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New HMRC guidance on impact of COVID-19 on share schemes

11 June: HMRC has issued further support on how employment related securities (ERS) are affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including how such arrangements interact with furlough grant payments. ICAEW’s Tax Faculty provides a breakdown of the guidance.

In its latest ERS Bulletin, HMRC has outlined the impact of coronavirus on:

Save as you Earn (SAYE)

HMRC’s guidance confirms that all employees with a savings contract in place on 10 June 2020 can delay the payment of monthly contributions, beyond the currently available 12 months, where the delay is due to the impact of coronavirus. A postponement of contributions puts back the year maturity date for the contract by the total number of months missed.

However, SAYE contributions can continue to be deducted from payments received through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Participants unable to make monthly contributions from their salary, due to the pandemic, can temporarily pay by standing order. Guidance at ETASSUM34120 will be updated.

HMRC will update the Specimen SAYE Prospectus from 10 June 2020 and guidance in Employee Tax Advantaged Share Scheme User Manual at ETASSUM34140 to reflect the changes.

Share Incentive Plan (SIP)

HMRC’s update confirms that payments of CJRS to furloughed employees can constitute a salary, and SIP contributions can continue to be deducted.

SIP participants are already permitted to stop their deductions from their salary, however, they will not be allowed to make up missed deductions if they stop due to coronavirus.

Company Share Option Plans (CSOP)

HMRC accepts that where employees and full-time directors are furloughed, options granted before the pandemic will remain qualifying on the basis they were full-time directors and qualifying employees at the time of grant.

Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI)

HMRC is considering the issues raised by coronavirus will provide updates as soon as possible.


When EMI options are ready to be granted HMRC can be contacted to agree an appropriate valuation. HMRC acknowledges that the impact of coronavirus may mean delays arise longer than the standard 90-day maximum in granting EMI options following the agreement of the valuation by HMRC.

Provided there has been no change that may affect an appropriate value then:

  • any EMI valuation agreement letters already issued, where the 90 days expires on or after the 1 March 2020, can be automatically treated as being extended by a period of 30 days; and
  • any new EMI valuation agreement letter issued on or after 1 March 2020 will be valid for 120 days.

Issues concerning VAL231 can be sent to HMRC at savexternal.mailbox@hmrc.gov.uk.

Deadlines for registering new schemes and filing returns

As coronavirus may make it difficult for employers and agents to meet ERS tax obligations, such as registering new schemes and filing returns by the 6 July deadline, HMRC will consider coronavirus a reasonable excuse for missing some tax obligations.

Please refer to HMRC’s latest guidance on reasonable excuse. Employers will need to explain to HMRC how the coronavirus pandemic prevented them from meeting the deadline.

Contact with HMRC

As the pandemic may cause postal delays, HMRC recommends that all enquiries be submitted by email to ShareSchemes@hmrc.gov.uk. Further details, including how to deal with sensitive data, can be found in the bulletin.

When contacting HMRC for advice always include the relevant share scheme reference number. See ERS Bulletin 25 to find out how to identify a share scheme reference number.

Further information