HMRC opens SME Brexit Support Fund for applications
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has opened a £20m small to medium enterprise (SME) Brexit Support Fund for applications.
As of 15 March, smaller businesses can apply for grants of up to £2,000 to help them adapt to new customs and tax rules when trading with the EU.
The fund enables traders to access practical support, including training for new customs, rules of origin and VAT processes.
HMRC is encouraging SMEs that trade solely with the EU to apply for the grants
In order to be eligible, businesses must import or export goods between Great Britain and the EU, or move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The fund opening for applications follows the government laying out a timetable for introducing import border control processes to enable UK businesses to focus on their recovery.
Full import border control processes will now be introduced on 1 January 2022, six months later than originally planned.
As well as this, the government is meeting businesses from specific sectors across all parts of the UK weekly through the Brexit Business Taskforce chaired by Michael Gove.
It is also leading the Seafood Exports Working Group, meeting twice a week to troubleshoot issues raised by the industry, and a newly established Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force.
HMRC is offering support to businesses moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland through its Trader Support Service.
It is providing numerous helplines, which businesses can contact if they need further information and running regular webinars with policy specialists.
The government noted that it is providing the Brexit Checker Tool, which gives businesses a personalised list of actions that they need to take and providing one-to-one support for exporters in delivered via a network of around 300 International Trade Advisers.
Another implementation of the government is that it is leading a specific taskforce working with businesses across Northern Ireland and Great Britain on issues related to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
And it is operating a range of other support schemes including a guarantee scheme aimed at SMEs, which means the government can provide an 80% guarantee on financial support from lenders to help with general exporting costs, up to the value of £25m.
Katherine Green and Sophie Dean, directors general, borders and trade, HMRC, said: “We recognise that changes to customs rules have been challenging for small and micro businesses, and this is why we are encouraging business owners to apply for support through the SME Brexit Support Fund.
“We do not take for granted that the UK’s small businesses – from designers creating bespoke handmade pieces from their kitchen tables, to those selling sweet treats – are vital to the growth and prosperity of our economy, so we look forward to supporting them with practical help to do business with our European partners, on top of a wide range of support available from the government.”
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, added: “The vast majority of UK small firms that do business overseas trade with the EU.
“Not only are they trying to stay afloat as lockdowns gradually ease, they now have new, unfamiliar paperwork and costs to navigate when they buy from, or sell to, Europe.
“That’s why we asked the government for targeted funding to help them navigate these fresh demands, and it’s brilliant to see that funding go live today.
“We encourage all eligible small businesses to take a look and apply for this new source of help.”
Jon Geldart, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said: “Smaller firms have long needed assistance with managing the host of new requirements that come with changing our EU trading arrangements, and that need has only grown in the current adjustment phase.
“This is why the Institute of Directors has campaigned for so long to help companies with the cost of accessing the professional advice they need, and we commend the government for stepping in to do so.”