Published 24/03/2020, edited 26/03/2020 to update information about the Wage Subsidy Scheme and CRO filings
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
Update: as of 30/03/2020, CRO is not answering queries or processing submissions, and it’s not possible to have documents delivered to their offices on Gloucester Place Lower. You are still able to complete your filing online but will have to wait to send in your physical signed signature page once they reopen.
Employers and 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, and replaces the Employer COVID-19 Refund Scheme that was in place offering €203 per week to employees that had been laid off.
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.
This scheme runs from 26th March for 12 weeks, full 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
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.
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/.
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.
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 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/.
Údarás na Gaeltachta clients
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/.
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