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Coronavirus Self-Employed & Small Limited Company Help

Full info on how the now-closed SEISS scheme worked

Applications for the fifth and final self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) grant have now CLOSED, marking the end of this particular Government scheme. For your reference, we've kept information in this guide about how SEISS worked. The guide also briefly runs through the measures still available if you're self-employed and continuing to struggle because of coronavirus.

Self-employment income support scheme has now ENDED

Please note that the self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) came to a close on 30 September 2021. We've kept the information about the scheme below for your reference, though we won't be updating this guide again. 

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Now closed. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has ended

Update Fri 1 Oct 2021. Please note that the Self-Employment Income Support (SEISS) has now ended. All of the information below on how SEISS worked whilst it was still up and running, including the frequently asked questions, has been kept in place for your reference. The tenses used haven't been changed, which is why the section reads as if the scheme is ongoing.

The fifth and final self-employed grant is open. Unlike the previous grants, for the first time, it's now not "all or nothing". How much you'll get depends on the extent to which your business has been hit by coronavirus. This can be complex to work out, so we've a full step-by-step rundown to help you do it, but first, here's a summary of this fifth grant:  

SEISS 5: at a glance 

  • The grant covers 1 May to 30 September – five calendar months. However, it is only worth three months of average trading profits. This seems unfair compared to the furlough scheme, though it is not the first time that this has happened for the self-employed.

  • The deadline to claim is 30 September. Just like previous grants, you apply online using your Government Gateway account. See How to apply. So far more than 800,000 people have applied for the fifth grant.

  • The eligibility criteria is the same as for SEISS 4. So if you claimed or were able to claim the previous grant, you'll be able to claim again here (see eligibility criteria). That means the 600,000 recent self-employed starters, who got the fourth grant for the first time, can also get the fifth.

    Of course, sadly, that also means there are millions who are STILL excluded, namely those who fall foul of the strict profit thresholds or are directors of limited companies and mainly take dividends.

  • The maximum grant amount anyone can claim is £7,500. How much you get is based on a calculation of 80% of your average trading profits over three months. Yet you won't be able to claim more than £7,500 - even if your calculation should mean you'd get more. Yet this time, it's not that straightforward...

  • You now don't automatically get the amount your average profits make you eligible for. The size of your 5th grant also depends on how much your turnover has been hit.  For the first time, the grant is not "all or nothing" that is, you either qualify or you don't. The final amount you get for the 5th grant will also depend on how much your turnover has dropped. Though there's one exception to this...

  • If you became newly self-employed in 2019/20 and meet the other criteria, the amount you can get will be based on just this year's tax returns. You will automatically get 80% of three months of your average trading profits (capped at £7,500) without regard to turnover. You missed out on the first three grants, so this may help redress this balance a touch.

  • If you're looking to remortgage, claiming the grant might scupper your chances. If you're struggling these grants are an invaluable lifeline - but do bear in mind that claiming SEISS can impact mortgage applications

Now you've read the basics, we'll take you through a step-by-step of how the 5th grant works.

Common questions on SEISS

  • How did the previous grants work?

    Grants one, two, three and four are now closed and HMRC has confirmed they will not accept any late claims, but this is how they worked:

    - Grant one. It was available from 13 May to 13 July 2020 and was worth up to £7,500 in total. This was made up of 80% of three months' worth of average monthly trading profits, capped at £2,500/mth.

    - Grant two. It was available from 14 July to 19 October 2020 and was worth up to £6,570 in total. It was made up of a single payment of 70% of three months' worth of average monthly trading profits, capped at £2,190/mth.

    - Grant three. It was available from 29 November 2020 to 29 January 2021 and was worth up to £7,500 in total. This was made up of 80% of three months' worth of average monthly trading profits, capped at £2,500/mth.

    - Grant four. It was available from 22 April 2021 to 1 June 2021 and was worth up to £7,500 in total. This was made up of 80% of three months' worth of average monthly trading profits, capped at £2,500/mth.

  • Will I need to include the SEISS grants in my self-assessment tax return?

    Yes. If you received any or all of the first, second or third SEISS grants, you will need to include them in your self-assessment return for the tax year 2020/21, which you'll have to submit by 31 January 2022.

    The grants WILL be included when calculating the profits or loss of your business, and therefore may impact your tax implication.

    If you receive the fourth and fifth grants, these should be included in your 2021/22 self-assessment return, which will need to be submitted by 31 January 2023.

  • What if I have a really good year – do I need to pay the grant back?

    The Government says individuals must "do the right thing" and only make a claim through the scheme if you've genuinely been adversely affected by coronavirus and need financial support.

    However, if you are struggling now and claim the grant, but later in the year your profits increase, the Government has confirmed the grant WON'T be "clawed back" by HMRC.

    It's worth noting that the grants are taxable – so claiming the grant will mean you have a higher taxable income when you come to do your 2020/21 tax return.

  • Is there additional self-employed help for other nations?

    Yes. The Scottish Government announced on a further £220 million in grants to help businesses, including the recently self-employed. About £100 million of that support is designed for self-employed people and viable micro and SME businesses in distress due to coronavirus. Wales and Northern Ireland have also announced targeted support and lockdown support payments. See below for more.

  • I received the grant but I don't think it was the right amount – what do I do?

    If you think you were underpaid

    If you believe you have not received enough money, there is now an official review process. But first HMRC says you should double-check your calculations using the information on its website, then contact your tax agent adviser if you have one. Then if you still think it's incorrect, you can ask for a review of your claim. HMRC has confirmed there is no specific deadline for people to do this, but it encourages people to do so as soon as possible.

    To do this, you will need to login into your Government Gateway account and have the following information:

    • Your grant claim reference
    • Your national insurance number
    • The unique taxpayer reference you used on your claim
    • Details about why you think the grant amount is too low

    If you think you were overpaid

    If you think you got grants one and two but were not eligible, or received more than HMRC said you were entitled to, you MUST tell HMRC. You can do this by logging into your Government Gateway account.

    You can also tell HMRC if you want to voluntarily pay back some or all of the grant you received. You can do this at any time.

  • Why is the SEISS grant three months' of profits but covers five months' of time?

    When the Government first announced the SEISS grant, its own press release from 26 March 2020 stated: "The income support scheme... will cover the three months to May," ie, March, April and May.

    Then it announced a second grant covering another three months' worth of trading profits. Logic (and basic counting) would suggest that this second three-month grant would cover June, July and August – but to get this you strangely had to declare your work was impacted only after mid July.

    But after initially setting out that the three-month grants corresponded to actual specific months of business disruption, HMRC then said that the grants don't relate to specific months after all. They are just grants, it said, though each is based on three months of trading profits. Then when the third grant kicked in, it was there to cover the period from 1 November 2020 until 31 January 2021

    So do the maths...

    That's nine months' worth of grants in total to cover 1 March 2020 to 31 January 2021, a total of 11 calendar months. That leaves two months missing, which in our view are September and October 2020.

    A further missing two months...

    The fourth grant covered February to April and then the fifth and final grant covers May to September. But crucially for the latter it is still worth three months' worth of average trading profits. So it's three months' worth of support stretched over five months. So the self-employed "lose" a further two months of support.

    We've asked the Treasury about the missing months, and its answer was that SEISS is not designed to be a month-by-month replacement of self-employed income.

Step 1: Are you eligible? 

The obvious first question, is "are you eligible to get a grant?". This is how to work this out (though also see our help for different circumstances in the I'm confused whether I can claim the fifth grant guide)...

  • You must have filed a 2019/20 tax return. The deadline to file this with HMRC was originally 31 January 2021, but the Chancellor specifically said in the Budget that the scheme will be open to you as long as you filed your tax return by 11.59pm on 2 March 2021. 

  • You must have traded in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 tax years and intend to continue to trade. This means you must be currently trading or temporarily unable to do so because of coronavirus - you cannot make a claim if you have plans to close your business.

  • You must reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits between May and September this year. This must be due to reduced business activity, capacity, demand or inability to trade due to coronavirus. You'll need to be able to make a declaration to this effect. In practice, to be able to make the declaration:

     Your business must continue to be affected by Covid in the claim period, or be newly affected in this time. Your business must have been facing an ongoing hit from coronavirus from the beginning of May to 30 September, or have been newly affected in this period.

    So you cannot apply if your business was struggling in, say, February, March and April but was no longer affected from May onwards. You also cannot apply if the only impact was increased costs. 

    If you’re not sure yet how it's going, don’t apply now, you have until the end of September to make the decision.

    2) You need to believe the impact during this period WILL cause a 'significant reduction' in trading profits.
     For many this will be straightforward, but others might not yet be sure – again if not sure, wait.

    3) This 'significant reduction' must be due to 'reduced demand, activity or capacity' OR being temporarily unable to trade. 
    For example:

    - Lower demand, activity or capacity could be fewer customers, cancelled contracts or supply chain issues.

    - Being temporarily unable to trade could be because of a local lockdown, being officially told to shield/self-isolate or parental or caring responsibilities.

    You must keep evidence that shows how your business has been impacted. HMRC expects you to make an honest assessment about whether you reasonably believe your business will have a significant reduction in profits. See our 'I'm confused whether I can claim the fifth grant' guide for more information about the declaration and examples of where you will and won't be able to claim the fifth grant.

  • At least 50% of your total income must be from self-employment. This will first be judged on your 2019/2020 self assessment tax return. If you're under the 50% criteria with that, then HMRC will look at the tax years 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 to see if the average of your trading profits across the four years made up more than 50% of your total income.

    Income from other jobs, property, dividends, savings, pensions and taxable benefits all count as "non-trading income" and, to qualify for the SEISS, the total of these combined must NOT exceed 50% of your total income. Confused about what counts as "taxable income"? Here's our full list.

  • Your average trading profit must be £50,000 a year or less. This is essentially a 'cliff-edge' requirement – so those whose average annual trading profit is more than £50,000 (to be specific, £50,000.01 and above) won't be able to get any support from this scheme.

    If you’re not eligible based on your 2019/20 tax return, ie, you earned more than £50,000, it will then look at the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, 2018 to 2019 and 2019 to 2020. If on average, you earned less than £50,000 over those four years, you will be eligible. 

  • You CAN keep working if you claim the grant. Though you need to declare your business has been impacted by coronavirus for the period you're claiming for. HMRC will check for fraudulent claims.

  • Losses in a year (or more years) can affect claims. If you made a loss in one of the tax years that counts, this will reduce your overall average earnings, and if you've other non-trading income which accounts for more than 50% of your total income, you'll be ineligible. 

If you think you're eligible based on the above, now read step 2 to find out how much you could claim

Eligibility quick questions

  • I receive benefits – can I apply for SEISS?

    Yes, but some benefits could have an impact on your eligibility.

    To qualify for SEISS, your non-trading income has to be less than the trading profits, and some benefits count as "non-trading income".

    Generally speaking, a "taxable benefit" will count as non-trading income, while a "non-taxable benefit" won't count.

    Key benefits that are taxable – and count as income – are:

    • Employment and support allowance
    • Carer's allowance
    • Bereavement allowance

    Key benefits that are non-taxable – and don't count – are:

    • Universal credit
    • Child tax credit

    If you're unsure whether a benefit you get is taxable or non-taxable, click the drop down menus below for the full list.

    • Non-taxable benefits

      These benefits are ignored when you apply for SEISS
      • Attendance allowance
      • Lump sum bereavement payments
      • Bereavement support payment
      • Best start grant
      • Child benefit
      • Child dependency additions paid with carer's allowance, incapacity benefit, state retirement pension and widowed parent's allowance
      • Child tax credit
      • Christmas bonus for pensioners
      • Cold weather payments
      • Council tax reduction
      • Disability living allowance
      • Employment and support allowance (income-related)
      • Funeral support payment
      • Guardian's allowance
      • Health costs, including eye tests, prescriptions and travel under the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme
      • Housing benefit
      • Income support, unless you are on strike when you claim
      • Industrial injuries benefits, including constant attendance allowance, disablement benefit, exceptionally severe disablement allowance and reduced earnings allowance
      • Maternity allowance
      • One-parent benefit, only available if your claim was made before April 1997
      • Pension credit
      • Personal independence payment
      • Return to work credit
      • Severe disablement allowance
      • Social fund payments, including budgeting loans, funeral expenses payments and sure start maternity grants
      • Universal credit
      • War disablement pension, including allowances
      • War widow's/widower's pension
      • Winter fuel payments
      • Young carer grant
    • Taxable benefits

      These benefits are considered "non-trading income" when you apply for SEISS
      • Bereavement allowance
      • Carer's allowance
      • Employment and support allowance – contributory and youth
      • Incapacity benefit – except for the first 28 weeks (higher rate) and those who were receiving the former invalidity benefit at 12 April 1995 for the same incapacity (long-term)
      • Income support paid to people who are on strike
      • Industrial death benefit pensions
      • Jobseeker's allowance – both contribution-based and income-based up to a taxable maximum
      • State pension
      • Widowed mother's allowance
      • Widowed parent's allowance
      • Widow's pension

        Additions for dependent children paid with any of the above benefits are not taxable. An addition for a spouse or civil partner is taxable.
  • I am a landlord but my tenants can't pay rent – can I get help from the scheme?

    Possibly. Being a landlord doesn't preclude you from being a part of the scheme – if you can meet the other criteria. Income from property does count towards your 'total income', but it doesn't count towards trading profits and the scheme looks at trading profits.

    Private landlords are also now eligible for a three-month buy-to-let mortgage payment holiday if their tenants are experiencing financial difficulties.

  • I'm an armed forces reservist, can I still get the grant?

    Yes, provided you fulfil the other eligibility criteria. The Government has said that any reservists who currently cannot access the scheme as a direct result of their service in 2019/20 will be able to make a claim for both grants. 

    All of the following must apply:

    • You carried out specified reservist activities for at least 90 days in the period for which your trading profits or total income for the 2019/20 tax year are determined.
    • These reservist activities affected your trading profits or total income for that year.
    • You were self-employed in the 2018/19 tax year and have submitted your self-assessment tax return for that year.

    Specified reservist activities are:

    • Full-time service commitment
    • Additional duties commitment
    • Call-out

    The Government website says that you will be contacted with more information if it thinks you may be eligible.

  • I've only recently become a new business and haven't filed a tax return. Can I apply?

    No, unfortunately not. If you weren't able to file a tax return for self-employed earnings in 2019/20, you won't be able to apply.

  • What sort of proof do I need to show I've been affected by coronavirus?

    Yes. You must keep any evidence that your business has had reduced activity, capacity or demand due to coronavirus at the time you made your claim, such as:

    • Business accounts showing reduction in activity compared to previous years.
    • Records of reduced or cancelled contracts or appointments.
    • Fewer invoices.
    • A record of dates where you had reduced demand or capacity due to Government restrictions.

    You must keep evidence if your business has been unable to trade due to coronavirus, such as:

    • A record of dates where you had to close due to Government restrictions.
    • NHS Test and Trace communications – if you've been instructed to self-isolate in line with NHS guidelines and are unable to work from home (if you've been abroad and have to self-isolate, this does not count).
    • A letter or email from the NHS asking you to shield.
    • Test results if you've been diagnosed with coronavirus.
    • Letters or emails from your child's school.

Step 2: The maximum you can get depends on profits

Now that you have a clear picture of whether you're eligible, the next step is to figure out how much you may be able to claim:

  • The grant is capped at £7,500. This means the most anyone can claim (regardless of their individual circumstances) is £7,500 - this amount is the same as grants 1, 3 and 4. Grant 2 was capped at £6,570.  

  • The amount you could claim is based on 80% of three months of your average trading profits. Your average trading profits are worked out from your tax returns (see below) but due to the cap - even if 80% of three months' worth of your average trading profits work out to be more than £7,500, you won't be able to claim more. 

  • To work out your average trading profits HMRC will use up to four years of tax returns. If you've traded and submitted tax returns for 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 AND 2019/20 - all the profits and losses will be added together and divided by four (then divided by four again to get the three-months worth of profit figure). 

    - If you didn’t submit tax returns for all four years, the grant will be based on your most recent consecutive returns. 

    - If you did not trade in two consecutive years, your average trading profit will be just based on your most recent return(s). So if you submitted 2016/17 not 2017/18 then 2018/19 and 2019/20 it would only be the last two that counted.

  • Losses in a year can affect claims. If you made a loss in one of the tax years that counts, this will reduce your overall average earnings.

For previous grants, this would have been it. You'd have got 80% of your average trading profits over three months (subject to the cap). But unlike all the other grants, for this 5th grant there's an extra step in determining how much you'll get. Read on to see how this works. 

Step 3: How much of the max you can get depends on the drop in your turnover

For the first time, the SEISS grants are not "all or nothing". There are now two levels of grant available - a higher amount of 80% of three months of average trading profits or a lower amount of 30% of three months' worth of average trading profits.

Which you'll get - unless you’re newly self-employed - depends on the extent of your drop in turnover. To work this out, you will need to give HMRC two different turnover figures so they can compare how your business fared during the pandemic and how it performed before it. 

Here's what you need to do:  

  • First, you need to get your turnover figures for 2020/21. Turnover includes takings, fees, sales or money earned by your business. You should NOT include past SEISS grants and other Covid support, such as "Eat Out to Help Out" payments, local authority or devolved administration grants. 

    - To find your figures, you'll need to refer to your self-assessment tax return - if you have already completed it. (Help if you're not sure where to find it). 

    - If you've not yet completed it, you can also ask your accountant or tax adviser (if you have one) to check the accounting software you use for your business, or you can go through your bookkeeping or spreadsheet records that cover invoices and payments received, or you can check the bank account you use for your business to account for money coming in from customers. 

    - Many people have accounting periods that fall outside of 12 months. This is not a problem, but you'll need to work out your 12-month figure.

    For example, if you have a 15-month accounting period and declared a turnover of £45,000 on your 2020 to 2021 tax return: To get your 12-month turnover for 2020/21 you need to divide your 15-month figure by 15 to get your turnover for 1 month, then multiply this by 12. 

  • Next, you'll need to find your turnover "reference" figure - for most this will be your turnover in the 2019/20 tax year. This is the figure that HMRC looks at to see how your business performed before the pandemic. In most cases will be tax year 2019/20. If this was not a normal year for your business (eg, you were on maternity leave etc), you can use your reported turnover from 2018/19 instead.
    You can find this figure on your tax return. For previous years' tax returns log into your personal tax account; check your business records, or ask your accountant if you have one. 

  • HMRC then uses difference between your 2020/21 turnover figure and your pre-pandemic "reference turnover figure" to determine whether you get the higher or lower amount. Then...

    - If your turnover's fallen by 30% or more you'll be able to claim the full 80% of the three months’ average trading profits you worked out in step two (capped at £7,500).

    - If your turnover's fallen by less than 30% you'll be able to claim a grant worth 30% of the three months' average trading profits you worked out in step two. In this category, the maximum grant is £2,850. 
  • The newly self-employed who started trading in 2019/20 automatically get the maximum grant. If you started trading in 2019/20 you will be able to claim the maximum grant amount worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits - without a turnover test, as there are no previous figures to compare your turnover to.

  • Extra help is available from HMRC. Guidance is available online. You can also speak to an adviser online about the scheme, use HMRC’s digital assistant or call 0800 024 1222 - but bear in mind the line is extremely busy and there are fewer advisers due to coronavirus. 

Profit/turnover quick questions

  • What if my business is not yet in profit?

    The grant you'll get is based on your average monthly profits – so if you have only made losses, then unfortunately you won't be able to get anything. However, do check what other support is available, including whether you can apply for a business interruption loan or universal credit.

  • How does HMRC calculate what my total income is?

    To qualify for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, more than 50% of your total taxable income must come from self-employment.

    When looking at what your total income actually is, HMRC takes into account the following: 

    • Income from earnings
    • Trading profits
    • Property income
    • Dividends
    • Savings income (this includes interest from PPI payouts)
    • Pension income
    • Miscellaneous income
  • I took maternity/paternity/adoption leave, is this taken into account?

    Yes. Special dispensation was made for parents who took their leave in 2018/19 for the first three grants and the same now applies for 2019/20. If you took parental leave away from your business and didn't need to submit a self-assessment tax return in 2019/20 because your earnings fell below £1,000 – you can disregard 2019/20 and use earlier self-assessment returns as the basis for eligibility.

    You might have also earned more than £1,000 from your business, but still failed to be eligible if you had income from other sources (such as a part-time job) which meant your self-employed income was below 50% of your total income.

    IMPORTANT: You can only disregard your 2019/20 trading year if it meant you were ineligible altogether. Unfortunately, if you were eligible, you must still count your 2019/20 tax year when calculating your grant amount, which is based on average trading profits.

    This means many parents will see their grant amounts reduce as a result of taking parental leave away from their business. For example, if you traded in 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and your yearly profits were £30,000, but took six months' parental leave in 2019 to care for your child and your profits were halved to £15,000, this year would still count as part of your trading average, you can't disregard it. 

  • Where can I find the turnover figures on my tax return?

    Turnover is the total income earned (if you use the traditional accounting basis) or received (if you use "cash basis") by your business, before taking off any expenses. 

    You can get your reference period turnover figure from the turnover box on your 2019/20 (or 2018/19) self-assessment tax return, provided it covers a 12-month period. To find their turnover figure, you should look at the following box on their return or supplementary pages: 

    Tax return or supplementary pages to view

    Box with turnover in 

    SA103F: Self-employment (Full)  
    supplementary pages of the SA100 tax return 

    15 (in the ‘Business income’ section) 

    SA103S: Self-employment (Short) 
    supplementary pages of the SA100 tax return 

    9 (in the ‘Business income’ section) 

    SA800: Partnership tax return 

    3.24 or 3.29 

    SA200: (Short) tax return 



Applying for universal credit won't make you ineligible for SEISS

You can apply for and get universal credit - SEISS doesn't make you ineligible. 

But once you start receiving self-employed income support too then this will be classed as income, meaning the amount of universal credit you receive will decrease. You will NOT have to pay back previous months of universal credit because of your SEISS payment. 

How to make a claim – deadline's 30 Sept

Update Fri 1 Oct 2021. Please note that the Self-Employment Income Support (SEISS) has now ended. All of the information below on how SEISS worked whilst it was still up and running, including the frequently asked questions, has however been kept in place for your reference. The tenses used haven't been changed, which is why the section reads as if the scheme is ongoing.

Claiming online is the quickest and easiest way. HMRC. You can claim online by searching for 'SEISS' on the website until 30 September 2021.  

To make your claim, you'll need:

  • Turnover figures for April 2020 to April 2021 and 2019/20 and/or 2018/19.  
  • Your National Insurance number
  • Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number
  • Government Gateway user ID and password
  • Bank account number and sort code, and roll number for a building society account  

When will I get my money?

After you've submitted your claim, HMRC will do checks to confirm the details and pay the money into your bank account within six working days of receiving your claim.

The self-employment grant can be a hurdle for remortgagers

While receiving a SEISS grant in the past isn't an automatic reason for mortgage rejection, sadly some have been told it is evidence of business viability problems (as by applying you declared you needed help) and have been rejected.

Though receiving an earlier grant but not a later one can sometimes be viewed as evidence of a turnaround.

In June, MSE asked 13 lenders and six explicitly said they wouldn't take SEISS grant money into account, while only two said they would - the rest were vague. 

As for whether those who are eligible, and struggling, if you need the cash, do it - mortgage savings are usually no substitute for direct cash being paid into your account.

For those struggling to get a mortgage due to these schemes, product transfers from your existing lender, and using mortgage brokers, are the best routes to navigate through this.

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What if I'm not eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme?

Update Fri 1 Oct 2021. Please note that the Self-Employment Income Support (SEISS) has now ended. All of the information below on how SEISS worked whilst it was still up and running, including the frequently asked questions, has however been kept in place for your reference. The tenses used haven't been changed, which is why the section reads as if the scheme is ongoing.

Not all self-employed people can get the SEISS grant – for example, if you earn more than £50,000 a year, or if less than half of your income is from self-employment. If you don't meet the eligibility requirements, unfortunately you won't be able to claim.

Until recently, one option was to apply for a business interruption loan, but the temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which was open to self-employed people and offered access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to six years, has now closed to new applications. See more below though on what other grants are available for affected businesses.

You may qualify for benefits if you're sick or self-isolating

If you've been in close contact with someone who tests positive, you may be told to self-isolate for 10 days by any of the various contact tracing schemes. If so, and you can't operate your business from home and it's disrupted, you can apply for universal credit, though what (if anything) you get depends on your costs, savings and income.

If you're sick, you can apply for new-style employment support allowance (ESA) and claim from the first day of sickness. You can also apply at present if you're caring for a child who is ill with coronavirus, or self-isolating according to Government advice - though these provisions may change at short notice. 

However, it's still worth checking that you're claiming all the other benefits and support you're entitled to.

Gig worker, zero hours, freelance or agency? Check what you're entitled to

Update Fri 1 Oct 2021. Please note that the Self-Employment Income Support (SEISS) has now ended. All of the information below on how SEISS worked whilst it was still up and running, including the frequently asked questions, has however been kept in place for your reference. The tenses used haven't been changed, which is why the section reads as if the scheme is ongoing.

If you work in the 'gig' economy – for example, you freelance, work through an agency or are on a 'zero-hours' contract – it's important to check what you're entitled to.

The best way to tell this is to see how you're taxed. If you're taxed through PAYE, then you're considered as an employee, so you should have the same rights as an employee.

If you are self-employed (therefore taxed through self-assessment and not PAYE), you won't be eligible for furlough, but you may be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grants, or be able to claim benefits.

For more info, see Martin's video below on zero-hours workers. Please note: this video was recorded towards the beginning of the pandemic.

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Help for limited company directors whose small firms are struggling

Update Fri 1 Oct 2021. Please note that the Self-Employment Income Support (SEISS) has now ended. All of the information below on how SEISS worked whilst it was still up and running, including the frequently asked questions, has however been kept in place for your reference. The tenses used haven't been changed, which is why the section reads as if the scheme is ongoing.

Those who work via small limited companies that they're directors of (as many firms ask them to) have very limited state support available. Yet there is a small amount of wriggle room, which Martin works through in his 10-minute video guide below. 

The video, which was recorded towards the beginning of the pandemic, includes the following:

  • No official scheme exists for limited company directors. There's no cover for lost dividends, although many are lobbying for it.
  • Limited company directors, even if they're the only employee, could furlough the PAYE element of their income (note that the furlough scheme has now closed). This isn't likely to be huge, as more income is dividends (and there's no help there), but it's something.
  • If you do furlough yourself you can't then work for the firm, but you can continue to perform your statutory obligations as directors, eg, official legal filings (in the video Martin discusses how far this reaches).
  • When furloughed, it's acceptable that you can work for other people, so you could freelance yourself and work outside of your limited company.
  • Those struggling for income are likely eligible for, and so should also claim, universal credit.

It's worth noting that Bounce Back Loans, which offered help for small businesses and in some cases income support for limited company directors, have now closed to applications - see our Bounce Back Loans guide.

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Door 'firmly shut' on more financial support for limited company directors

Following the announcement of the 2021 Budget, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, told founder Martin Lewis that limited company directors wouldn't be getting any additional financial support during the pandemic, admitting that when it comes to extra help, the door is "firmly shut".

See exactly what the Chancellor said below in this clip from his interview with Martin Lewis, courtesy of ITV's The Martin Lewis Money Show.

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Other grants for affected businesses 

Business finance isn't our bag. Yet there has been different routes of help available throughout the pandemic for businesses that need it, including: one-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses up to £9,000 per property, a £594m discretionary fund for other businesses, more funding for local authority discretionary grants.

In the 2021 Budget the Chancellor announced a new "recovery loan" scheme - see more information on the website. Businesses of any size can apply for loans from £25,000 to £10m through to the end of this year. The Government will provide a guarantee to lenders of 80%. The Fed for small biz has all the info along with how the Government's re-opening "roadmap" will affect businesses. 

In Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

Business support is fully devolved, so it is up to the devolved nations to decide how to support businesses in their areas.

Scotland: The Scottish Government has given one-off "restart grants" for business in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector specifically to support them in meeting the costs associated with the costs of reopening. 

Wales: The Welsh Government has a package of support, to see what's available at

Northern Ireland: For businesses in Northern Ireland, there is a range of business support available.

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