Claiming a grant under the coronavirus UK Self-employment Income Support Scheme
31 March 2020
You can use this scheme if you're self-employed as an individual or in a partnership and have lost income because of coronavirus. You can apply as long as your 2018/19 self-assessment tax return has been submitted by 23 April 2020. You also need to have continued your professional writing activities in 2019/20, to still be "trading" when you apply, or to be in a position where you would have been trading except for COVID-19. Partners are treated in the same way as individuals, their share of profits being averaged.
You must also intend to continue trading as a professional writer in 2020/21 and to have lost trading or partnership profits because of COVID-19.Your self-employed trading profits must be less than £50000 per annum and also represent more than half of your overall income.
Most journalists do not regard themselves as traders but HMRC do. This scheme applies to all people with self-employed income of any sort, subject to the published rules.
As long as you began your journalistic activities before 6 April 2016, your profits for the years 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 will be averaged in order to calculate a monthly income figure on which the grant will be based. A grant will be payable of 80% of this monthly figure with the maximum payment set at £2500 per month for an initial period of three months.The grant, which is taxable, will be paid into your bank account, in one instalment.
An example might help:
Mr Smith, a freelance journalist , made profits as follows and had no sources of income other than his writing activities:
Monthly average after 36 months £2306
Taxable grant payable 80% X £2306 = £5534.40
We do not know to what extent figures will be rounded up or down to the nearest pound.
Any journalists who began their profession after 6 April 2016 will also have their profits averaged based on the number of months from commencement to 5 April 2019.Those who began their activities after 5 April 2019 will not be eligible for the scheme.
You cannot apply for the scheme yet. HMRC say they will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.This is likely to be in June 2020. If you have not heard from them by mid-June it will probably be best to lodge a claim. Looking on https://www.gov.uk may help.
Journalists who operate through limited companies cannot claim under this scheme although they may be able to claim a grant towards salaries paid under the PAYE system.
The condition that the self-employed income must be more than half the annual income means that many journalists who are also in employment or in receipt of pensions, or those with part time activities ,will not be able to benefit from the scheme. It provides a rough and ready means of compensating journalists who clearly rely on their income from writing and ensures that any benefit accrues to those people who have correctly declared their income under self-assessment in recent years.
HW Fisher & Company provide the NUJ’s free tax helpline for freelance members and if members need advice on the coronavirus schemes, please contact them on 020 7874 7875 or Barry Kernon on 07734584739.