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Even HMRC's webinars are confused about the second self-employment grant's timing

Even HMRC's webinars are confused about the second self-employment grant's timing

An HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) webinar has told confused potential claimants that the second Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grant applies to June, July and August – even though its new rule means you actually need to declare your business was affected by coronavirus on or after Tuesday 14 July to qualify.

In the event held last Thursday (18 June), which HMRC billed as being run by experts who could answer questions about the support available, participants were repeatedly told that the second grant covers June, July and August. 

This is not the case – the second grant doesn't cover a specific time period. HMRC has since apologised and confirmed this info was wrong. But the incident is a classic example of the confusion that surrounds HMRC's bizarre new rule – since it was published two weeks ago, lots of MoneySavers have said they've been struggling to understand its logic, and now even HMRC's own webinars seem confused.

For full info on how this works and the support available to the self-employed, see our Coronavirus Self-Employed & Small Limited Company Help guide.

What potential claimants were told in the HMRC webinar

One MoneySaver who attended the HMRC webinar last Thursday – one in a series it's running – told us participants were told on multiple occasions that the second grant applies to the three months June, July and August, even though that ISN'T the case.

We've seen screenshots showing three examples of this (we've underlined the key parts in red):

When we got in touch with HMRC to ask why its webinar had given out info at odds with what it had told us about the new rule, it said the webinar briefing was inaccurate and apologised. It says it's flagged the issue to its webinar team.

Why is this such an issue?

To explain, let's hand over to MSE founder Martin Lewis, who covered this at length in last week's email:

'The new rules are clear – the message as clear as mud'

The Friday before last, we got the guidance for the second coronavirus self-employment income support grant due in August. Most was as flagged, but then we spotted: "You will have to confirm your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020." So we've been digging into it.

To recap, as the Government says, this second grant is for "70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid in a single instalment covering a further three months' worth of profits, capped at £6,570 in total." Disappointingly for many excluded from the first grant, this has the same eligibility criteria, so if you were ineligible for that, you are ineligible for this.

As the Government's own press release from 26 March stated: "The income support scheme... will cover the three months to May," ie, March, April and May. Logic (and basic counting) therefore suggests the second three-month grant covers June, July and August.

So it's very strange to read the new rule that says you have to declare your business was impacted after mid-July, and unfair on businesses heavily impacted in June and recovered by then.

Having spoken to HMRC, apparently the grants don't (now?) relate to a specific three-month time period, they are just grants (though based on three months of trading profits).

The rules are simple. The first grant is for those whose "business was impacted by Covid-19 before 13 July" and the second, which comes in August, for those "impacted by Covid-19 on or after 14 July". If impacted before and after those dates, you are due both.

So the new rules are clear. But the implication and message this sends is as clear as mud. If, as the Government announced, the first 'three-month' grant covered March, April and May, but also now sort of June and half of July, what does the second 'three-month' grant cover?

Though as there's no closing date for applications (yet), some who may be fine until, say, September, may be able to claim then.