The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Working for yourself? It may be time to seek professional advice
Struggling self-employed people not covered by the financial safety net supporting those affected by Covid-19 should seek advice as soon as possible, an insolvency trade body has said.
Duncan Swift, president of insolvency and restructuring organisation R3, said the limitations of the UK Government’s measures to help the selfemployed “do stand out”.
He added: “There are quite a few gaps in the support. For people who have only recently started working for themselves or who pay themselves through dividends, there may be no help at all.
“Anyone who is in financial difficulty or starting to see signs it may be around the corner should seek advice from a professional as soon as possible.”
Self-employed people who are eligible for the help unveiled last Thursday will be able to receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least three months.
But they need to have been operating for at least a year and have had a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19, or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 201718 and 2018-19.
More than half of their income in these periods must come from selfemployment.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has insisted the new scheme is “the right response” for self-employed workers.
On those who have been self-employed for less than a year not being eligible, Mr Sharma said: “If HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) has had no contact from those people during the time they’ve been self-employed, then of course it’s very difficult to make an assessment on that.”
Announcing the new scheme last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it covered 95% of self-employed people for whom the majority of their earnings come from that work.
Tom Evennett, head of personal tax at professional services giant EY, said: “There will be a group of taxpayers who are just over £50,000 – such a hard cutoff could be seen as rough justice.”
Nick Hill, of the UK Government-backed Money and Pensions Service, said: “Hard as it is, the most important thing, now more than ever, is to take a moment to assess all your outgoings, talk to your creditors and check whether you can access savings which would normally be locked away.
“If, after that, you are still worried about making ends meet, make sure you have fully considered all your options before looking at credit products to plug any gaps, and that you have understood the terms and conditions, and know how much you will have to pay back in future.”
Heather Self, of tax advisory firm Blick Rothenberg, said: “People with new businesses starting after April 5 2019 will not qualify.
“This is needed, HMRC says, so that grants are based on existing tax returns rather than running a higher risk of fraud, but it’s very harsh for someone who left employment last summer to start a new business.
“Junior barristers (known as advocates in Scotland), who are typically self-employed but often earn very little in their first year or two, are an example of new businesses who will be affected, as well as the more obvious plumbers, hairdressers and so on.”