The mainstays of the Chancellor’s Covid-19 pandemic rescue plan, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), have provided a lifeline for many taxpayers and businesses and the extension of both schemes is welcome, but still leaves a clear section of taxpayers continually excluded from help, and facing an uncertain and bleak Christmas.
It is understandable that a line had to be drawn when drafting these measures, but as we approach 12 months of assistance for some there is increasing disparity between those helped and those excluded. The Government should now expand the schemes so that all taxpayers are able to receive some level of financial assistance.
Under the current rules an individual that started trading in 2019/20, or realised profits of more than £50,000, will not qualify for any financial help even though they, like any other small business impacted by the pandemic, may have seen their income fall off a cliff edge from March 2020 onwards.
By comparison a trader with profits of £49,999 could conceivably have received grants in excess of £21,000 by 31 January 2021. Similarly, by April 2021, it is entirely possible that some individuals may have been on furlough for a year or more, on a maximum potential gross salary of over £30,000. A year on furlough would of course bring its own stresses, but this is arguably a better position to be in than those taxpayers who have been continually ignored by the Chancellor’s rescue plan.
In addition, a Self-Employed individual can continue to work whilst in receipt of the SEISS grants, however a company director (as much of an entrepreneur as a Self-Employed trader) must decide whether to claim furlough and stop working full time, or continue working to try and guarantee the survival of their business for the long-term benefit of them and their staff.
The lines drawn may have seemed fair in March 2020, but as the whole country continues to feel the economic impact of the pandemic, two national lockdowns and numerous local restrictions, the government must now try and redress the balance and include the excluded.