Chancellor unveils coronavirus self-employed support package

Self-employed people will be able to claim grants worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to a limit of £2,500 a month – but will not be paid until June. Tony McDonough reports

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Britain’s self-employed are being thrown a lifeline

 

Britain’s 5m-strong army of self-employed people have been offered a coronavirus crisis lifeline by the Government – but they won’t get a penny until June.

Unveiling his eagerly-awaited package for the hairdressers, taxi drivers, web designers, plumbers and multitude of other self-employed trades, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We have not left you behind, we all stand together.”

Last week, Mr Sunak offered 80% wage subsidies for staff kept on by employers and on Thursday he looked to match that by allowing self-employed people to apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to a limit of £2,500 a month.

People can apply for the grant today but won’t receive any money in their bank accounts until June at the earliest. However, the scheme will not cover people who only became self-employed very recently – they will have to rely on benefits such as universal credit. The Chancellor insisted that 95% of self-employed people would benefit.

Called the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support scheme it will cover the three months March, April and May. It will be paid by HMRC as a lump sum. The grants are taxable and will need to be declared on tax returns by January 2022.

At least half their income needs to have come from self-employment as registered on the 2019-20 tax return filed in January, or averaged over the three previous years. Company owners who pay themselves a dividend are not covered.

The new measures were give a cautious welcome in Merseyside. Liverpool-based The Women’s Organisation has supported thousands of self-employed people both directly, and through the Enterprise Hu programme.

Its chief executive, Maggie O’Carroll, said: “While these measures from Chancellor are welcome and we recognise supporting the self-employed is complex, there are many freelancers in desperate financial need and a promise of payment in June may come too late for many. And 80% of profits may not suffice.”

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