What can you claim?
What are we going to do now?As self-employed people I guess we are all asking the same question – what are we going to do now? This time last month we began to see reports on the news of a new virus that was affecting the province of Wuhan in China. There were concerned whispers that this virus could potentially spread – but I don’t think any of us ever imagined that we would be in the position we are in now. There is no one alive that has ever seen or witness such a time as this. Schools, business, shops, restaurants, takeaways and everything that is non-essential forcefully closed by the government to protect the country from this deadly virus, and its ability to spread so fast.
Everything is closed.So with everything closed down our ability to earn an income has now been taken away. At this stage it could be a few months, six months or even a year. We just don’t know. It is a worrying time as we all have bills to pay, food to buy and families to support – so we all need to pull together and share as much information as we can to make sure we can all get the help we are entitled to. Our government has made promises that they are struggling to deliver and information is limit. Here is as much information as I know, if you know more please let me know and I will add it to this blog.
Self-employed help from HMRC
The government has announced that the HMRC will in due course offer support to the self-employed that matches the help being offered to those that are employed.
– You do not need to contact the HMRC to claim this support. The HMRC should be contacting all self-employed people at the beginning of June.
– You should be receiving up to 80% of your self-employed income. The HMRC will calculate this by taking your average income from your last three years of self assessment tax returns.
– The HMRC are needing to build computer systems to cope with this as they currently have never offered anything like this before.
– If you have not been self-employed for three years the HMRC may be able to calculate any money owing to you based on two years of tax returns. The question was asked on the news by reporters who asked what happens if someone only has one year, the response from government official giving press conference was that they would do there best. However, payments to someone who have been self-employed for less than one year were pretty much rules out.
The current advice is that you will need to include any payments you receive in the next tax return that you complete in 2021. Any money you earn through a temporary job or employment will also need to be declared to the HMRC.
In the weeks since the lockdown began most of us have probably already applied for Universal credit. Universal credit is not without its teething problems and there have been many bad reports about this benefit. Universal Credit is a new benefit that combines every other benefit into a single payment. This includes tax credit, child tax credits, disability benefits, child benefit, housing benefit and any others you can think of.
Beware as soon as you make an application for universal credit all other benefits will stop. Within minutes of my application for universal credit application I was advised during my next call to Basingstoke and Deane that I could no longer claim any benefits locally as my application for universal credit has caused everything and anything else to stop!
You can apply for Universal Credit here. This is done online via the website. You will also be required to have several forms of ID as you will need to have your identification validated online. You can do this at the same time as your application and will be forwarded to a website to do this. This process can be tedious and slow due to the large volume of new claims. So be prepared!
Once your application has been made you will need to phone the universal credit appointment booking line in order to book a telephone interview. This can take some time, it took me over two hours before I gave up! So, in the end, I sent a message from my online account they had set up from my online journal. The next day a lady from the jobcentre at Basingstoke called my back and conducted my telephone interview there and then – she was amazing.
I was told during my interview that the benefits agency understood that I was not actively looking for employment during this time and that I was not expected to be looking or declaring online that I had been applying for work. Be aware that if you do any temporary work that this will affect your application.
Initially do not worry about providing evidence for your claim. As it is a telephone interview you can provide this at a later date.
– There is a wait
Even though my claim, my verification process and telephone interview were done quickly there is still a wait before any payments are made. The estimation waiting period for them to process my claim and come up with a figure was four weeks. I have not had mine yet as it has not been four weeks. But they did say it would then only take a couple of days for the money to be transferred into the bank account I provided on the application.
– Crisis payments
If you are in a desperate situation you will be able to apply for an immediate grant. I was offered this during my telephone interview and told that I could have the money the same day if the need was urgent. Be aware that this is only a grant and you will need to repay any loans back over the next year – they will deduct these payments from any monies paid to you.
– Over payments
Even though they will not be able to do a complete check on the information you are supplying to them on the application and telephone interview it is important to remember that they will at some point be carrying out these checks and any over payments will be repayable.
– Returning to work
When you return to work it is essential that you fill out the change of circumstances section on your universal tax credits account. You may take time to build your business back up again, but keep them advised so you are not overpaid.
It is very important to make sure you pay your council tax otherwise this can badly affect your credit score and affect your ability to apply for credit in the future. Basingstoke and Deane have sent out the council tax bills for the current year, followed by a second amended bill enabling those who have opted to pay in 10 monthly instalments a payment break in April and May 2020. However, this will replace the normal payment break in February and March 2021.
Council Tax Support
If you are on a low income, no income or receiving universal credit it is highly possible that you can apply for council tax support. I applied and was accepted. However, when I start earning again I will need to advise the council as will no longer be entitled to the support, But in the short term, I was very pleased that I applied as they were very generous.
It is still a criminal offence to not pay your TV licence. There are calls for changes to be made to the law but at the moment you MUST PAY. If you are likely to have trouble paying your TV license you can call them and make arrangement to be transferred onto a monthly instalment plan.
Loans and mortgages
If you have any kind of loan you will need to phone the bank, building society or loan provider if there is any chance of you defaulting on the loan or missing an instalment. I have had various success at this as I have a loan for a car. Some banks and building societies are offering short term payment breaks, but the money will need to be paid back in full within a short period of time. They do not seem as helpful to people with unsecured loans as they do to customers with mortgages. Do not miss payments without speaking to them as this could affect your credit score.
Last time I managed to get through o my bank, HSBC the person on the telephone who answered after a 2.5-hour wait was not able to offer me much reassurance. She did say that any missed payments may initially be shown on my credit score but that I would have the right to appeal afterwards.
I have had previous disputes with my car insurance provider. As a St Johns Ambulance volunteer, they have in the past refused point-blank to insure me for any and every form of volunteering. However, when I phoned them this week they have agreed to remove this restriction to enable me to use my car for volunteering and unpaid work. Also make sure you keep paying your car tax or it will be illegal for your car to be on the road. If you have a driveway and can take your car off the road completely then you can go online and SCORN your vehicle.
One of least important bills in my household is £100 per month I regrettably pay to Virgin Media for my TV and Broadband. After 1.5 hours on the phone, they proved to be a complete waste of time and effort. They refused to offer any assistance other than to suspend my Sky Sports subscription. Big Deal! There is no sport and the moment and the Virgin Media representative told me they were doing me a favour in offering me that much. So don’t hold your breath with Virgin.
Mobile phone providers
I have not yet tried to call my mobile provider as quite happy to keep using the phone at this stage.
If there is anything I have missed, or that is incorrect please let me know.
Useful phone numbers
Basingstoke and Deane :
01256 844 844
Universal Credit :
0800 328 5644
0300 200 3200