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COVID-19: Government support and member feedback

6 April 2020: ICAEW Chief Executive Michael Izza outlines the challenges faced by Chartered Accountants during the current coronavirus crisis and what the Institute is doing to help its members meet them.

We are living in unprecedented times; the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 has led not just to a health and social crisis, but to an economic crisis too.

I know that members around the world are having to address a variety of challenges at local, national and international level, and I would like to address members in the UK regarding government action there.

Government schemes

The UK Government has recently announced two ground-breaking schemes; the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – both intended to provide essential support to employees and business owners, and help keep the economy moving. These schemes are still being developed by HMRC and others, and many of the details about how they will work - including who is eligible - are still being considered.

Member feedback

I would like to thank all members for the many comments and queries you have sent to us about these schemes. We are very grateful for your feedback, which has all been logged and is being reviewed.

As the schemes are still in development, we do not have all the answers to your questions and, at this early stage, I don’t think HMRC does either. We are all in completely uncharted territory. However, I would like to assure you that we are in continuous discussions with BEIS, HM Treasury and HMRC, and are using your feedback to help them refine the details so that the new schemes work as effectively and efficiently as possible.

In the last few weeks, I have had multiple calls with the Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma MP (an ICAEW member himself), and the Minister for Business and Industry, Nadhim Zahawi MP – during which I have, amongst other things, emphasised the urgent need for businesses to have access to finance. I have come away from these meetings certain that government is genuinely listening to the needs of business and is working flat-out to support as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Please do continue to share examples with us of what is working well for you and what is not, however big or small, by completing this form. We need to make sure that our advocacy is as focused and as useful as possible, and all intelligence can help improve the measures for everyone’s benefit. No scheme will be perfect, but I hope that they will ultimately bring much-needed help to many in this time of crisis.

ICAEW support

I appreciate that this is a worrying and unsettling time for members, both in business and in practice, and for your clients. I understand that you would like answers to all of your questions immediately, but we also need to appreciate that HMRC is building these grant schemes from scratch without any existing model to use as a template. The complexity of the support being offered means that details will take a little time to work up, and thus there will inevitably be some delays in us being able to provide more solid information to you.

Our staff are working long hours and tirelessly to try to clarify the details of the schemes and keep you updated on developments as they arise, so please do bear with us.

In the meantime, I hope you will continue to visit our coronavirus hub for the latest bespoke information and guidance on a wide range of topics, and links to government support and other external resources.