Business Advice

COVID-19: Help And Support For Irish Businesses

By March 2020September 1st, 2020No Comments

Published 24/03/2020, edited 26/03/2020 to update information about the Wage Subsidy Scheme and CRO filings, edited 05/04/2020 to include a link to the latest FAQs for the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the EI Continuity Voucher, edited 16/04/2020 to update information about the Wage Subsidy Scheme – Phase 2 and changes to CRO services.

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, the Irish government has responded with a range of policies and supports.

Many of our clients have been asking what’s available to help them through this period of uncertainty. Some businesses have been only slightly affected, but for others the new economic reality will prove insurmountable. We thought it would be helpful to list some of the advice, support, and funding that may be available for your business. We will do what we can to keep this list updated but bear in mind that it is not exhaustive.

Our main recommendation, if you find yourself facing financial difficulties, is that you get in contact with the organisation in question to work out a solution. Simply ignoring debts is not the answer and the best way out of any cash flow situation is to have a plan in place. Talk to your landlord, bank, energy company, suppliers, etc., and see what can be done to alleviate the situation. Check with your insurance company to see if you have any cover in the event of business disruption.

Our main recommendation, if you find yourself facing difficulties, is that you get in contact with the organisation in question to work out a solution.

If times are proving tough and you would like advice about managing your business finances, get in touch with us and we will set up a free session with a member of the team.

Help for businesses affected by the coronavirus

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) is now operating a Business Support Call Centre to advise on the government supports available to businesses and enterprises that are affected by COVID-19. The call centre can be contacted at 00 353 (0)1 631 2002, email infobusinesssupport@dbei.gov.ie.

They have a business continuity planning checklist and other resources on their website.

We’re seeing a stimulus package equal to around 2% of GDP being made available to keep the economy on track as much as possible. This is roughly the same as other European countries and likely to be in place for at least 12 weeks.

Revenue services

The application of a surcharge for Corporation Tax returns (CT1) for accounting periods ending June 2019 onwards (i.e. due by March 23 onwards) has been suspended until further notice. Interest on late payments for January-February VAT and February-March PAYE has been suspended for SMEs. Debt enforcement activities have been suspended and existing tax clearance will remain in place over the coming months.

Revenue advises businesses to continue all their filings even if they are not able to pay any resulting liabilities. If the disruption means a business does not have sufficient information to fully complete a filing, they should make a “best guess” estimate and file anyway.

If you are having difficulties paying any tax liabilities, you can apply for a Phased Payment Arrangement (see our blog about applying for a PPA online) or apply to defer or suspend an existing PPA. If this is not an option, but you are having difficulties, engage with Revenue as soon as possible because they will be flexible in finding a solution as long as you keep communications open with them.

CRO Annual Returns

The Registrar of Companies has decided that all annual returns due to be filed now and up to 30th June 2020 will be deemed to have been filed on time if all elements of the annual return are completed and filed by that date – i.e. if you capture the B1 form, upload your financial statements, then pay the fee and submit it online. You may also complete the filing as normal using Revenue Online Services (ROS) signatures instead of a signature page.

CRO is running a basic service at this time. It’s not possible to have documents delivered to their offices on Gloucester Place Lower, but they accept post delivered through An Post. They post updates about their services here: https://www.cro.ie/About-CRO/Contact-Us/Whats-New

Employers and employees

Keeping employees

If you plan to keep existing (i.e. already on the payroll during the period 1st February to 15th March) employees through the emergency but revenues have dropped by at least 25%, the government will co-fund their salaries. This is the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, announced on 24th March set to run from 26th March for 12 weeks.

You can claim 70% of employee salaries up to a value of €410 weekly net (equivalent to the after-tax income of a worker on around €38,000). Salaries between €38,000 and €76,000 will be entitled to assistance capped at €350, while workers earning above €76,000 will be excluded from the scheme. Even if staff are temporarily not working or on reduced hours and/or reduced pay, this scheme allows employers to keep employees on the payroll and have them back at work as soon as business picks up.

Phase 2 of the Wage Subsidy Scheme

Changes to the scheme were announced on 15th April to improve the subsidy for those whose average net weekly pay was less than €500 as well as those whose average net weekly pay was in excess of €960. These will apply for payroll with a pay date on or after 4th May and received by Revenue on or after that date (no back-dating of increased subsidy will apply).

Employees with net pay less than €586 per week (€38,000)

  • Employees with previous average net pay up to €412 per week (equivalent to almost €24,400) will see an increase from 70% to 85% of their previous net weekly pay
  • Employees with previous average net pay between €412 and €500 per week (equivalent to €24,400-€31,000), will be subsidised up to €350 per week

Employees with net pay in excess of €586 per week (€38,000)

The maximum subsidy payable for these remains €350 per week. The tiered approach takes into account both the amount paid by the employer and the level of reduction in pay borne by that employee as follows:

  • Employer pays up to 60% of employee’s previous average net weekly pay – up to €350 per week
  • Employer pays between 60% and 80% of employee’s previous average net weekly pay – up to €205 per week
  • Employer pays over 80% of employee’s previous average net weekly pay – no subsidy payable

Employees with net pay in excess of €960 per week (€76,000)

The wage subsidy is now available to support employees where the average net pre-COVID-19 salary was greater than €76,000, and their gross post-COVID-19 salary has fallen below €76,000. The tiered arrangement applicable to gross incomes in excess of €38,000 will apply in such circumstances.

  • Example: if an employee was earning over €76,000 gross and has now been reduced to below €960 net pay a week, and their reduction is more than 20%, then a subsidy of up to €205 would be payable. If the reduction was more than 40% a subsidy of up to €350 would be payable. This subsidy will be tapered so as to ensure that the total net income (employer contribution + wage subsidy) does not exceed €960 net per week.

Comprehensive information and instructions for applying to the scheme and how to make these special payments to employees are on the Revenue site here: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/communications/covid19/temporary-covid-19-wage-subsidy-scheme.aspx

Unemployment

Other supports are available to employees permanently laid off: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/be74d3-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/ or put on short time: http://www.gov.ie/en/service/c20e1b-short-time-work-support.

Illness

A payment of €350 per week is available if you cannot work because you have been advised by a doctor to self-isolate or have tested positive for COVID-19. This applies if someone you live with tests positive as this means you will also have to self-isolate: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/df55ae-how-to-apply-for-illness-benefit-for-covid-19-absences/.

Commercial rates

The Government has agreed with local authorities that they should defer commercial rates payments due from the most immediately impacted businesses – primarily in the retail, hospitality, leisure, and childcare sectors for three months until the end of May. This measure will be implemented by each local authority in its own area.

Bank loans

The government has asked banks to make flexible arrangements with creditors, including 3-month payment breaks where necessary. Customers are advised to contact their bank directly.

Access to working capital

The Credit Guarantee Scheme supports loans up to €1 million for periods of up to 7 years. The government has repurposed this scheme to help impacted business obtain loans supporting changes made necessary by the pandemic. Applications can be made to AIB, Bank of Ireland, and Ulster Bank: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/Access-to-Finance/SME-Credit-Guarantee-Scheme/.

Microenterprises can access COVID-19 MicroFinance Ireland loans of up to €50,000 (double the usual amount). The terms include a six-month interest-free and repayment-free moratorium. The loan will then be repaid over the remaining 30 months of the 36-month loan period. Loans are available at an interest rate of between 6.8% and 7.8%. Businesses can apply through their Local Enterprise Office or directly from MicroFinance Ireland: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/Microfinance-Ireland-COVID-19-Business-Loan.html.

The SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme for eligible businesses will be available shortly. Loans of €25,000 up to €1.5 million can be applied for under the scheme (first €500,000 unsecured) and the maximum interest rate will be 4%: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/SBCI-Covid19-Working-Capital-Scheme-FAQ.html.

Help and support from government agencies

Enterprise Ireland & Údarás na Gaeltachta clients

Enterprise Ireland has a wide range of supports and funding available to help businesses mitigate the impact of COVID-19. It’s a €200 million package that includes a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme. The best first step is to get in touch with your Client Advisor: https://enterprise-ireland.com/en/about-us/services/covid-19/. The EI Global Ambition site has COVID-19 resources too: https://globalambition.ie/covid-19

Both Údarás na Gaeltachta and Enterprise Ireland clients can avail of a Finance in Focus grant of €7,200 to access consultancy support to undertake immediate finance reviews: http://www.udaras.ie/en/. They have also released a Lean Business Continuity Voucher which gives €2,500 worth of training or advisory services to support continued trading: https://enterprise-ireland.com/en/Productivity/Lean-Business-Offer/Lean-Business-Continuity-Voucher.html

IDA Ireland clients

IDA Ireland continues to deliver its normal supports to clients. Read their latest updates here: https://www.idaireland.com/how-we-help/update-on-covid-19.

Local Enterprise Offices

In addition to their existing business supports, LEOs can also provide business continuity vouchers from €2,500 to assist in preparing any business continuity issues that arise in the current challenging environment: https://www.localenterprise.ie/Portal/response/Business-Continuity-Voucher/Business-Continuity-Voucher.html.

Next steps: the government’s main coronavirus website is a good place to start your research – gov.ie/covid19

During this time, the Beyond offices are running remotely and we have so far seen little disruption to the service we provide our valued customers. We do not anticipate that this will change but will, of course, keep you informed if it does.
Rory