The scheme has now gone live and an eligibility checker is available on the gov.uk website here: https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/self-employment-support/enter-unique-taxpayer-reference. You will need your Unique Tax Payer reference (UTR) and your national insurance number and you will be told straight away whether you will be eligible to make an application. You do not need to enter any information about your income.

Pre-application stage

Emails, SMS messages and letters are being sent to taxpayers who HMRC thinks may be entitled to claim an SEISS grant. These are expected to arrive during the week beginning 4 May 2020, some letters may not be received until the following week.

Each taxpayer will receive one form of contact:

  • where HMRC holds an email address it uses that;
  • SMS is used where HMRC holds a mobile number, but not an email address; and
  • a letter is sent where HMRC holds neither.

This initial contact explains what the taxpayer needs to do to be ready to claim when the claims portal opens.

HMRC is contacting all those who may be eligible, but not all recipients will in fact be eligible. HMRC has selected the cases based on the information in the self assessment tax returns filed by the taxpayers and has carried out the necessary calculations and eligibility checks based on those figures. However, HMRC will not necessarily know whether the taxpayer meets the following conditions of the scheme:

  • traded in the tax year 2019/20;
  • are trading when they apply, or would be except for coronavirus;
  • intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020/21; and
  • have lost trading profits due to coronavirus.

Note that to guard against fraud the emails and SMS messages from HMRC do not include active links. If a taxpayer receives an email or SMS purporting to come HMRC which includes an active link, that email or SMS is a scam.

How to apply

Applications will open to taxpayers on a staged basis between 13 and 18 May, with the portal opening on different days for different taxpayers. HMRC will email taxpayers who have provided an email address (when using the eligibility checker or previously) to confirm when the portal is open for them. Taxpayers can also use the eligibility checker to find out whether the application portal is open for them.

Taxpayers then log in to their government gateway account (or select the option to create an account) to complete the application process. They are presented with a detailed calculation and are asked to:

  • read and accept the eligibility criteria;
  • complete declarations, including to confirm that the business has been adversely affected by coronavirus; and
  • supply the bank account details into which they would like the grant to be paid.

The taxpayer does not need to provide any information about their income – the calculations are all done by HMRC based on the tax returns submitted. HMRC will check the claim and expects to make payments from 25 May 2020 within six working days of the application being submitted.

Disputes

Where the eligibility checker gives a ‘not eligible’ result there is an option to ask HMRC to review the eligibility. This can be completed by either the taxpayer or your agent. The process for disputing the amount of the grant is not yet known. HMRC expects to have powers to check claims, to require repayment of the grant and to charge penalties.

Digitally excluded

HMRC is developing an alternative service for the digitally excluded but details are awaited.

How can we help?

Unfortunately, HMRC have not made the system open to agents. This, they say, is due to the limited time available to develop the system. This means that, if you do not have a government gateway account then you will need to set one up. If you are eligible for a grant, the checker gives you an option to sign up to the government gateway straight away, however we recommend waiting to create one until you start the application process, as this avoids the possibility of setting up a government gateway account that is enrolled for the wrong services and possibly may require an authentication code in the post.

We will be able to give you advice; can use the eligibility checker on your behalf and can request a review where the system gives the response that you are not eligible. You can also send us a copy of the calculation to check on your behalf.

As usual, if we can be of any assistance please get in touch in the usual way, or contact us here.