The National Audit Office (NAO) has estimated that the government’s coronavirus support schemes will cost a total of £370bn, of which £261bn has been incurred to date. This includes estimates of bad debts on the £129bn of loans or guarantees provided so far by the government or the Bank of England.
While the NAO‘s COVID-19 cost tracker includes ongoing costs such as the test and trace programme and funding for the railway network until passenger numbers return to normal, ICAEW Insights felt it would be valuable to members to provide a timeline for the remaining principal business support schemes, illustrating the schemes ending today and how others will unwind over time.
The COVID relief scheme end date chart starts with the self-employed and furlough schemes that have been a key part of the support provided to businesses and individuals during the pandemic. The SEISS fifth grant period ends today as does the furlough scheme, with employers having until 14 October to submit a claim for the latter.
It is followed by several other key government support schemes, including the extended reduction in VAT for hospital and tourism that runs for another six months at 12.5%, income tax and VAT deferral schemes, the still open-to-applications Recovery Loan Scheme and the loan schemes including CBILS, CLBILS, the Future Fund and Bounce Back Loans.
It concludes with the home working allowance, which is technically not a coronavirus relief, but one that has become much more popular since the first lockdown drove a major change in working practices.
Two forms of data are shown in the chart: how much money has been spent or lent on each scheme so far, and each scheme's end date.
The chart does not include all of the support measures provided by the government or the Bank of England to businesses and individuals, for example the £20 a week uplift in universal credit to those on low incomes that also comes to an end on 30 September or the corporate finance lending facilities provided by the Bank of England to very large businesses.
COVID support schemes shown in the chart
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) started on 4 May 2020, when HMRC contacted taxpayers who were eligible to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500 (equivalent to three months’ profits), paid in a single instalment. The SEISS scheme continued for up to five grants across the course of the pandemic, with varying percentages being paid out for each grant (determined by how much turnover has been reduced in the year April 2020 to April 2021). Applications for the fifth grant must be made on or before 30 September 2021.
The furlough or Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended several times, with the final extension being to 30 September 2021. For claims relating to August and September 2021, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a maximum cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. The final claim date is 14 October 2021.
Enhanced Time to Pay for Self Assessment taxpayers allowed taxpayers to defer their 2020 income tax payments until January 2021. Then using HMRC’s Time to Pay facility they could pay the deferred 2020 tax bill plus the 2021 tax bill up until January 2022.
The VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme, introduced in the initial COVID relief measures, allowed VAT-registered businesses to defer VAT due for March – June 2020 until March 2021 interest-free. This payment could be spread across the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The VAT reduced rate for hospitality and tourism was part of the government’s initial coronavirus relief measures. This meant businesses could apply a 5% reduced rate of VAT, reducing the cost to consumers with a view to encouraging them to spend more. This scheme runs at a 5% reduction rate until 30 September, followed by a 12.5% rate until 31 March 2022 when the scheme ends, and the rate reverts to the standard VAT rate of 20%.
The Recovery Loan Scheme was launched on 6 April 2021 and remains open for new applications until 31 December this year. It provides bank overdrafts and invoice finance from £1,000 to £10m for up to three years, and loans and asset finance from £25,001 to £10m for up to six years. These are subject to credit checks given that the government has only provided 80% guarantees and the banks concerned are on the hook for the rest.
Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) - Pay As You Grow - was also part of the initial COVID measures which offered financial support of up to £50,000 for businesses negatively affected by the pandemic. As businesses began to emerge from COVID they used the Pay As You Grow function to make interest-only payments towards the BBLS loans they received for up to six months. As late as November/December 2030 if the business was granted a loan on the application deadline.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes (CBILS and CLBILS) and the Future Fund provided support in the form of loans for a range of company sizes through the state-owned British Business Bank for periods of three or six years. They closed to new applications earlier this year. In the case of the Future Fund, loans are convertible to equity in certain circumstances, with the government having already acquired shareholdings in 158 businesses as of 31 August 2021.
Martin Wheatcroft, external advisor on public finances to ICAEW, commented: “The extent of the government’s support package for businesses and individuals during the pandemic has been immense and - as described at the time - unprecedented. The sheer scale of the support provided cushioned the impact of lockdowns and pandemic restrictions and helped the economy recover much more quickly than expected.
Wheatcroft continued: “The ending of these schemes presents its own challenges, not only for businesses and individuals that are still in a difficult financial situation, but also in the potential impact that there could be on an economy dealing with other significant issues such as the fuel crisis. The government will be concerned that the withdrawal of support does not lead to lower tax revenues as it seeks to get the public finances onto an improving path over the next few months and years.”
ICAEW Insights sourced the data for this chart from the National Audit Office’s COVID-19 cost tracker. The tracker is an interactive tool that brings together data from across the UK government. It provides estimates of the cost of measures announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic and how much the government has spent on these measures so far where this information is publicly available or has been provided to the NAO by government departments.
Chart: breakdown of the UK government’s £372bn COVID bill
COVID support schemes coming to an end
COVID-19 challenges for business: Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) repayments