants

Up-to-date information can be found in the following Which? Guide:

Coronavirus eviction ban in England set to end: what it means for renters and landlords

Mortgage repayment support

The suspension of housing possession cases also applies to possession cases brought by mortgagees against homeowners until 1 April 2021 (this may be extended), and to possession cases brought by landlords against leaseholders (forfeiture).

A mortgage payment holiday facility is open to 31 March 2021. However, all payment holidays must end by 31 July 2021. Borrowers, including those with a Buy to Let mortgage, who have been impacted by Coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six-month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.

If a borrower is newly affected by coronavirus, application should be made as soon as possible and before the end of March, in order to benefit up to the end of July 2021. 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been clear that for borrowers who have taken 6 months’ holiday and continue to face ongoing financial difficulties, lenders should continue to provide support through tailored forbearance options. This could include granting new mortgage payment holidays. Mortgage customers in this situation should speak to their lender to discuss their options.

If a landlord is concerned about their financial situation they should discuss this with their lender.

Guidance

The Government has published a series of Guidance notes, including:

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:

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

 

1. Legal duty to self isolate, financial support whilst isolating and fines for non-compliance

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.

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.

  • Financial support

A new £500 ‘Test and Trace Support Payment’ for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home, will be payable through Local Authorities. The scheme provides backdated payments for those eligible persons who are told to self isolate from 28 September.

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 will 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 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.

 

2. Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare

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

Income limits: Critical workers

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.

You or your partner can earn up to £150,000 in the current tax year and still be eligible if you’re a critical worker and have worked extra hours because of coronavirus.

 

3. Help for low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children

The Government has announced over £37 million of funding to help low-income families with seriously ill or disabled children with the cost of equipment, goods or services. Of the total amount, £10 million has been committed to the unique difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, helping parents educate and look after disabled or critically ill children who are staying at home more than usual.

Families with children that have complex needs and disabilities will be eligible for grants through Family Fund for vital equipment to make their lives easier while implementing social distancing measures, including computers, specialist equipment and educational toys.

 

4. Tax relief for working from home due to COVID-19

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 the tax year 2020/21 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 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 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).

 

5. Employer provided bicycles (‘Cycle to Work Scheme’) and COVID-19

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 join a scheme from 21 December 2020 will need to meet all the normal conditions of their Cycle to Work Scheme.

 

6. HMRC advice on giving up employment or investment income during COVID-19

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.

 

7. Scams: Scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

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 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

  1. Charity Tax Group - Coronavirus Hub for charity tax and finance professionals
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Grants Online – A regularly updated list of grant funders covering hundreds of UK wide, regional and local funders supporting the impact of COVID-19.
  5. NCVO Funding Central. A subscription service. Payment is required if your charity’s income is above £100,000.
  6. 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.
  7. HMRC - HMRC has a number of webinars and YouTube videos on the various business support packages, including the deferral of VAT and Income Tax payments, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the HMRC Time to Pay Scheme.