SEISS claims process “confusing for business owners”
There has been growing outcry from recently self-employed business owners who have found themselves unable to access the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
This affected many traders who started their business in 2019/20 but had yet to submit their first tax return.
In the Spring Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that up to 600,000 self-employed people would now be eligible to claim the fourth and fifth SEISS grants, as long as they had submitted a tax return by 3 March 2021.
However, business owners have pointed out that details were somewhat vague around the claims process for first-time claimants.
Chris Bowles, a director at financial expert Old Mill said it is important that businesses understand that there is a verification process that must be completed before they can make a claim, and that if they are not ready to respond, they could miss out, because the deadlines are very tight.
For example, once those applying for the grant have been contacted by HMRC and then been sent an email with instructions on how to verify their identity, they then have just two days to upload digital copies of their ID and bank documents to the HMRC Dropbox.
After this point, the Dropbox link will expire, and they will fail the pre-verification.
Bowles said: “This complex process appears to have a number of potential flaws and may present challenges for many newly self-employed business owners who may not be familiar with what’s required or are unaware of the very tight deadlines attached to some of the steps involved in the pre-checks.
“There are a number of areas where things can go wrong (just opening a brown envelope from HMRC for instance), and I have real concerns that some people may have difficulties negotiating these pre-verification checks or inadvertently miss deadlines.
“There’s also a fear that many traders will see this HMRC call as another sophisticated attempt to obtain sensitive personal information at a time when attacks from scammers are widespread.”
Bowles added that once the checks have been completed, applying for and receiving the new grant is not straightforward either.
He said: “Whilst it’s good news that Mr Sunak announced the final extensions to the SEISS, it’s important to highlight that new claimants will need to take into account that, as with previous grants, they will be subject to both Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions that will ultimately need to be budgeted for in the usual way.
“It’s important for people to bring their tax affairs fully up-to-date, rather than leaving everything until the last minute, as this information affects your eligibility, so it makes sense to be proactive in order to get a handle on it.
“Also, the final grant has specific conditions attached around whether your turnover has dropped by the required 30% that’s needed to claim for the higher grant amount when it opens in July.
“This can all be a bit confusing for business owners trying to work their way through what can be a bit of a minefield for the first time so I would urge people to speak to their adviser wherever possible.”