Self-employed individuals whose businesses have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic are able to claim a taxable grant of up to 80 per cent of their average monthly trading profits for up to three months, capped at a maximum grant of £7,500. Those with average trading profits in excess of £50,000 per annum will not be able to claim.
The online system allowing qualifying individuals to claim through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) opens this week but in order to access funds, applicants will require a Government Gateway account. HMRC has confirmed that, even where an individual has an agent who normally deals with their tax affairs, individuals will need to apply for themselves using through their online Government Gateway account. Agents will not be able to claim SEISS on behalf of their clients.
This presents a problem for those who do not already have an online account. And although HMRC has streamlined the application process, this is still an extra hurdle for those who may not be familiar with dealing directly with HMRC. Applicants will need to have a copy of their passport or driving licence available to complete the application process. If individuals have neither of those, they can also confirm their identity by verifying financial information held by HMRC.
Whereas previously applicants would need to wait a week or more to receive a verification code through the post, this code will now be sent to their mobile phone, or landline. Whilst this reduction in delay is welcome it does make the application process potentially more susceptible to fraud.
Many qualifying individuals will have received an email direct from HMRC advising when they should make their application. However, others can check using HMRC’s eligibility checker, which will then prompt them to apply if the information HMRC holds indicates the criteria has been met. In order to apply for the grant through the online account, individuals will also need to have to hand their unique taxpayer reference and National Insurance number.