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COVID-19: Guidance and resources for churches, charities and Christian workers


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
  2. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)
  3. Tax exemption: (a) Virtual Christmas and parties (b) COVID-19 testing
  4. Government grants for businesses required to close due to local or national restrictions
  5. DBS Checks: Use of expired passports for ID checking during COVID-19
  6. Holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus (COVID-19)
  7. Government-backed Loan Schemes
  8. Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’)
  9. Tax: Expenses and benefits provided to employees during COVID-19
  10. Tax relief for employees working from home due to COVID-19
  11. Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Leave
  12. COVID-19: Charity governance issues 
  13. Protection from eviction by landlord for non payment of rent
  14. Gift Aid and the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme
  15. Deferring payments of tax due
  16. Guidance for employers and businesses during COVID-19
  17. Business Rates Relief (England; see separate guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  18. Coronavirus, contracts: cancellation and refunds (including for weddings)
  19. VAT on digital publications and on supplies of essential PPE
  20. Business Rates: Empty Property Relief
  21. COVID-19 Small Business Grant Fund (‘SBGF’)
  22. Risk of fraud and cybercrime against charities during COVID-19
  23. Support for Pastors and Church Leaders
  24. 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. Deferral of Self Assessment tax payments
  3. 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. Grants Online
  4. NCVO
  5. London Funders
  6. HMRC


Help for Churches and Christian Charities


  1. Places of worship


The following Tables summarise the position for churches during the national restrictions applicable from 6 January 2021 to 31 March 2021 (subject to interim reviews by the Government). Words or phrases in red bold type are further defined or explained in the Notes to the Tables. Links to extensive further guidance also appear below.


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) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1374), as amended and The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Obligations of Undertakings) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1008), as amended.


Support Bubble

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.


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


Support Groups

Support Groups are groups or one-to-one support organised 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 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:



National lockdown: Stay at Home


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

Revised guidance was published on 11 January which updates previous guidance on singing in church. It states that if singing is essential to an act of worship, this should be limited to one person wherever possible. Exceptionally, where it is essential to the service, up to three individuals should be permitted to do so. Strict social distancing should be observed and the use of Plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect worshippers, and each other.

Communal singing should not take place. This applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.

Chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should also be avoided in communal worship and in rehearsals.

Further detailed guidance is provided on:

  • The most common church activities including worship, prayer, led devotions, 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.
  • 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



Hospitality - Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance for churches offering café or food / takeaway services.

Supervised children’s activities

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

Children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings

Guidance for individuals

Making a support bubble with another household

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

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

Social distancing


At the time of writing, this guidance has not yet been updated to refer to the latest National restrictions. However, following the Tier 4 guidance in the December 2020 version it should be sufficient in most cases.



  1. Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) 


The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (which was scheduled to end on 31 October 2020) has been extended to 30 April 2021 and returns to the 80% level (see below). 

The CJRS is available to churches and charities where staff are paid under PAYE. This includes office holders such as ministers of religion. Churches will be able to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis or furlough them full-time.

Following the new national restrictions from 6 January 2021, most childcare providers are now closed or only open to children of critical workers and vulnerable children. It is therefore important to remember that staff can be furloughed because they have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19. That said, the Government’s Guidance on Critical Workers and vulnerable children includes ‘religious workers’ amongst those that are critical workers. Parents of whom at least one is a critical worker will need to make their own assessment as to whether to send their child or children to school or college.

HMRC has updated its CJRS Step by Step Guide for Employers which all employers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with. The rules for the extended CJRS from 1 November have changed slightly. The principle differences are in relation to:

  • ‘Reference Pay’ and ‘Usual Hours’, which may be different for different employees;
  • The time frame for making claims under the CJRS: From 1 November, claims must be submitted within 14 calendar days after the month they relate to, unless this falls on a weekend and then it is the next working day.
  • Eligibility: there is now no need for employees to have been previously furloughed or for the employer to have previously used the CJRS.


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.




  • All employers with a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme can claim the grant.
  • Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the CJRS.
  • The government expects that publicly funded organisations will not use the scheme. Partially publicly funded organisations may be eligible where their private revenues have been disrupted.


  • 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.

  • 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 placed on furlough can undertake training, or work or volunteer with another employer or organisation (if their employment contract permits this).


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.


Support under the CJRS

  • For hours not worked by the employee, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. The grant must be paid to the employee in full.
  • Employers will pay employer NICs and pension contributions and should continue to pay the employee for hours worked in the normal way.
  • Employers can choose to top up employee wages above the scheme grant at their own expense if they wish.

The Government had indicated that they would review the Scheme in January 2021. However, the Chancellor announced on 17 December 2020 that the 80% rate of grant under the scheme will be retained for the whole period of the extended scheme to 30 April 2021.



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).

Under the extended CJRS rules, claims must continue to be made for calendar months. 

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.

For claims relating to periods after 1 November 2020, 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).


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 the tax year 2019/20
  • 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.

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):

  • 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;
  • Holiday pay; 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.


  1. Tax exemption: (a) Virtual Christmas parties, and (b) COVID-19 testing

(a) Virtual Christmas Parties

HMRC has confirmed that the ‘staff party’ exemption will apply to the costs associated with virtual Christmas parties in the same way that it would for traditionally held parties. Therefore, the cost of providing food, entertainment, equipment and other expenses which may be incurred in hosting a virtual event, will be exempt, subject to the normal conditions of the exemption being met.

It is important to note that the intention of the exemption is to allow for costs of provision which are generally incurred for the purposes of the event itself, and that the event, along with any associated provision, is available to employees generally.

HMRC has indicated that their Guidance will be updated shortly to cover this.

(b) COVID-19 tests

Employer provided COVID-19 tests (antigen tests) are already exempt from tax and national insurance. However, to date, this has 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.

HMRC has now announced (15 December 2020) that for the tax year 2020/21 (that is, until 5 April 2021), 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.


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

Church coffee shops, cafes and other food establishments may be able to benefit from a new grant announced by the Government.

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.

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.


The precise nature of the 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’) – see below
  • Local Restrictions Support Grant (Sector) – this is not relevant to churches and Christian charities.


The ARG is a discretionary grant scheme aimed at helping Local Authorities to help businesses that,  while not legally forced to close, are still severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and businesses outside the business rates system, which are effectively forced to close – for example market traders. Additional criteria are encouraged by the Government – for which, see the Guidance referred to above.

Whilst businesses will be able to claim the new one-off grant of up to £9,000 in addition to the LRSG, they are not eligible for multiple versions of the LRSG itself.


  1. 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.


  1. 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:



  1. Government-backed Loan Schemes

The Government launched several loan schemes designed to finance entities through the difficulties caused by COVID-19. These schemes are overseen by the Government-owned British Business Bank. Since inception, the Chancellor has announced several changes to these schemes, designed to further help both those with existing loans under the schemes and those who are yet to apply:

  • Bounce Back Loans will now benefit form a flexible repayment system to be known as ‘Pay as you Grow’ (for further details, see below).
  • Bounce Back Loans will be able to be extended to a ten-year loan term rather than the previous six, reducing monthly repayments by almost half.
  • In a similar way the Government will allow lenders under the other coronavirus loans schemes (such as CBILS (below)) to extend their loan terms to ten years (from six)**.
  • Applicants for new Bounce Back loans, CBILS etc will now have until 31 March 2021 in which to apply.

All charities and religious membership organisations “are in principle eligible if they satisfy the other eligibility criteria of the Scheme”. Registered charities are exempt from the requirement that 50% of the applicant’s income must be derived from trading activity.

There are two separate but related schemes that are most likely to be of interest to Christian charities, both of which have ‘turnover’ tests. It is not entirely clear what would constitute ‘turnover’ in the charity context but we understand that the banks are using the charity’s gross income.

To be eligible for both schemes, the charity must be based in the UK and have been negatively affected by coronavirus:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (‘CBILS’)

CBILS provides loans from £50,001 up to £5m via third party accredited lenders on repayment terms of up to ten years**, to entities with a turnover of less than £45m. The first 12 months of interest and lender-levied fees are covered by the Government which will guarantee 80% of the borrowing.

More information can be found using the links from here and here.

** On 24 September 2020, the Chancellor announced his “plan to extend the government guarantee on these loans for up to ten years, making it easier for lenders to give people more time to repay.” However, the British Business Bank (BBB) has since announced that it “will continue to work with Her Majesty’s’ Government in respect of any extension to the Guarantee. The BBB currently envisages any extension (beyond the current 6-year tenure for CBILS facilities) would relate to the provision of forbearance only”.

  • Micro Loan Scheme (‘Business Bounce Back’ loans)

This scheme provides for loans between £2,000 and £50,000 (up to a maximum of 25% of turnover). The loan can be for up to ten years. There are no set-up fees and first 12 months’ of interest payments will be covered by the Government. No repayments need to be made during the first 12 months. The Government will guarantee 100% of the borrowing.

On 10 November 2020, the BBB announced that borrowers using the Business Bounce Back loan scheme could top up their loan to the maximum permitted amount of 25% of certified turnover, where the original application was for less than this maximum.

More information on the Scheme can be found using the links from here, here and here.

  • Business Bounce Back Loans – ‘Pay as you Grow’

In addition to the option to repay loans over a longer term (ten years rather than six), borrowers will also have the option to move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times), or to pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments).

These Schemes close for new applications on 31 March 2021. However, the government has announced that more support will be available beyond March, through a successor loan scheme. More details on this will be announced in due course.


  1. 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
  1. 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 will be backdated to 16 March and will apply for the remainder of the 2020/21 tax year.

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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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!

  1. 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 31 March 2021. 31 December 2020 inclusive, or a later date if the Secretary of State extends it. The Secretary of State exercised his power to extend this twice, to 30 June and now 31 December.

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.

One note of caution: the Act does not prevent landlords from taking other actions such as Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR), making a debt claim, issuing a statutory demand, or commencing winding-up proceedings. So far in this regard, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has urged landlords to act in a socially responsible way and to exercise judgement and discretion with tenants. It remains to be seen if the government will take more proactive steps to prevent landlords from effectively side-stepping the Act during the lockdown period.

On the other hand, empty properties at this particular point in time will be an unattractive proposition for landlords!

Law firm Pinsent Masons has produced a useful summary of the current position during the pandemic.

  1. Gift Aid and the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme


  • Gift Aid Claims
    HMRC assures us that COVID-19 will not delay Gift Aid claim repayments. Virtually all HMRC staff
    are now working remotely and IT issues around that have been resolved. Payments should, HMRC say, be quicker.
  • Gift Aid on cancelled events

The Government has agreed to temporarily 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. There are conditions that have to be met, which are set out in HMRC’s Guidance here.

Note that the relaxation only applies to cancelled and not postponed events.

  • Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (‘GASDS’)
    Whilst churches have been unable to meet because of Government restrictions on public gatherings,
    they risk losing the benefit of payments under the GASDS. We, along with Charity Tax Group asked HMRC if they would consider temporarily relaxing the GASDS rules to allow donors who would have given small donations within the Scheme each week to give a lump sum at the end of the lockdown period. Their response was as follows:
  • “In respect of GASDS, guidance on the eligibility for donations for inclusion in this scheme is clear in stating that claims can only be made on cash donations of £30 or less; and contactless card donations of £30 or less collected on or after 6 April 2019.
  • “The decision over what constitutes an eligible donation is one for the church/charity to make for themselves, rather than for HMRC, but the conditions for something to be considered a ‘small donation’ are clearly set out in legislation. Where it is the case, for example, of separate donations being given in a single envelope, then if the church/charity official is happy these are clearly separate ‘small donations’ (and clearly stated as such) then they will be eligible for GASDS, as is the case where separate envelopes are used.”

This leaves some ambiguity as to what will or will not be permitted. Churches are therefore 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.


  1. Deferring payments of tax due

There are several schemes available to charities who will have difficulty meeting their tax payment

  • 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. 

It is very important to note that there is no deferral available for VAT payments falling due from 1 July 2020 onwards. VAT-registered charities should therefore reinstate any cancelled direct debits in enough time for HMRC to take payment, submit VAT returns as normal, and on time, and pay the VAT in full on payments due after 30 June 2020. If there is any difficulty in meeting these VAT payments, a ‘time to pay’ arrangement should be agreed with HMRC. 

This ‘VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme’ will require 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. Further details of the new scheme and its operation will be published as soon as possible. HMRC say that those businesses that can pay their deferred VAT should still do so by 31 March 2021.

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. 


  1. Guidance for employers and businesses during COVID-19

Government guidance for staying open safely during the pandemic - 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.

As part of the easing of lockdown, 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.

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. This includes their helpful publication: Working safely during the coronavirus pandemic – a short guide.



  1. 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. 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.

Summary guidance from the Charity Tax Group can be found here.

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.


  1. 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.


  1. VAT on digital publications and on supplies of essential PPE

From 1 May 2020, supplies of certain digital publications (such as charity members’ magazines) are permanently zero rated for VAT purposes. Supplies prior to this date were standard rated (20%) in contrast to paper equivalents of the same publications which have always been zero rated.


  1. 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. 


  1. 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).


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  24. International travel

Prior to Covid, churches would, not uncommonly, invite speakers and others from overseas to take part in church activities. Where those countries have not been on the Government’s travel corridor list this has been largely impractical, especially for short term engagements, owing to the need for incoming visitors to self isolate for 10 days (and possibly self isolate again on return to their home country).

Equally pastors and others in England may receive invites to speak abroad. If accepted, there has been the need to self isolate if returning from a country not on the list.

The Government has now announced that from 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.

Those opting in to the scheme will have to book and pay (from £65 to £100) for their COVID-19 test from a private provider on the GOV.UK list. This is to ensure that the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected.

More detail can be found here.


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 scheme provides a series of taxable grants. The first was worth 80% of profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, covering a three month period. The second was for the equivalent of 70% per cent of average monthly trading profits over the following period. 

The Government has now extended and enhanced the Scheme as well as slightly amending the eligibility criteria. The extended Scheme is targeted at those who are currently eligible for the SEISS and are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand  due to COVID-19. This is narrower than, and contrasts with, the previous eligibility based on being adversely affected by COVID-19.

The new Scheme will provide two grants (the ‘third’ and ‘fourth’ grants) covering the period from 1 November 2020 to April 2021 to be paid in two lump sum instalments, each covering a three-month period. These are subject to income tax and national insurance.

The third grant covers the three months from 1 November 2020 to 31 January 2021. This will be the equivalent to 80% of average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits and capped at £7,500 in total.

Online claims opened on 30 November.

The fourth grant will cover the three months from 1 February to 30 April. The Government will review the level of the fourth grant and set this in due course.

To be eligible, self-employed individuals, including partnerships, must meet the following criteria:

  • Have been previously eligible for the SEISS (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
  • declare that they intend to continue to trade and either:
    • are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
    • were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus.

HMRC has set out what is meant by ‘reduced demand’ or ‘temporary closure’. The Guidance includes practical examples and how each affects eligibility for the Scheme. 


Claims for the third grant must be made using the online service by 29 January 2021 and should only take five minutes. 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.


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.


Further Guidance

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. If you received the grant before 22 July 2020 you should have informed HMRC on or before 20 November 2020. If you received the grant on or after 22 July 2020 you must tell them within 90 days of receiving the grant.

More details can be found here and here.


  • Tax credits

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.

  • Universal Credit (UC)

DWP has published a guide on how to report your earnings from self employment for Universal Credit purposes.

In a new development, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced a further suspension of the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) for self-employed Universal Credit claimants until the end of April 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.


  1. Deferral of Self Assessment tax payments

Self Assessment payments on account due on 31 July 2020 were automatically deferred until 31 January 2021 unless the taxpayer chose to settle this sooner. There are no penalties or interest on this ‘late’ payment.

Where a taxpayer did defer their 31 July 2020 payment on account, the deferred amount plus any balancing payment for 2019/20 and the first 2020/21 payment on account is payable by 31 January 2021. The January tax bill may therefore be larger than usual.  

Any customers who are unable to make these payments in full by January 2021 can set up a ‘Time to Pay’ payment plan of up to 12 months. Those with self-assessment tax debts up to £30,000 and who need extra time to pay will be able to access this Time to Pay facility online and can get automatic and immediate approval. 

To be eligible, the taxpayer must have no:

  • outstanding tax returns
  • other tax debts
  • other HMRC payment plans set up

The debt needs to be between £32 and £30,000 and the payment plan needs to be set up no later than 60 days after the due date of the debt.

Those with self-assessment debts over £30,000, or who need longer than 12 months to repay their debt in full, will still be able to set up a Time to Pay arrangement but they will need to contact HMRC to set it up.

Meanwhile, HMRC has warned taxpayers to be on their guard for scam emails, phone calls and text messages purporting to be from HMRC as the Self Assessment tax filing and payment deadline approaches. These scams will frequently employ scare tactics to encourage recipients to click on malicious links.


  1. Protection from eviction from rented and mortgaged accommodation

Support for people in rented accommodation

Regulations in force until at least 31 March 2021 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 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 arrears greater than six months’ rent. 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 21 February 2021. 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.

Mortgage repayment support

The suspension of housing possession cases also applies to possession cases brought by mortgagees against homeowners until 31 January 2021 (this may be extended), and to possession cases brought by landlords against leaseholders (forfeiture).

A mortgage payment holiday facility is open to 31 January 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, and wishes to benefit from the full six months available, application should be made in good time before the February 2021 payment is due. The payment holiday will then run between February and July.

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.


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).


  1. 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. Grants Online – A regularly updated list of grant funders covering hundreds of UK wide, regional and local funders supporting the impact of COVID-19.
  4. NCVO Funding Central. A subscription service. Payment is required if your charity’s income is above £100,000.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.