Articles - 15th April 2020

HMRC continues chasing workers for loan charge during the coronavirus crisis

Words by The UP team

Self-employed workers caught out by the controversial ‘loan charge’ are still being chased by the taxman despite coronavirus crisis, (This is Money)

Self-employed workers caught out by the controversial ‘loan charge’ are still being chased by the taxman during the coronavirus lockdown, despite many having lost work.

HM Revenue & Customs recently announced that it will not collect debts from businesses or self-employed people who find themselves in financial difficulties due to the coronavirus lockdown.   

But the tens of thousands of workers – which include nurses, teachers, and small business owners – who have to repay back taxes under the so-called loan charge, are still being sent letters which require a reply within 30 days.

The loan charge was introduced in 2016 to make self-employed people who used a tax avoidance loan scheme pay back their share of tax. They basically used a legal loophole, where they received their earnings as a loan, instead of income, meaning they avoided paying income tax. 

More than 1.2million people have now applied to claim Universal Credit in three weeks, (The Mirror)  

More than 1.2million people have now claimed Universal Credit in three weeks as coronavirus heaps pressure on the welfare state. Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey revealed the huge figure and said claims are still more than three times the average per day.

The government previously said 950,000 people had begun a claim between March 16, when Boris Johnson told people to stay home, and March 31. Last night Ms Coffey told ITV’s Robert Peston: “It’s now been just over 1.2million in just over three weeks.

“I think yesterday it fell to under 40,000 new claims, but given our average daily is about 10 to 12,000 that’s still a significant number.” It emerged yesterday the Universal Credit helpline has been hit by 5.8million calls in seven days.

The figure included 2.2million calls to the DWP’s helpline on a single day, Monday 30 March. Officials were forced to quadruple capacity in the system that verifies people’s identity after more than 100,000 at a time ended up in online queues.

The shocking figures may include repeat callers. Some people the Mirror spoke to were having to call again and again without getting through. Last night the DWP admitted access to its phone lines had to be “controlled” in order to stop critical services like NHS 111 collapsing.

The self-employed do not qualify for Statutory Sick Pay. They can claim 80% of their profits for three months as a lump sum in June – but not before then. Universal Credit has been made more generous for the self-employed, with a minimum income floor removed and the benefit increased by £1,040 a year.

Sadiq Khan says Londoners neglected by coronavirus self-employed package, (City A.M.)

Sadiq Khan has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak to demand more financial help is given to the capital’s self-employed workers amidst findings that one-in-three self-employed Londoners will not receive any assistance.

The London mayor’s letter, written to Sunak and business secretary Alok Sharma, claims that up to 290,000 Londoners, 12 per cent of the capital’s total workforce, are not eligible to receive anything from the scheme.

The £9bn Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) sees the government paying 80 per cent of profits, up to £2,500-a-month, to self-employed workers affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The scheme is not open to people with annual profits of £50,000 or more, anyone that began as a self-employed worker after the end of the 2018-19 financial year or anyone who earns less than half of their income from self-employed work.

The first payments are expected in June.

Khan said the £50,000 threshold did not account for London’s higher cost of living and that the scheme needs to be altered to create a “sliding scale of support” for those earning over that amount. He also called for newly self-employed people and those who earn less than half their pay from this type of work to be included in the package. 

Nearly half of self-employed fear they will not have enough money to cover basic costs despite government support, (Politics Home)

New research by IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) has found that almost half (45%) of the self-employed fear they will not have enough money to cover basic costs like rent and bills during the Coronavirus crisis, despite the government support on offer. Overall, two thirds (66%) also say they are worried they will burn through all their savings in the next three months.

This is driven by the fact that freelancers are seeing their businesses hit hard by the Coronavirus crisis. Two in three (69%) say that the demand for their work has dropped and over half (53%) say it has decreased substantially.

There is now a range of support available for freelancers, but nearly two thirds (60%) say it is not enough to sustain their business and their income through the crisis.

Freelancers were asked about the government support on offer both before and after the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme was announced. Among sole trader freelancers – many of whom are eligible for the scheme – the proportion who felt government measures would not sustain their business during the crisis dropped from 60 per cent before the announcement to 43 per cent after it. Among freelancers working through limited companies – who are not eligible for the scheme – the percentage rose from 58 to 69 per cent.

 Over 100 MPs and peers in call to back creative industries in lockdown, (The Guardian)

More than 130 MPs and peers including Michael Grade, Joan Bakewell, Floella Benjamin and David Puttnam have backed a call for a specific package of support for the UK’s creative industries.

They have signed a letter to the government warning that support announced as part of the coronavirus crisis has so far failed to reach “the very large numbers of directors of small limited companies, freelancers or agency workers that keep our creative industries booming”.

The letter predicts that unless action is taken quickly, creative industry workers and their families will be “left with no option than to join the ever-growing queue for universal credit”.

Daisy Cooper, the Lib Dem spokesperson for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS), who co-ordinated the letter, pointed to the example of Germany, where the federal government quickly announced an aid package for its creative and cultural sectors.

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