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Sole directors and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Published: 1 April 2020. Last updated: 21 April 2020.
ICAEW’s Nila Khan tackles some of the most frequently asked questions about how the government’s furlough scheme applies to owner-managed limited companies.

There are over a million sole director/shareholder owner-managed limited companies in the UK who don’t qualify as self-employed individuals (although they will complete an income tax self assessment return).

Typically, they take some remuneration through PAYE by way of salary, usually at a level just above the NIC threshold, with the remainder taken as dividends. So can these directors make use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme? The simple answer is yes, but only based on their PAYE salary.

Dividends are not included as part of the amount that can be claimed. The other key issue is that the director must stop working completely in the business to be eligible for the scheme. We understand that statutory duties can be carried out but no services or revenue-generating work.

Based on the information published so far by the government, set out below is our understanding of some frequently asked questions. However, we should stress that we are awaiting further guidance and therefore our comments should be seen as provisional and may change. 

What can I claim?

You can claim a grant of up to 80% of your ‘regular wage’ or £2,500 (whichever is lower). This claim can be backdated to 1 March 2020, but would only be available from the date the director is actually furloughed. The scheme will last for at least three months. 

By when does my PAYE scheme need to be in place?

The employers’ PAYE scheme must have been created and started by 19 March 2020 and you must also have a bank account in the UK. A Real Time Information (RTI) submission must have been made to HMRC in respect of your pay by 19 March 2020.

Can I claim if I work part-time in the business?

Yes, full-time and part-time directors on the payroll can claim.

What if my salary is paid annually?

ICAEW’s current understanding is that this should be acceptable. 

What if I just reduce my hours or pay?

If the director is still working, even for reduced hours or pay, they will not be able to claim via this scheme.

How do I calculate my ‘regular wage’?

Your regular wage is the higher of the same month’s earnings from the previous year or the average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year.

How to claim

You might need to take legal advice on this, but as a minimum we suggest that the company writes a letter advising the director that they have been ‘furloughed’ and a copy of this should be kept on the file to support any claim. Again, we suggest you keep an eye on our website in case this advice changes.
 
Wages must continue to be paid (along with tax and NI) to directors at least until the portal is up and running to make the claim for the grant at a minimum of 80% of their regular wage or £2,500 per month.

How is the grant accounted for in the company’s books?

As income subject to corporation tax.

For the latest news and guidance on the ongoing impact of COVID-19 for businesses and accountants, visit ICAEW’s dedicated coronavirus hub.

 
 

On-demand webinars

ICAEW are regularly producing webinars for members to help explain some of the most pressing issues for business during the coronavirus pandemic. These webinars are free to ICAEW members, Faculty or Community members and subscribers, associated bodies of ICAEW and non-members.

  • Recorded 6 April, 11:00-12:00. In conversation with the Small Business Commissioner. Watch now.
  • Recorded 7 April, 12:00-13:00. Employment law and furloughing – what businesses need to consider. Watch now.