Covid- 19 Small Business Grants Scheme has a Major Flaw

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A flaw in the government’s Coronavirus small business grants scheme leaves may leave thousands of South Eastern firms without access to vital financial support.

Background

Under the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) all eligible businesses in England in receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR) in the business rates system are eligible for a payment of £10,000. 

Under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) eligible businesses in England in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount (which covers retail, hospitality and leisure) with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for a cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 per property. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to and including £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000 while  businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. 

Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not eligible for this scheme. Businesses which are not ratepayers in the business rates system are not included in this scheme.

The schemes are administered by local authorities on behalf of central government. The Treasury has given £12.3bn to local authorities in England to distribute as part of the grant scheme. As of 20 April £6.1bn had been paid out to some 490,000 business properties, according to published data.

The Treasury has given £12.3bn to local authorities in England to distribute as part of the grant 

The Flaw

Many small firms operate from properties where the landlord handles any business rate charges or relief claims on their behalf, leaving the firms themselves unable to claim the local council-administered grant.

In response to press enquiries, the Department for Business suggested that such companies should try to ask landlords to claim the grants and pass them on.

However, it is often the case that  the properties in which small businesses operate are subdivided into many units and the overall estate has a rateable value that is higher than the threshold for claiming the grant, making them ineligible in any case.

The retail estate adviser Altus estimates that there are 1.16 million micro businesses in the UK with between 1 to 9 employees. But there are only around 720,000 properties liable for business rates relief or reduced rates.

Small companies without physical business premises – such as those that are run from people’s homes – are also ineligible. That means that potentially hundreds of thousands of small firms are missing out on the grants.

The Solution

If you are not able to access the financial support, it is worth discussing this with the landlord, who pays the rates in the first instance.  The government has made it clear that this support is intended for businesses and not their landlords. 

If this approach does not work, and bearing in mind that there are no indications that the government intends to address the anomaly, we would suggest that firms the other financial support the Government was offering to small firms, in particular the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme https://src-time.co.uk/blog/

SRC-Time are one of the South East’s leading accountancy firms in advising individuals and businesses in all aspects of their accounting and tax affairs and we are able to assist in any issue raised above.

Our expert team is available to provide you with advice and can be contacted on 01273 326 556 or you can drop us an email at info@src-time.co.uk  or speak with an account manager to get any process started.

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