Student Loans are part of the government’s financial support package for students in higher education in the UK. They are available to help students meet their expenses while they are studying. The Student Loans Company (SLC) is a non-profit making government-owned organisation that administers loans and grants to students in universities and colleges in the UK.
As many students have started securing a university or college place, the SLC has published a press release aimed at helping dispel some common myths on student finance and Clearing 2020. Clearing is the process by which universities and colleges fill any remaining places they still have on their courses by matching students looking for a university place with unfilled places. This represents the last opportunity to apply for a place at university before the start of the academic year.
The press release ‘busts’ the following myths:
Myth: If I get a place through Clearing it’s too late to apply for student finance. Myth: If I’ve already applied for student finance and my course changes through Clearing, I don’t have to do anything. Myth: I need to send my Passport and a signed terms and conditions to receive my student finance. Myth: It takes ages to apply for student finance because my parents or partner need to send paper forms and evidence. Myth: There’s no information available on student finance and Clearing. For more information on any of these issues search for the press release on the GOV.UK website.
Companies House has confirmed that the temporary measure to suspend compulsory strike-off action will be lifted from 10 October 2020. The temporary measure to pause compulsory strike-offs started in April 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
When a company is struck off, the company’s legal existence is removed from the Companies House register. The strike-off can be voluntary or compulsory.
From 10 October 2020, Companies House will resume the compulsory process to remove a company from the register if there’s reasonable cause to believe it’s no longer carrying on business or in operation.
This includes: – company documents are outstanding, and Companies House have had no response to their letters . – letters sent by Companies House are returned undelivered – the company has no directors .
Companies that do not file their annual accounts or confirmation statement will normally receive two letters from Companies House. A notice is then published in the Gazette to tell the public that the registrar intends to strike-off the company.
When compulsory strike-off action resumes from 10th October – if there are no objections to dissolution and the two month period from the publication of the Gazette notice has expired – a company will be struck off shortly afterwards.
If a company is in default and wants to remain on the register then action should be taken before 10 October 2020 to remain registered.
In many circumstances it can be beneficial for taxpayers to make voluntary Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) to increase their entitlement to benefits, including the State or New State Pension if they are self-employed.
Taxpayers might want to consider making voluntary NICs because:
1. They are close to State Pension age and do not have enough qualifying years to get the full State Pension 2. They know they will not be able to get the qualifying years they need to qualify for the full State Pension during their working life 3. They are self-employed and do not have to pay Class 2 contributions because they have low profits or live outside the UK, but want to qualify for some benefits.
There is also a specific list of jobs where Class 2 NICs are not payable. These are:
– examiners, moderators, invigilators and people who set exam questions people who run businesses involving land or property. – ministers of religion who do not receive a salary or stipend . – people who make investments for themselves or others – but not as a business and without getting a fee or commission.
If you know any taxpayers that fall within any of these categories it may be beneficial to get a State Pension forecast and examine whether they should make voluntary Class 2 NICs to make up missing years.
New credit card fees for paying HMRC are to be introduced from 1 November 2020. These changes will mean that HMRC will be able to charge anyone using a business debit card a fee for making certain payments.
The fee for using a business debit card from 1 November 2020 is difficult to calculate but is essentially comprised of three elements. These are the merchant acquirer fee, the interchange fee and the scheme fee. The charge is designed to cover the costs incurred by HMRC in accepting payment by a business debit card.
There are already rules in place where charges are levied for payment by corporate, business and commercial credit cards. HMRC has not accepted personal credit cards since January 2018 when credit card surcharges on personal credit cards were banned. Payment by personal debit card is currently fee-free. There is also no charge for payment by Direct Debit, bank transfer or cheque.
One of the more insidious effects of the coronavirus outbreak is its unpredictability.
Businesses need to plan. To achieve this there needs to be an underlying, stable economic platform. Lockdown – whether locally or nationally applied – removes the certainty required to achieve planned results.
For example, the recent attempts to relax distancing rules and allow hospitality businesses (pubs, restaurants, hotel etc) to reopen on a restricted basis has back-fired in certain areas and the government has created a further layer of uncertainty – regional or local lockdown.
It is self-evident why lockdown is required – to control infection – but the effects on small businesses can be catastrophic.
From green to red the issues that need to be considered might include:
If you are fortunate and can trade online, lockdown may actually increase your turnover. However, can you meet changes in demand? By taking advantage of available grants and government backed soft loans you may have managed to keep your business hopes alive, but the evidence is that the job related, furlough grants are now being phased out and there is just so long that you can trade at a loss without becoming insolvent. Lockdown has meant that you are or were effectively closed to business. If the present easing creates more infection further restrictions may be required; either locally or nationally. This may require that business owners face up to unpalatable choices. Accordingly, we all need to plan for the unexpected, and in particular, that our business plans are flexible enough to cope with new restrictions especially if applied to our local area.
If you need help with this planning and review process please get in touch with us.
£20 million worth of new government grants have been released to help small and medium sized businesses across England recover from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. These grants will provide businesses between £1,000 and £5,000 to help them access new technology and other equipment as well as professional, legal, financial or other advice.
Commenting on the announcement, the minister for regional growth and local government, Simon Clarke MP, said:
‘We have always said that we would stand behind our businesses and communities as we rebuild following the Coronavirus pandemic. This new funding does exactly that.’
The support will be fully government funded with no obligation for businesses to contribute financially. The support will be delivered from the England European Regional Development Fund and distributed through Growth Hubs, embedded in local areas across England.
To establish a viable grant programme, the government has set a minimum of £250,000 for all Local Enterprise Partnership areas. The allocation of resources will be reviewed as the grant fund is delivered. The funding is being provided to address immediate needs and all grants must be awarded by 28 February 2021 and all activity fully completed by 31 March 2021.
The government has published further guidance on how the forthcoming Job Retention Bonus Scheme will operate. The scheme will enable eligible employers to claim £1,000 for each eligible employee in respect of whom they have previously made a valid claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and who remains in continuous employment until at least 31 January 2021 following the closure of the CJRS on 31 October 2020.
The policy paper indicates that the one-off bonus payment is intended to provide additional support to employers who keep on their furloughed employees in “meaningful employment” after the CJRS ends and it states that further detailed guidance on the operation of the scheme will be published in September 2020.
Employers will be able to claim the bonus via GOV.UK after they have filed PAYE for January 2021 and payments will be made from February 2021.
Employers will be able to claim for employees who:
were furloughed and had a CJRS claim submitted for them that meets all relevant eligibility criteria for the scheme have been continuously employed by the employer from the time of the employer’s most recent claim for that employee until at least 31 January 2021 have been paid an average of at least £520 a month between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021, i.e. a total of at least £1,560 across the three months – the employee does not have to be paid £520 in each month, but must have received some earnings in each of the three calendar months that have been paid and reported to HMRC via Real Time Information (RTI), and only earnings recorded through RTI records can count towards the average minimum earnings threshold are not serving a contractual or statutory notice period that started before 1 February 2021 have up-to-date RTI records for the period to the end of January 2021. HMRC will withhold payment of the bonus where it believes there is a risk that CJRS claims may have been fraudulent or inflated, until the enquiry is completed.
The bonus will be taxable, so employers must include the whole amount as income when calculating the taxable profits for Corporation Tax or Self-Assessment.
Employers should now ensure that their employee records are up-to-date, including accurately reporting their employee’s details and wages on the Full Payment Submission (FPS) through the RTI reporting system. They should also ensure all their CJRS claims have been accurately submitted and that any necessary amendments have been notified to HMRC.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a COVID-19 taskforce back in March 2020 to identify any commercial practices that adversely affect consumers and to consider appropriate responses to help businesses comply with the law and protect consumers’ rights.
One of the areas where the CMA received reports of unfair practices concerned the early years sector (nurseries and childcare providers). The main areas of concern related to payments and cancellations in the context of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. This prompted the publication of a statement by the CMA on 30 April 2020, on how the law applies to consumer contracts, refunds and cancellations. On 28 July 2020, the CMA published an open letter.
The letter does not introduce any new laws but does set out in detail how the current law applies in the present circumstances. The CMA was clear that the vast majority of providers were striving to reach fair arrangements.
However, the CMA identified the following three main problem areas:
Providers requiring full or excessively large fees for services which are not being carried out due to the pandemic public health restrictions and government guidance. Providers relying on unfair cancellation terms, such as requiring unreasonable notice to be given, or high cancellation fees in cases where the business is unable to provide the service. Providers putting unfair pressure on consumers to agree to make payments by threatening that the child’s place will be lost or the provider will go out of business. The CMA’s view is that consumers should not have to pay for services that cannot be provided and should also be offered a refund where services are paid for in advance but do not take place as agreed in the contract. In addition, contract terms requiring consumers to pay providers who are not providing the services agreed in the contract are likely to be unfair and unenforceable.
The letter confirms that the CMA will not be taking any action against the early years sector at this stage but will continue to monitor the sector. For the time being, the CMA is asking providers to consider their contracts and arrangements with consumers and take any necessary steps to ensure they comply with the law. Individual consumers will, of course, still have the option of pursuing a claim against businesses for alleged breaches of consumer law.
The government has announced that more small businesses will benefit from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Under the scheme, borrowers can apply for up to £5 million in finance in the form of loans, overdrafts, invoice finance, and/or asset finance. The government will guarantee lenders 80% of the loan value, as well as covering the first 12 months of interest payments and fees.
Under EU State Aid rules, small firms that were classed as ‘undertakings in difficulty’ were unable to make use of the CBILS. Following a considerable amount of UK Government and industry lobbying, the European Commission has now relaxed its State Aid rules. This means that effective 30 July 2020, ‘micro’ businesses with a turnover of less than £9 million and fewer than 50 employees will be exempt from elements of the ‘undertakings in difficulty’ test and can apply for a loan under the CBILS.
Chris Wilford, Head of Financial Services Policy, CBI said:
‘This is an important step that will help more businesses get the critical support they need. These eligibility hurdles have been a real stumbling block for many firms across the UK throughout the crisis. These were put in place to avoid governments bailing out failing companies, but those rules were established in normal times.’
HM Treasury has also made clear its expectation that all accredited CBILS lenders will implement the changes, noting the consequence that businesses whose CBILS applications they have previously declined may now be eligible.